Hobbs Ltd. - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia



British fashion company

Founded: in 1981 by Marilyn and Yoram Anselm. Company History: Marilyn studied sculpture at the Central School of Art, London; married Yoram and they had two children (Kate, Amy). The Anselms, along with Yoram's brother Ronnie, began retailing to English design labels before turning to shoe and clothing design; developed idea of "capsule wardrobes," coordinated clothes, shoe, and accessory design for women, 1980s; brothers Yoram began feuding, 1990s; case settled against Ronnie Yoram, 2000; Company Address: 122 Gloucester Ave, London NW1 8HX, England.

Publications

On HOBBS LTD.:

Articles

Garrett, Pat, "Hobb's Choice," in Homes & Antiques, n.d.

Quick, Harriet, "Cold Shoe Shuffle," in The Guardian, 6 December 1995.

Mendick, Robert, "Hobbs Brothers Settle Feud in Own Fashion," in The Independent Sunday, 19 March 2000.

***

A family business based in London, Hobbs Ltd. is a successful clothing and footwear chain owned by designer Marilyn Anselm, with her husband Yoram in charge of finance, daughter Kate Anselm as footwear designer, and daughter Amy Anselm as the merchandise director in charge of shoes, clothes, and accessories. The targeted customer is perceived as an average woman between the ages of 20 and 40 interested in clothing "designed by mothers and daughters for mothers and daughters," displaying an understated yet unmistakably English sense of style.

The origins of the business were in clothing, although footwear made the company's name. This success is possibly due to the fact that Marilyn Anselm has a background in sculpture, having studied at London's Central School of Art, and has rendered three-dimensional forms in a convincing manner. "A shoe designer should be a sculptor rather than a painter," she points out. Her fine arts training has certainly come into use in the company's designs.

The popularity of Hobbs footwear can be explained by Marilyn Anselm's goal—to produce shoes of the same quality, style, and above all—with the comfort usually found in men's shoes. In women's footwear design, the emphasis is often put on fashion, above all other considerations, the traditional idea being that the shoes are meant to be quickly phased out owing to rapidly changing trends in the women's retail market. Hobbs, however, produces classic, albeit slightly quirky designs that attempt to provide quality and style at an affordable price. An emphasis on good craftsmanship has led to the majority of Anselm's shoe and knitwear designs being manufactured in Italy, which achieves the desired quality of finish unavailable in Britain for the same manufacturing costs.

Originally based in Hampstead in the early 1970s, the business concentrated on the retailing of leading English design labels until Anselm visited a shoe fair in Italy and was bowled over by what she saw. She began designing her own collection of shoes and clothes, which led in turn to the setting up of the company and its first shop in South Molton Street, London. Yoram Anselm and his brother Ronnie, both born in Israel, added business acumen to the company. The three of them, and later Marilyn and Yoram's two daughters, built the company to the brand of choice for well-off Englishwomen by the early 1990s. The family, particularly the brothers, remained very private in spite of their great success. In 2000, however, a long-running feud between the brothers became public when it went to court for settlement. Ronnie Anselm, the financial head of the business, was accused of skimming funds from the company. Despite these difficulties, however, the company remains extremely successful.

Hobbs' success is ultimately due to an emphasis on redesigning traditional British styles, using luxury natural fibers alongside newly developed fabrics such as Lycra for stretch or drape and the notion of the capsule wardrobe, a coordinated approach to women's fashionwear. Anselm believes in designing a top-to-toe look, with every garment following a specific theme or fashion story, an idea later popularized on a massive scale by the lifestyle marketing campaigns of companies such as Next.

The name Hobbs makes direct reference to a particular kind of British living, as created and espoused by magazines such as Country Living. The name itself was filched from an advertisement in Horse & Hound, for George Hobb's Horseboxes. The imagery Hobbs has played on in its numerous shops—from their fruitwood shelves and wardrobes, wrought iron brackets, and tapestry-woven stools to the classic court shoes, cashmere reefers, jodhpurs, and linen trousers—is one of an ineffable and timeless Englishness, reflective of country houses, horses, and herbaceous borders. All this mediated through the gaze of a 21st-century businesswoman trading on the type of associations Paul Smith so successfully conjured up for men.

—Caroline Cox;

updated by Carrie Snyder

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