Despite Heritage Research’s relatively recent inception (the label was born in 2008) Russ Gater and co-founder Daniel Savory, have close to a combined 20 years experience as designers. In addition to this they sourced vintage clothing, a role that paved the way for Heritage Research. Since their start, they’ve gone on to be stocked in well respected stores and work on a series of well chosen collaborations.
Take a leap to read about their influences, upcoming projects and their thoughts on the heritage boom.
What it is about historical clothing that interests you the most?
I think it’s well acknowledged that most fashion has its basis in military and workwear clothing. So the thing that really interests us is the original development aspect of these details and patterns as they’re all rooted in practical applications. I like the fact that the aesthetics of a garment were at the bottom of the list and the design was driven by pure functionality. I’m particularly interested in the American Civil War and WWII anyway, so bringing details and elements from these conflicts into HR clothing is something I enjoy.
We’ve heard rumours that you’re planning on stopping online sales. Is this true, and if so, how come you made this move?
No, we’re not stopping online sales. we’ve just said that any new accounts going forward must agree not to sell HR online. Obviously we’ve done this to protect our original accounts and also to limit the amount of HR product available online.
What have been the upsides and downsides of the recent heritage boom?
The upsides are that I think the average consumer has become a bit more clued up about product, value and more willing to try styles outside the mainstream. Downsides are that inevitably the high street reacts quickly and starts making their own versions – which is why you now see chore jackets in Topman and chinstrap workshirts in Next.
It seems like we’ve reached full circle in terms of heritage being a trend in the UK – there are new brands being influenced by brands who are in turn influenced by historical garments – where do you think heritage wear goes from here?
I think as with any part of the fashion industry trends run full circle, go out of fashion and then come back into fashion at some point. People like Nigel Cabourn and Gary Eastman have been making this stuff for years, 30 years in Gary’s case, and they will continue whether its on trend or not. The fact the Heritage trend is already crossing over to the mainstream I think suggests it will be here for a while and as with any of these things, consumers who want to be different or appreciate considered well made garments will seek out the quality brands and those who are indifferent will continue to shop at H&M or Topman for watered down versions of these styles. I think it will mean that brands like ourselves will be more adventurous in our referencing and hopefully will push the trend forward.
The Eastman leather pack seemed like a risky product to make because of the costs involved, how did it come around?
We never saw it as risky, probably because we’ve been fans of Eastman for years and bought stuff from Gary long before HR was even an idea. To be honest I don’t see the A-2 pack as being ‘costly’ when you consider what you’re actually getting for the money, a handmade in England absolutely exact replica flight jacket, flight bag, gloves and limited to 50 pieces worldwide.
I think in our portion of the market there’s plenty of more expensive pieces out there when you consider that a Visvim A-2 is £1500 and a Real McCoys A-2 is £2000 it puts it in perspective especially when the Eastman jackets are considered among collectors and experts to be the best. So in terms of value for money I think its on the button.
It came about because I’d been a customer of Eastmans for a long time buying both Eastman and Buzz from them. It occurred to me that we would have nothing to lose asking Gary if he would be interested in making some special products for us. He was really into the idea so we worked out a concept of making packs based around specific WWII Pilots and Squadrons. Going forward for Fall 2010 we’ve made a USN VF-20 G-1 pack, timeworn by hand to look like an original 40’s jacket – which is amazing. The level of hands on work that went into this jacket is astounding.
One of the issues with making clothing in the manner that you do is that there’s only so much of any one item that you can make each season. Would you ever consider making products on a more mass scale?
I think the nature of anything within this industry is that if you take it seriously it has to expand at some point or it will implode from a business perspective. I don’t think we would ever want to make HR on what we would consider to be a mass scale but we are definitely seeking to gain more accounts worldwide which is why we knew Andrew Parfitt (of showroom Egomark) was the perfect person to represent the brand. He’s totally about the product and is someone who is focused on the brands integrity over sales.
There are still a couple of places in England that make larger scale production for specific brands that offer the attention to detail, handcuffing, finishing and pride in their work that we would require, so if we needed to we could increase production without compromising anything.
How did the Oi Polloi exclusives come around?
Like most people we’ve always been big fans of what Steve and Nigel do and as such they were the first UK account we approached. I think they appreciate our passion for what we do and like themselves, the product comes first with us. Whenever we get together there’s a million ideas flying around so it’s easy to come up with exclusives between us.
Do you plan on making more denim or is that a one off thing?
Denim is a funny thing for us as its difficult to compete with the brands that do it best – Lee Japan, LVC, Sugarcane for example – but we’re good friends with the guys at Kuro and Studio Zero in Japan. The jeans they made us for AW09 were amazing, so I’m sure will do something with them again – they’re the most full on denim afficionados you can imagine and are great to work with. We’ve made some 30’s style Lineman denim pants for Fall 2010 and have used washed denim throughout the collection but I don’t think we would attempt a classic pair of 5 pocket jeans in the UK ourselves.
What does the future hold for Heritage Research?
The name itself allows us to explore whatever we want really in terms of the past so who knows! We will continue to include a variety of references from different eras in each collection and there’s such a wealth of reference out there that ideas wont be an issue. We’ve developed our own footwear for AW10 and are working with people like Frost River and Viberg which is really interesting. I think we will continually try and improve the product, moving in directions that we haven’t explored yet.