Peter Hillary, son of legendary explorer Sir Edmund Hillary, is launching a men’s outdoor clothing brand for autumn 18, inspired by the extraordinary feats of his father, and his own love of exploration and adventure.
Following in his father, Edumund Hillary’s, footsteps Peter Hillary, has himself summited Everest twice. Inspired by his father’s original expedition and his own passion for the outdoors, Hillary is set to launch an outdoor clothing collection for autumn 18, named Edmund Hillary. Wholesale prices range from £60 for knitwear to £250 for coats, but the brand will not reveal any stockists it has lined up. Drapers spoke to Peter Hillary at his home in New Zealand to find out more about his latest adventures.
What is the ethos of the brand, and why did you decide to launch?
Back in 1953, my father and Tenzing Norgay were part of the expedition that successfully made the first ascent of Mount Everest. Over the subsequent 60-odd years, my dad continued going on expeditions, building great friendships with the local people in Nepal, building schools and hospitals and giving his family all sorts of wonderful experiences.
After my father died in 2008, [New Zealand businessman] Michael Hall-Taylor and I got together and talked about the idea of producing a heritage range of clothes based on the expedition. We have been working on it for a number of years now and we’re really delighted with the way the range has come out. It speaks volumes of the style of my father and the members of that expedition back in 1953. It has a real heritage style, but it’s modified to really satisfy the needs of the modern consumer.
We’d like to provide an interesting area in the market for people to wear something that speaks of the time back in the 20th century when the great mountains of the world were being climbed, but also provides real comfort and a sense of style.
What are some of the core products in the range?
The main items are the jackets and outerwear. There are woollen pullovers, Ventile cotton anoraks, and classic 1950s-style down jackets. Some of the designs have a military inspiration, which was very typical for that era.
It’s not so much designed for if you were going to climb Mount Everest – it’s something that you’re going to wear it out on an adventure or out on the town. It’s a statement on the outdoors with a bit of history and your own aspirations.
Launching a fashion brand is very different from your normal, mountain-climbing life. What made you do it?
It’s been on a very steep learning curve, but both myself and my father worked with clothing manufacturers for a very long time in the outdoor brands area. We had worked on tents and parkas and things like that, but this range definitely moves into the fashion side.
We felt that really, this was a wonderful opportunity – not to turn away from the heritage of Edmund Hillary but to seize it with both hands and really celebrate the style of the 1950s and these great climbers that made the first ascent of Everest.
Can you explain the connection to the Sir Edmund Hillary charitable foundation?
A percentage of the funds raised from sales will be going to the charitable foundation associated with the Edmund Hillary brand. There were several areas that my father felt were incredibly important and we’re really honouring and supporting these.
There are schools and hospitals in the Himalayas – projects that he started many years ago that we continue to operate now. These are the sort of projects that we will continue to support, particularly in the mount Everest area in Nepal. Secondly – outdoor education. My father believed very strongly, as I do, that outdoor education is a great opportunity for all people but particularly young people. We want to support outdoor education programmes in the key countries where we operate. At this point that is the UK and New Zealand and we’ll expand that as time goes on.
You’ve explored all over the world – what has drawn you to that lifestyle?
The thing I love about going on expeditions or climbing is that not only are you going to some of the most beautiful parts of the world, you’re going with a small, cohesive team of people. You share incredibly intense experiences. It could be fear, it could be boredom but it could be absolute jubilation, humour – sitting on a ledge wondering what’s going to happen next. Those are the sort of things that really make these experiences so powerful.
In February this year, I was climbing a limestone pinnacle called Carstensz Pyramid in Papua province, the western half of the island of New Guinea. It’s 4,800m high, the same height as Mont Blanc in France. I was climbing it with my two sons, George and Alexander. To share that time climbing, just off the equator, out of the jungles, up onto these amazing limestone pinnacles – the excitement of that experience, and the multi-generational aspect of it – was just absolutely marvellous. Of course, we were all wearing our Edmund Hillary anoraks so, in some way, in spirit at least, there were three generations of us up there.
What’s your next expedition?
I’m taking a group of people from Lhasa in Tibet, across the Tibetan plateau to the north side of Everest base camp and then to Kathmandu and Nepal. That will keep me busy for a couple of weeks.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give your younger self?
Something my father always said to me: seize every opportunity.
What’s your favourite clothing brand
Where are your favourite places to shop
I tend to shop in airports. I’m not a great shopper but airports have these wonderful malls nowadays.
Last fashion purchase
I bought some shirts
We have a holiday house on the west coast of Auckland, and suitably enough for a member of the Hillary family, it’s a beach house perched at the top of a 100m cliff
Last book you read
Cancer Ward by Nobel Prize-winning writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
In my mid-teens I was a builders’ labourer
I think I would be a helicopter pilot in the Himalayas
What do you do at the weekend
I go into the mountains