The Australian outback provides the perfect inspiration for RM Williams’ head of design Jeremy Hershan.
RM WIlliams head of design Jeremy Hershan
Self-confessed menswear geek Jeremy Hershan spent his career working at British heritage brands before joining Aussie footwear and lifestyle label RM Williams as head of design in 2016. The brand, which was established in 1932 by entrepreneur and explorer Reginald Murray Williams, has been stepping up its global retail expansion after LVMH-owned private equity fund L Capital Asia became a majority shareholder in 2014 and now has three UK stores in Soho, New Bond Street and Westfield London.
Hershan talks to Drapers about the importance of balancing heritage with innovation, the brand’s global ambitions and exploring the Australian Outback.
How did you get started in the fashion industry?
I come from a long line of tailors and milliners. All of my grandparents and my father worked in the trade, so it was in my blood and I knew I wanted to do something with clothing. I studied at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in my native Australia, then headed to Europe to work for some of the people I really admired.
As an intern in Paris I cut my teeth working for [Dior Homme creative director] Kris Van Assche. From there I went to London’s Savile Row – the birthplace of tailoring – where I worked for Gieves & Hawkes [as an assistant designer]. I then moved on to the role of designer at Aquascutum, followed by four years at Dunhill designing its formalwear. It’s been a journey through British heritage, which has strangely enough brought me back to Australia.
What appealed to you about working at RM Williams?
I was ready for a new challenge and I’ve always been a customer of the brand; when I was living here in the UK I would pop into the store and order myself a new pair of Chelsea boots. It was part of my personal uniform, I was known as the guy who always had a black or tan pair of boots. When I heard about the opportunity to reshape an iconic Australian brand and lead the creative team, I was very excited.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Firstly, I go to our own backyard – and we’re lucky enough to have a big one in Australia. The first thing I did when I joined was to go and immerse myself in the Outback at the birthplace of the brand, the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. The colours and the landscape are truly unique. I had a four-wheel drive and just camped out – it was the opposite of living in London for 10 years.
RM Williams opened its third UK store in London last month. What resonates about the brand with British shoppers?
The UK and Scandinavia are our biggest markets outside of Australia, hence why we’re expanding our footprint. The UK is the home of handmade footwear and we make a product on par with the great British shoemakers. This market appreciates quality.
What has been your biggest challenge at the brand?
Speaking to the loyal customers who have been shopping at the brand for a number of years while also appealing to those who are new and more urban. With any heritage brand you can’t shake off the past and its important we stay true to our heartland customers, but we’ve also seen a big shift to the urban capitals of Australia and beyond over recent years. It’s a challenge to design for both.
Rm williams craftsman
Favourite clothing brand
Obviously, RM Williams for Chelsea boots, then it has to be vintage Levi’s jeans, Drake’s button-down collar shirts, Turnbull & Asser boxers and Bresciani socks
Favourite places to shop
Spitalfields market – I’ve been going there for years
Last fashion purchase
A vintage WWII British windproof parka
Last book you read
Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style by W David Marx, which outlines Japan’s relationship with American style. Dreamy reading for a menswear nerd like myself
Last film you watched
Blade Runner 2049
I have it!