Saturday, 23 January 2010

Aquascutum and the Death of a Brand

This post doesn't have much if anything to do with books, but it's an example of how my intertextuality, driven by what I've read, affects how I want to live my life.

For my sins I wear a suit every day, The company I work for is very much of the suit wearing persuasion, and when you're in front of a customer, it's worth trying to look your best. As such, about 10 years ago, I decided it was worth paying money for a good suit.

A suit says a lot about you. It's a way of associating yourself with a set of values in a pleasingly understated sort of way, and when it works it's one of the most comfortable items of clothing you can own. Ten years ago I bought my first Aquascutum suit, I still own it, it's no longer in its first flush of use, and doesn't fit quite as well as it did, but it's still perfectly serviceable and gets worn. Others have been worn out, and throughout they stood as a hallmark to good British tailoring, I'm British, I like being British, and wearing an Aquascutum suit conformed fundamentally to my own brand values,

All that changed today.

I need a new suit, and in trying to buy one Aquascutum's flagship store on Regent Street should be an entirely logical place to buy one. You expect a shop like that to match what Aquascutum as a brand says. It should be polished, refined, provide impeccable service and convey the sort of confidence that wearing one of their suits should impart. The store should encapsulate the best of British - dinner at the Savoy Grill, flying BA Club class, driving an Aston Martin through the Cotswolds. It's expensive, probably can't be done every day, but everything about it should be worth it.

Aquascutum's Regent Street presence doesn't work like that. The lights are too bright, the clothing rails feel cheap and temporary, the music is too loud, the bright red 'sale' signs too prevalent and garish, and the staff too conspicuous by their absence. Shopping there should make you feel valued, to be blunt, spending that sort of amount on tailoring should be valued and you should be made to feel that way. Standing for 10 minutes without any sign of staff to pay attention didn't feel quintessentially British, it felt like T K Maxx.

I didn't buy a suit from Aquascutum today. I walked out, and not too far up the road found Brooks Brothers, who have always made fantastic shirts, and who get service and quality. Today they were everything Aquascutum should have been, and sold me a suit in a way that makes me want to go back.

Sorry to say, but Brooks Brothers have shown that in this case Americans are now better at being British than we are. Others have worked this out already; Stephen Fry shops at Brooks Brothers.


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