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Brand Development: Hunter


What happens when a brand breaks free from its single product shackles and doesn’t just make a statement, but creates a level of anticipation akin to a cult following? Such is the strength of the Hunter brand, its un-tapped potential for product development across the entire garment apparel sector has got us all in a bit of a tizzy. Not enough to surpass their weather dependent wellies, given the now legendary Kate Moss Glastonbury seal of approval, but the ability to cultivate a lifestyle brand in waiting. If it feels like it.

Now it’s happened with Hunter it seems so obvious, you wonder what took so long?  But tipping points in fashion are all about timing and perception. Fluky or well-positioned celebrity endorsement has the potential to skew projections into realms of product development fantasy. And much harder to sustain fantasy if you nonchalantly skip product roll-out, marketing, PR and consumer testing.  Will we be talking about the same hat brand that Delavigne donned on a whim in years to come? I doubt it.

It’s got to have a brand story and a ‘ product elasticity’ to be able to extract its embryonic appeal, with the depth to support new design departure points, or the consumer just won’t get it. As Roger Saul, founder of Mulberry, a global brand that has engineered any number of product range and lifestyle changes, recently commented at Pure London, that it’s wise to move across one ‘family’ of changes, at a time.

I caught up with Robin Bolton, Account Manager of Hunter at Jacket Required, at the Truman Brewery recently who gave me the skinny on this ‘sky’s the limit’ brand. It seems in some ways as if they are almost glad the furor has calmed down post the glitzy catwalk shows and they can get on with the business of selling garments.

Seeing the styles on display, they all have a strong, clean, technical look and silhouette, marrying hi-tech in garment design with contemporary fabric, derived from the same rubber used in the iconic Hunter Wellington boot. And what they have elected to design has no sense of me-too, about it. Even if it’s a bomber jacket, it’s a botanical print, with non-conventional collar, cuffs, pocket trims and detailing. “We have to own what we do and try to do our own thing in our own way. Getting the right silhouettes is what it’s all about.” Focusing understandably on outerwear, a rubber Mac in Hunter’s hands, is a lightweight vinyl, with a ‘laddish fit’ and a ‘festival feel.’ It seems they have got it just about spot on, as an aspirational brand, with design kudos that Prada and its minimalist touches of red trimming on trade-mark matt black would be proud of. “We are trying to get the same ‘desk-to-dinner’ excitement associated with a trusted UK brand, known for its quality.” As a heritage brand, currently ten per cent of the Hunter outerwear range is made in the UK in Derby with great potential to explore garment penetration in markets like the US and Japan, primed for this sleek, uber cool, contemporary brand.

hunter coats

Hunter – a brand that goes beyond the iconic Wellington boot 

Hunter had in fact used the previous Jacket Required (JR) winter event to launch their new menswear outerwear range, at the same time as opening 25 new stores to gain important brand visibility in the high street, including a Regent Street global flagship store.  Second JR event in, showcasing the burgeoning outerwear styles, I asked how relevant this event was for Hunter. Robin was quick to point out, “ Jacket Required is a route to market buyers endorse. The show is great – buyers see it, like it and then it’s all about the touchy feel of the garments.” Buyers have been coming to JR since 2009, with 20 brands or so growing to the size it is now. While buyers will still go to Pitti, JR has helped put London on the map for menswear and helped to mature the market for A-list buyers and new and upcoming designers as well as established brands.

hunter store london

Hunter flagship store on Regent Street London

According to Robin, it used to be about brand adjacencies and sheepish industry followers. As JR has developed, attracting more brands and buyers – the ‘good’ buyer will see all the products, not just the ones relating to the clients they work with, and be inspired by the new designs alongside established ones. This is the notional ideal one hopes the brand buying fraternity aspires to and on the day, possibly even approximates to.  The fact is, brands like Hunter will have earned a magnetic attraction one feels for all the right reasons. The important thing is, and this was endorsed by a number of brand consultants I spoke with, JR has “always been great for buyers.”  (Juls Dawson of Just Consultancies). Robin said they are still deciding what events they will attend, possibly Pitti Uomo, in Italy, Premium in Berlin, Paris perhaps. For now, sensibly and understandably, it’s all about achieving sales and achieving margins. For this to work, the garments have to work and for the brand to be highly visible. Hence, 65 stores are planned in the UK, not to mention Taiwan, Tokyo and New York perhaps.  One suspects, it’s only a question of when and where, not if.  Watch out markets, you will be successfully Hunter’d.

By Paul Markevicius 

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