The Heart of British Luxury


British luxury brands have a unique identity and characteristics of their own. We discuss that and their future

By: Simon Petherick, Managing Director, The House of Britannia

Posted on: June 20, 2014

British luxury brands have a unique identity and characteristics of their own. We discuss that and their future

It is no coincidence that majority British brands, which are accepted on the international stage as being “luxury”, have the honour of holding a Royal Warrant to the British Royal Family. For at the heart of British luxury is a set of cultural notions which distinguishes it from its French, Italian or American counterparts. We put them in three categories.

The first is a strong root in the countryside. British luxury draws deeply from the notions of the country house, the aristocratic estate. Less obviously urban than, say, Italian or American luxury, British brands often hark back to the accoutrements of rural upper class life.

Secondly, British luxury brands exhibit an unwavering commitment to excellence. While French luxury has always been based on the excellence of the couture maison, British luxury takes as its inspiration the insistence on perfect form, which can be witnessed every day outside Buckingham Palace in the Changing of the Guard.

Third, and probably the most important is a penchant for natural restraint. Members of the Royal Family continue to perform their duties often in a discrete and unheralded way across all areas of British society. There is a similar lack of “showiness” in British luxury brands which gives many of them that unfathomable allure.

The First Wave of global luxury industry was very much a Continental European phenomenon of the 1980s and 1990s, when primarily French and Italian family-owned firms underwent significant financial re-engineering through the aegis of groups such as LVMH, Prada and Richemont.

British luxury, with one or two notable exceptions, tended to remain outside that First Wave, with the result that the vast majority of luxury brands populating streets such as Bond Street, Rue St Honoré and Fifth Avenue are French or Italian.

But the global luxury industry, currently worth £175 billion and still growing twice as fast as global GDP, has by its very success created a demand amongst consumers of Shanghai, Seoul and Dubai for a new Second Wave of luxury which is not as widespread as the original. The Second Wave of international luxury is all about global consumers demanding a more personalised, experiential relationship with brands. They want to find out more about origins, history and raw materials. They want to feel as though they are part of a glorious secret, not merely the consumers of a label.

This is where the opportunity lies for British luxury brands. In many areas – from leather goods and apparel to jewellery and perfume – British luxury brands have retained a mystique which makes them wonderfully attractive to the newly dominant upper middle class consumers of the world.

Not only that, British luxury companies still on the whole tend to be family owned, in some cases by families who have owned them for generations. Using materials sourced in Britain and techniques developed over decades of application, British luxury brands are able to create an emotional relationship with consumers.

Take Cornelia James, Glovemakers to Her Majesty the Queen. The elegance, the romance of a pair of delicate lace gloves worn at Ascot or a country house dinner can capture the imagination of consumers worldwide. The House of Britannia intends to invest substantial funds into Cornelia James over the next few years, enabling it to reach out to those consumers, and at the same time, extend the range of perfect British accessories which they desire.

With a fascinating assortment of British brands waiting to be explored and indulged in, over the next five years, The House of Britannia will build its group of British luxury companies. We will invest in them and use proven international luxury marketing channels to enable them to reach out to global audiences who are searching for that quintessentially perfect object.

There has never been a better time to be British!

Simon Petherick studied Modern History at Merton College, Oxford. From working in the Government’s Central Office of Information on national and international campaigns, he formed his own marketing company in 1994, through which he managed all the pop concerts and revenue-generating activities in Hyde Park and other London Royal Parks. In 2001, he saw through the acquisition by his company of Her Majesty the Queen’s dressmaker, Hardy Amies Limited, taking over Sir Hardy’s role as Managing Director in the Savile Row house. Mr Petherick has extensive first-hand experience and knowledge of the British luxury goods sector, and a strong track record in negotiation of acquisitions.

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