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Kestin Hare: Boosting international trade on a Brexit tailwind

The eponymous designer and retailer on Brexit, made in Britain and international expansion

Kestin Hare

Kestin Hare

Kestin Hare

It has been quite a year for menswear designer Kestin Hare. Just over a year after the launch of his flagship store in London’s Shoreditch, the designer-turned-retailer  has four shops, a successful wholesale business that is growing in the UK and abroad, and a design collaboration with high street giant Marks & Spencer. Drapers caught up with the Scotsman to talk all things international, British manufacturing and leaving the European Union.

How is the retail side of the business doing?

The Shoreditch store [opened in July 2015] was received really well. It has the space to house our own brand, our multibrand offer and our showroom, so it works really well. It has put us on the map in London. In that shop we are trading like for like with last year. We had expected to be down by between 10% and 20% given the current climate, so we’re pleased.

The original Edinburgh store [opened in 2013] is doing really well. The home market has always been strong for us – Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh is phenomenal. The Glasgow store [opened in March this year] is still quite new, as is the Soho shop [opened in February this year], so it’s a bit early to say, but both locations are great and things are looking good so far.

How has the growing retail footprint changed the firm?

It made me realise how important it is to have the right team in place. The team is getting bigger and that brings extra pressure as there are wages to pay, but you need to have the right people there to make it all work.

Do you have plans to open more shops?

We have a few plans in the works. We are looking at opening a store in Tokyo next year and we are looking for another location in Edinburgh. We’re not opening aggressively, but we are certainly looking.

What about the wholesale side of things?

Wholesale is still a growing market for us. The retail market is tough, but having the four shops has really helped our brand awareness. The market is difficult, but you have to carry on and be positive about things.

[Menswear trade show] Jacket Required was really busy for us this season, which was great. We took six new accounts over the two days, as well as writing orders from our current accounts, so it was one of our busiest shows in a long time.

kestin hare spring 17

kestin hare spring 17

Kestin Hare spring 17

How about your international business – how is that faring?

Our business is now split 50:50 between Europe and the UK. We have around 30 accounts in the UK and 30 across Europe. Further afield, Japan is our biggest market – it has another 43 accounts. Our international business is doing really well, especially since the drop in sterling following the vote to leave the EU.

So the Brexit vote has had a positive effect on business so far?

There’s a lot of uncertainty out there, but there are positives coming out of the pound being weak against the dollar and the euro. Our accounts in France, Japan and the US have increased their business with us, as we are looking more affordable.

UK retail is tough and indies are having a hard time, so following Brexit a lot are moving away from European brands to focus on labels from the UK, as they know where they stand with the pound, which is great for us. We are also getting more interest from our stockists in Europe, where we are continuing to build our presence.

And the negatives?

Our raw materials are more expensive. Wool from Italy or jersey from Portugal are 15% to 20% more expensive than they were last season, but we can’t change our prices halfway through the season so we have to swallow the cost.

You collaborated with M&S in April. How did that come about?

The British Fashion Council introduced me to the M&S team as they wanted to work with a designer who had shown at London Collections Men designer. We designed everything for the 14-piece capsule collection and produced it how we wanted to, they were great to work with. It’s what M&S should be doing, supporting a British brand. We went into the top 30 stores and we traded 5% up on plan, which was fantastic. M&S is known for its quality product, so it made sense for us to work with them.

Would you consider doing another collaboration range?

We are looking for partners at the higher end of the scale to do something with our mainline product, but it has to be the right thing for us. It has to work.

You produce most of your collection in the UK. Why is that?

Around 70% of what we do is made in the UK and we use factories all over the country. Our jackets are made in Bow, east London, and our trousers in Manchester, for example. It’s so important that we support the UK production lines and skilled workers from the UK. Most of the skilled people working in manufacturing are aged 55  and over, so the government needs to bring back apprentice schemes. If they don’t, we’ll have a big problem in five to 10 years, as these skills are not being passed on. There is a real trend for artisan and bespoke products made in the UK – from bags to sunglasses to beer. Hopefully that will filter through to fashion and we will be able to keep our industry alive and our export business strong.

kestin hare spring 17 three

Kestin Hare spring 17

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