How is British luxury best described in a few words? Is it a uniquely British sensibility; quietly confident of its heritage, restrained elegance, quirky without being frivolous? Or is it something more palpable; craftsmanship, attention to detail, quality? For 2019 alone, it's been forecast that the British luxury sector will be worth £57 billion – no wonder all eyes are on not only global British brands like Bentley and Burberry, but also the future torch-bearers exporting the concept of British luxury to far away lands.
Now in its 12th year, Brands of Tomorrow is Walpole’s flagship development programme, helping aspiring British luxury companies of the future to fulfil their potential. As Helen Brocklebank, CEO of Walpole says, "many of the brands that have participated in the programme over the last 12 years have not only grown significantly but also found international success...it's exciting to think of them taking their place amongst the established stars of the British luxury sector."
Alumni from the programme have included British watchmaker Bremont, luxury resortwear designers Orlebar Brown and footwear brand Duke & Dexter. This year brings together a heavyweight panel of esteemed mentors, all from respective luxury backgrounds: Alexandra Shulman, former Vogue editor; Alistair Hughes, MD of super-luxe Savoir Beds; Bec Astley-Clarke MBE, founder of eponymous Astley Clarke; Ewan Venters, CEO of Fortnum & Mason; John Ayton MBE, chairman of Bremont; Michael Ward, MD of Harrods; Sarah Rotherham, CEO of Miller Harris; Toby Bateman, MD of MR PORTER and luxury consultants Francois le Troquer, Martin Bartle and Sarah Elton.
And so without further ado, these were the selected finalists for 2019's Brands of Tomorrow:
Anna Mason, fashion designer
Where do we start with Anna Mason? After studying at Edinburgh college of Art, and then the Royal College of Art in 1995, her first job as a fashion designer was working for Karl Lagerfeld in Paris, after which she worked in Italy for MaxMara and Valentino. Returning to London, she then worked for Amanda Wakeley. Anna then set up Maison Mason, a full-service personal styling and shopping business. In 2012 she took the plunge and established her collection under her own name as Anna Mason. Her clothes are nonchalantly elegant and slyly modest emphasising everyday wearability for modern women and, where possible, using Britsh fabrics. Pippa Middleton counts herself as a fan.
Conker, gin distiller
Conker Spirit is the poster-boy for the 'ditch the day job' start-up story- with founder Rupert Holloway at 29 leaping from a career in construction to launch Dorset's first gin distillery. Conker’s signature Dorset Dry gin has quickly donned back-bars across the country, establishing itself as a mainstay of the craft gin renaissance. Committed to exciting, innovative spirits, Conker is not one to follow the crowd; creating the UK’s first Cold Brew Coffee liqueur that is free from the usual flavourings and additives, relying solely on some of the world’s finest forest-grown Grade 1 Speciality coffees. That’s the spirit.
Desmond & Dempsey, fashion label
Molly Goddard and Joel Jeffrey launched Desmond & Dempsey in 2014, inspired by their shared love of Sundays and Molly's penchant for wearing her now-husband Joel's cotton work shirts in bed. Unique, hand-painted flora and fauna designs are printed on luxurious pure cotton sets and relaxed separates. Growing rapidly since its inception, the brand's products are currently sold through their online store and also wholesale partners including MR PORTER, Selfridges and Bergdorf Goodman. Now there's even more of a reason to lie in on Sundays.
Farer, watch brand
2007 saw Bremont; 2019 sees Farer as part of the Brands of Tomorrow. Launched in 2015, the brand's collections of watches are named after British adventurers and are inspired by the halcyon era of watchmaking, where bold colour palettes and distinctive textures created some truly stand out wrist-candy. For Farer, the dial is central to what it does. Every dial goes through hours of meticulous work and processing that perfectly define the true spirit of Farer: ambition beyond the ordinary. Designed in Britain and manufactured without compromise in Switzerland, the direct-to-consumer luxury watch brand shows that quality luxury watches do not have to come at extortionate prices.
Jennifer Chamandi, footwear designer
Despite an accomplished career as a senior banker at Merrill Lynch, something in Jennifer Chamandi Boghossian's life wasn't quite fulfilled. The designer recalls that as a child, she would wear heels whilst revising for exams to make her more confident. On the trading floor, her trademark look of towering stilettos did not go unnoticed. Eventually, she took the plunge and fully immersed herself into the universe of shoes. Working with a family-run master artisan atelier based in Milan, the brand's signature shoe is no doubt its 'talon aiguille' (the 'needle' stiletto). While many women wince at the thought of an entire evening spent in stilettos, Chamandi's shoes have a twist, or rather, a hole – a patented, gold-plated 'eye' carved and deftly inlaid into every heel though which a slim, removable strap is threaded, thus offering additional comfort. No wonder she can count Gigi Hadid, Amal Clooney and Queen Rania as among her clients; not bad for a brand less than five years old.
London Sock Co, accessory label
Accessories are an important part of any man's wardrobe, but can often be excessively expensive, as David Gandy knows. The male supermodel is a fan and an investor in the brand, which was started by Ryan Palmer and Dave Pickard, who both left their jobs in the City to inspire confidence in men from the ground up. Founded on the belief that socks are the first step towards effortless personality- especially as most men have ditched wearing ties with their suits- its collections are sophisticated and timeless, using only the finest materials and craftsmanship. One particularly unique service is their gift-perfect subscription package, in which members receive socks delivered through their mailbox monthly, whilst supporting numerous charitable causes along the way. It's time to pull your socks up gentlemen.
Luna Mae, lingerie label
Claudia Lambeth was driven by a desire to offer women a bespoke lingerie service that specialised in exquisite British craftsmanship and fitting excellence. With a focus on impeccable British craftsmanship, all bespoke lingerie sets start and finish under one roof in No.75 Elizabeth Street. Clients are invited for a private consultation and fitting, where a team of Luna Mae tailors and designers work ceaselessly to highlight the uniqueness of each woman. With bespoke and bridal options, Forbes called Luna Mae "the Savile Row of lingerie."
Sabina Savage, accessory label
Sabina Savage’s eponymous luxury scarf brand offers heritage-inspired, elaborate prints on exquisite fabrics. Each illustration is intricately hand drawn by Sabina, sometimes taking up to six weeks for a single design, before being printed onto the finest silk, wool and cashmere. Each collection is based on an imagined story, always featuring Sabina’s wild and exotic fauna. Each scarf is expertly designed in London and produced to the highest quality and skilfully hand-edged by the renowned artisans of Como, Italy.
Savernake, bespoke knives
Based out of their forested Wiltshire sawmill, Savernake are sharply focused on creating the best chef's knives in the world. What makes a perfect kitchen knife? The key lies in the type of steel used, in particular Scandinavian steel. Approximately 40 steps are involved in making each and every one of their knives. These include milling the profile, grinding the bevel, sand-blasting, tempering, handle routing and finally a rigorous hand-finish by their six expert craftsmen. Amongst the oldest professions in the world, Savernake fuse a very English heritage of artisanal craft and aerospace-level manufacturing, embodied in eye wateringly beautiful forms that are pure poetry in the chef's hand.
STOW is a brand rooted in historic adventure. Founded in 2013 by Carol Lovell with an aim to disrupt the world of travel accessories, practical designs are meticulously handcrafted to be passed down from generation to generation. STOW coined the term 'Wander-luxe' embodied in the form of jewellery cases, watch rolls and tech holdalls for travel. Designed in England and made in Spain using the best European leather and hardware, STOW has a global base of admirers including HRH The Duchess of Sussex.
The Restory, restoration service
After moving to London from New York, Vanessa Jacobs realised one noticeable lack in the city: an aftercare service for luxury goods in need or restoration and repairs. So, she gave up her adrenaline-fuelled job at Accenture and turned her eyes to what needed repairing in her wardrobe. Out of it, a new business was born that has rapidly expanded through Europe and has ambitions of going global. All items are brought to their atelier where a small army of A-list specialist artisans set to work restoring items to their former glory. When complete, items are returned beautifully and sustainably packaged and to a place convenient to the consumer. There is a weirdly addictive quality to seeing some of the items sent in being transformed – we recommend looking at some of their case studies. The Restory is completely changing the aftercare offering into an essential lifestyle service.
Wyse, fashion label
Started in 2014 by Marielle Wyse, this brand is not strictly fully British – Marielle is half-French. Perhaps that works in the marque's favour, as its simple elegance embodies a distinctly French chic. What started with a few statement pieces has today blossomed into a thriving fashion brand selling more than 15,000 units per year and stocked in 16 countries worldwide. The ultimate in luxury comfort dressing, Wyse London's collection of colourful cashmere and mohair knits, soft linen t-shirts, cardigans and other staples have remained a firm favourite amongst the fashion crowd, Chelsea girls and celebrities.