Aquascutum was established in 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition, when tailor and entrepreneur John Emary opened a high quality menswear shop at 46 Regent Street. In 1853, after succeeding in producing the first waterproof wool, he had his discovery patented and renamed the company ‘Aquascutum’, Latin for ‘watershield’. In 1901, Emary moved to 100 Regent Street in the heart of London. In September 2011, Austin Reed had moved into that location at 100 Regent Street after it was announced that Aquascutum was in trouble.
Domestic and fashion applications followed, promoted in the 19th century by royal fashion leader King Edward VII. His majesty was Aquascutum’s first royal client, ordering an Aquascutum coat in the Prince of Wales check. In 1897, Aquascutum was granted a royal warrant, the first that would mark the British royal family’s long patronage of the company.
The company has supplied aristocrats, political leaders, and actors, including three Princes of Wales, Prince Rainier of Monaco, Sir Winston Churchill, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Sophia Loren, Cary Grant, and Michael Caine.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Kingsley Matheson Pink, Managing Director of the Regent Street flagship store, dressed UK prime minister Baroness Thatcher. Unknown to Matheson Pink, this included her historic visit to the USSR, which included everything from coats and tailored suits to dresses and evening wear.
He was also subsequently responsible for dressing Prime Minister Sir John Major, as well as a number of other international dignitaries including the King of Malaysia.
Aquascutum was family owned until 1990, when it was purchased by Japanese textile conglomerate company Renown Incorporated, and, then, by Jaeger in September 2009. It is now the property of YGM Trading, a Chinese fashion retailer, since April 2012.
Current day operations
In April 2006, Aquascutum appointed Kim Winser as president and chief executive officer. Winser is a veteran of the British apparel industry, having worked for Marks & Spencer and Pringle of Scotland. The current heads of design are Michael Herz and Graeme Fidler, who won numerous awards including GQ style awards.
The brand, famous for its suiting range, recently modelled by Pierce Brosnan and Brett Anderson, also offers tailoring by Savile Row tailor Nick Hart. Gisele Bündchen and Jamie Dornan modeled Aquascutum Collection designs and vintage pieces. Homeland star Damian Lewis was used for their Autumn Winter 2014 collection.
In 2008, Renown announced that it would sell Aquascutum, after the parent company experienced three straight years of losses. In May 2009, Renown rejected a corporate buyout bid led by Kim Winser. After the bid was rejected, Winser left Aquascutum. Renown continued acquisition talks with Chinese clothing retailer YGM Trading, which held licenses to sell Aquascutum clothes in Asia - the brand's biggest market.
In September 2009, the management team behind the revival of retailer Jaeger, Harold Tillman and Belinda Earl, bought the company. However, on 17 April 2012, the Financial Times published an article citing sources "familiar with the company's plans" stating that the company would shortly go into administration with the potential loss of up to 250 jobs.
In April 2012, the company went into bankruptcy administration. FRP Advisory were chosen to act as the administrators. Shortly after Aquascutum's Asia licensee, YGM Trading, acquired the company for £15 million.
In 2013, the Aquascutum factory was again put up for sale, and has been purchased by a British owner. The original factory has been renamed The Clothing Works.
In recent years Aquascutum has gained a somewhat undesirable reputation in Scotland, particularly in the Glasgow area. This is due to branded hats and scarfs being linked to gang activity and worn as a symbol of status in 'ned culture'.
1911 HM King George V
1952 HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother