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Polistas

Royal endorsements and links to an age-old sport have given this polo-inspired brand an instant heritage

Brands with heritage are proving to be winners in the downturn as consumers gravitate towards products with substance and longevity.And while Polistas can only trace its history back to 2001, when it was established by former investment banker Johnny Lynn, the sport around which the brand is based has been played for thousands of years. The earliest reference to polo is 500BC when it was used as a training exercise for the cavalry, but the modern game emerged in 1860s India.

Lynn believes this rich history combined with his brand’s classic looks will prove a “winning formula” in today’s market. “Classic is back in fashion,” Lynn says. “Every 10 years or so fashion goes from trendy to classic. The 1950s were classic, the 1960s to 1970s were trendy, the 1980s were more classic and in the 1990s we moved to streetwear. In the 2000s we’re going back to classics again.”

The Polistas range started out purely to outfit polo players on and off the field, but has evolved to become a fully fledged lifestyle brand with products ranging from polo shirts and chinos to leather jackets and formalwear, such as dress shirts and suits. The lifestyle of the typical polo player inspires the collection, says Lynn. “When a player goes on a trip they need a lot of stuff. They’re going to exotic and glamorous locations and they’ll need everything from swimwear, underwear and socks to chinos and a blazer with a tie for semi-formal occasions. They may also be having dinner with a king or going to a ball, so they will need a dinner suit.”

However, you don’t need to be a player to buy into the brand - 96% of the customers at Polistas’ flagship store in central London’s Burlington Arcade don’t play. “We came here for the tourists,” says Lynn. “60% of our customers here are overseas buyers.” In the capital, Polistas also sells in Harrods in Knightsbridge and Lynn would like to open another store, possibly in Chelsea, west London. Wholesale in the UK is limited to a handful of specialist stores such as independent Gun Hill, which has four shops in East Anglia, while internationally it counts a number of luxury retailers as stockists. Lynn plans to expand UK wholesale but only with stores that sell other heritage lifestyle brands and not necessarily sports outfitters.

Getting the market positioning right is crucial, he says, as is the marketing. On marketing, Lynn has had more than a little help from the recent resurgence in polo’s popularity as well as from Princes William and Harry, who are regularly photographed wearing the brand. If there is one thing that can add to a brand’s heritage credentials, it is a bit of royal endorsement.

Essentials

Eight Years since Polistas was launched
2,000 SKUs in Polistas’ collection
£19 Starting price for a polo shirt

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