LTD. Aquascutum - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia



British ready-to-wear firm

Founded: by John Emary in London, 1851. Company History: Early firsts include rain-repellent woollen cloth, the raglan sleeve, and the trench coat. Manufacturer of outerwear, from 1851; introduced womenswear, 1909; New York showroom opened, 1948; manufacturing outlet in Canada opened, 1949; Manchester and Bristol shops opened, 1950s; added suits for men, 1951; introduced full line of women's fashions, 1986; granted royal warrants, 1897, 1902, 1903, 1911, 1929, 1949, 1952. Awards: Clothing Oscar, 1958; Queen's award for Export Achievement, 1966, 1967, 1971, 1976, 1979, 1990; British Knitting and Clothing Export Council Export award, 1986. Company Address: 100 Regent St., London W1A 2AQ, England.

Publications

By AQUASCUTUM LTD.:

Books

The Story of Aquascutum, London, 1959.

The Aquascutum Story, London, 1976, 1991.

The Aquascutum Heritage, London, 1984.

Design by Aquascutum, Ltd., ca. 1951. © Norman Parkinson Limited/Fiona Cowan/CORBIS.
Design by Aquascutum, Ltd., ca. 1951.
© Norman Parkinson Limited/Fiona Cowan/CORBIS.

On AQUASCUTUM LTD.:

Books

Bentley, Nicolas, A Man's Clothes, London, 1952.

Adburgham, Alison, Shops and Shopping, London, 1964.

Hobhouse, Hermione, A History of Regent Street, London, 1975.

Articles

"Aquascutum—100 Years Proof," in Vogue (London), March 1976.

"Purses, Umbrellas, and Gloves, Oh My!" in Chicago Tribune, 20July 1988.

York, Peter, and Page Hill Starzinger, "Americans Have Often Taken Fashion Inspiration from the British," in Vogue (New York), February 1990.

Fallon, James, "Aquascutum Accepts $121m Buyout Offer," in the Daily News Record (New York), 25 April 1990.

Taylor, John, "The Aquascutum Heritage," in British Style , No. 3, 1990.

Skolnik, Lisa, "Let Raindrops Keep Falling—Women are Ready With Their Trenches," in Chicago Tribune, 12 April 2000.

***

Aquascutum's distinctive name is two Latin words meaning "watershield"—a name which has become synonymous with the best of traditional British clothing. Aquascutum originated as a name for the finely tailored coats made of showerproof natural fabrics developed by a small tailoring firm based in London's Regent Street. They were ideal protection from England's inclement weather, and, like many ostensibly functional items of clothing and footwear, the Aquascutum raincoat or cape also achieved high fashion status, worn even in fine weather. Today's equivalent may be seen in the likes of the Burberry jacket, originally created for outdoor enthusiasts of fishing and hunting, but as likely to be seen worn over a city suit as on the moors. Timberland boots and Levis were also developed originally as workwear but have achieved cult fashion status.

A royal customer has always been an important asset to any business, and Aquascutum was fortunate in attracting the custom of Edward VII, Prince of Wales, who wore both greatcoats and capes made of the miraculously rain-repellent cloth. In 1897 the company was awarded its first royal warrant as "Waterproofers" to HRH The Prince of Wales.

For the first 50 years of business, Aquascutum was involved solely in the production of clothing for gentlemen. In 1909 the company launched its first collection of womenswear, prompted by the increasing popularity of sportswear for women. The often-romanticized imaged of the landed gentlemen and his tweed-clad lady have become potent symbols of English culture, and a persistent element in Britain's international fashion image. It is interesting to note that when fashion designer Katherine Hamnett first showed her collection in Paris in 1989, Le Figaro remarked upon the fact that England now produced clothes other than cashmere sweaters and raincoats. In this light it is understandable that, when foreigners refer to English style, they are usually implying the quintessentially English look of companies such as Aquascutum or Burberry, rather than the avant-garde style of contemporary designers. Aquascutum represents the traditional image of thoroughly good British taste which lent itself perfectly to the sporting events that dominated the English Season.

While Aquascutum is perhaps best recognized for its clothing, it is in fact the company's technical achievements in the textiles field that are most remarkable. The 1950s were an important period for the company in terms of textile developments. In 1955 Aquascutum introduced an iridescent-toned cotton gabardine for men's and women's raincoats. Three years later they launched a black evening coat made of showerproof wool and mohair fabric which won the company a clothing Oscar. In 1959 a rainproof cloth (called Aqua 5) was introduced which eliminated the need for reproofing after dry cleaning, which resulted in worldwide acclaim for Aquascutum. The company's breakthroughs in textile development, including more recent work with microfibers, found the new fabrics incorporated into both the menswear and womenswear collections.

Aquascutum continued to produce an extensive collection of clothing and accessories for men and women, with a full range of womenswear introduced in 1986. A high profile client soon emerged in the person of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, dressed exclusively by the company for years during her terms in office. Aquascutum also introduced accessories, including handbags and travel bags, umbrellas, hats, scarves, and small leather goods, many of which bear the company's coat of arms. In the first part of the 21st century, trench coats were suddenly back at the height of fashion, with Aquascutum and its longtime rival, Burberrys, once again at the forefront of the industry.

Viscount Thurso wearing an Aquascutum Ltd.-designed ensemble, ca. 1985. © Norman Parkinson Limited/Fiona Cowan/CORBIS.
Viscount Thurso wearing an Aquascutum Ltd.-designed ensemble, ca. 1985.
© Norman Parkinson Limited/Fiona Cowan/CORBIS.

As a company that originated producing clothing to protect its wearer from an unruly native climate, Aquascutum became a recognized brand label at international level. Though generally considered "conservative" fashion, dressing royalty and government officials, or "vintage" by others, Aquascutum outerwear has endured for 150 years and will never be out of style.

—CatherineWoram;

updated by NellyRhodes

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