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My Fashion Life: Patience pays off for Aquascutum's Thomas Harvey

The head of menswear at British brand Aquascutum on why he returned to the brand and his plans to take it further upmarket.

In 2013, Thomas Harvey returned to British brand Aquascutum as its new head of menswear, following an earlier stint at the label as a designer and time as senior menswear designer at Reiss. Having worked at the likes of Marc Jacobs, as well as alongside tailor Douglas Hayward, Harvey now plans to elevate Aquascutum’s brand’s image while also celebrating its 164-year-old heritage.

You worked with legendary Mount Street tailor Douglas Hayward. How was that?

Dougie was a legend in the tailoring business - it was a great privilege to be one of only two people to intern with him. He was a pioneer and changed the way tailoring was cut in the 1960s. The training I received from him was beyond anything you can learn at university.

What was the best lesson he taught you?

Be patient. Menswear is about cut and fit – something that cannot be perfected overnight.

Hayward was known for his famous clients, including Clint Eastwood, Sir John Gielgud, Michael Caine and Terence Stamp. Did you ever meet any?

Throughout the time there, it was amazing seeing the famous friends Dougie attracted. The place really felt like an old boys’ club; people you grew up admiring frequented his shop as a place to relax and catch up with friends whenever they were back in town.

You’ve worked everywhere from Marc Jacobs to Reiss. What did you learn from all these different brands?

I’ve been lucky to work at many levels of the industry and see everything from highly successful commercial brands to the more fashion-focused and luxury brands. The mix has given me a unique perspective on the industry – I think brands fail when they lean to much to either side. It’s important to have the balance of a commercial and creative approach.

You worked at Aquascutum previously. Why did you come back?

Aquascutum has such a fantastic heritage and I always felt that, when I had left, the true potential of the brand had not been achieved. Now, with the right owners in place, it felt like the time was right to put the brand back on track.

Aquascutum, spring 16

Aquascutum, spring 16

What is your vision for the brand?

We are trying to elevate the brand image to a more luxury level while regaining integrity and celebrating its heritage. [Wholesale prices range from £5 for socks to £650 for a double-faced cashmere coat.]

You were featured in Drapers’ 30 Under 30 of fashion’s rising stars in 2013. How did that feel?

An honour, of course.

Who do you most admire in fashion?

I’ve been extremely fortunate to work for an array of industry leaders, all successful for their own distinctive approach: Dougie for his old-school craftsmanship, Jacobs for his democratisation of high fashion and David Reiss for pioneering the middle market. 

What do you like most about your job?

I enjoy the tangibility of creating product, working with the mills and factories.

What part of your job do you dislike?

The speed today that production is required. The seasons are becoming so disjointed as product is now wanted so early, it is hard to understand where the seasons start and finish.

What’s the biggest misconception about the fashion industry?

That it is all fun and glamour – it’s one of the hardest-working industries.

What’s the most expensive item of clothing in your wardrobe?

Since working at Dougie’s I always wanted a bespoke suit, so I was fortunate enough to have a bespoke tuxedo made for me last year.

What is the most treasured item in your life?

My boxer dog, Henry.

If you could swap wardrobes with anyone – alive or dead – who would it be?

Bryan Ferry.

Do you prefer single- or double-breasted blazers?

Double-breasted blazers always look great when cut right and styled in the right way, but my everyday go-to is a good unstructured single-breasted blazer.

Slim or classic fit?

Slim fit.

Jeans or chinos?

I live in my jeans.

What menswear trend would you like to bring back?

Investment in quality.

Which trend do you wish would disappear?

Fast fashion.

If you weren’t working in fashion, what would you be doing?

Architecture.

What is your earliest memory related to fashion?

Watching my grandmother at her sewing machine.

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