Menswear Buyer Article | February 2015


MWB Article Feb 2015.

Elton John is quoted as saying that “Nothing I ever bought has brought me lasting happiness.” From a man who elevated extreme shopping to an art form to rank alongside sculpture, that’s quite an admission.

I was reminded of this pithy aphorism this week when a misfortune struck me. I left my umbrella in the back of a taxi. ‘So what?’ I hear you cry, ‘Has he nothing more serious to fret about?’.Bear with me, gentle reader. For this was no ordinary umbrella; it was a Brigg.

Swaine, Adeney and Brigg have been making canes and umbrellas by Royal Appointment since the Roman times. Probably. Evidence has recently been unearthed at Hadrian’s wall that points to a high ranking official’s ownership of a Brigg. I was fortunate to meet their team at Pitt L’Uomo in Florence some eight years ago, as we were neighbours for four days. I’ve always been interested in craftsmanship and tradition, and was fascinated by the history and quality of their products. As a pre-recession treat, they kindly let me purchase one of their finest umbrellas at wholesale. It was still £120, but rather more manageable than £350 at full retail.

I couldn’t wait for it to rain. I’d unfurl my pride and joy, and laugh in the face of downpours, shrug off the fiercest storm. Here was a true piece of British engineering; fit for purpose with its one piece solid beech shaft and sturdy metal frame.

So unlike Elton, this waterproof old friend really did bring me happiness and I hope its new owner will relish it as much as I did.

However, to my delight, a few days later I bought a vintage Fox’s umbrella in a junk shop near home. This, too, is a beautiful piece of equipment. Dating from the 1950s. It’s in perfect condition and is my new best friend. Better still it was just £5.

In my stores we have recently begun having our own umbrellas made for us by James Ince of Shoreditch, a third generation family firm. Not maybe in the Brigg league, but beautiful, and still a luxury item at £95. Sales have surpassed expectations. Appreciation of provenance, craft and quality is on the increase again. Customers are buying less but buying better, and want much more back story. We explain the history, the quality, and point out that at just under £100 it’s a true investment piece.

Just don’t leave it in a taxi….

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