We are sitting in a hotel in Paris, it’s just after nine in the morning and Jeremy Hackett. is wearing a ‘Tokyo Tweed’ jacket with turn back cuffs and two double pairs of working buttons on the sleeve. The previous evening Jeremy held a party to celebrate the opening of his second parisian store on the Boulevard des Capucines.
He has a ‘Remains of the Day’ type of Englishness. An unassuming and modest man, if you had to say a decade, you would suggest the 1950s.
He orders a café au lait and pastries.
The first Hackett shop in Paris opened 16 years ago on the Rive Gauche, I ask him why it has taken so long for the second? “We were sold in Old England but they have a new owner and have changed so we decided to open over the road. Trade has been amazing, better than expected, the first customer spent 4000 euros and he’d never been to Hackett before.”
Hackett is on the up with new stores opening soon in Zurich and the Philippines. It sells a very seductive type of Englishness, a gentlemanly type of classic masculinity where men wear old school bowler hats and carry umbrellas. An Englishness that doesn’t exist anymore yet still resonates around the world and sells by the bucket load.
Jeremy grew up in Clifton, Bristol, he knew he wasn’t going to pass any exams so left and went to work in a tailor’s shop in Bristol. The tailor’s proved a bit parochial, they didn’t want to do anything adventurous so when he was 19 he moved to London and worked for Village Gate, a large men’s wear chain on the King’s Road being a runner between the different shops. He met a guy in a market in Paris who asked him to buy some vintage English clothes for him to sell. He bought Savile Row suits and Burberry coats from Portobello market but then soon realised he should be selling these himself.
In 1983 he opened the first Hackett store on the New Kings Road in Fulham, which was very up and coming at the time. He ran out of good vintage to sell and he saw people fighting over an old Chesterfield coat so decided to make some new ones. Eventually he had five shops there including a barbers.
Then in 1991, an American customer persuaded him to open a shop in Boston, Massachusetts. It was the wrong place at the wrong time and was a costly mistake, he says. It lead to the company being sold to luxury group Richemont, which owns Dunhill and Cartier.
He hopes to open again in America soon, he looked at a store in Madison Avenue last year but again the timing wasn’t right. I ask him what he will say when Americans walk into one of his American stores and accuse him of copying Ralph Lauren. “Ralph is New England, I’m Old England” he says. He actually likes being compared to Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger as his business is tiny in comparison. Ralph Lauren used to buy vintage from him anyway.
He likes Belgian designers such as Dries Van Noten and Martin Margiela and lives in a detached Georgian cottage in Stockwell in South London. He says it’s a mixture of 1950’s furniture and antique Georgian. I imagine it’s quite modest - like the man himself.
Jeremy understands detail and understands his customer, he wouldn’t do anything too radical but also likes to mix it up a little. For example, for A/W 2010 he has reversed the velvet on a crombie collar, which is only a small change but these are the kind of details stylish men looks for.
In June 2005 it was announced that Richemont had sold Hackett to Torreal, a Spanish investment company. Jeremy is still very hands on - you might still catch him serving in one of his stores now and again. He remembers a few famous faces he has served over the years, “Manolo Blahnik once came in, he’d seen a suit in the window, gushed, bought it there and then and wore it out of the shop. I once sold David Hockney a pair of shoes, one shoe was brown/black, the other black/brown and he drew a doodle while waiting, I put it somewhere safe and lost it.”
I think even Jeremy is surprised how much people still lap up the 'English' style, particularly from abroad. He knows when to play up the English gentleman credentials but he also knows that what he sells is a classic form of men's wear that men enjoy wearing and continue to look good in.
2nd Paris Store - 37 Boulevard des Capucines
Jeremy’s 1963 IWC black faced wristwatch with a black military strap, in amazing condition.
A/W 2009 Brochure which Jeremy styles.