Shaper: Jeremy Hackett

Show aired on 4th June 2016

Transcript

Elliot Moss
That was the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and nice too weren’t they with Sugar Plum. Good morning this is Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss here on Jazz FM. Thank you so much for joining me. Jazz Shapers I hope you know by now is the place where you can hear the very best of the people who are shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul and I bring in their equivalents in the world of business, someone that we call a my Business Shaper. I am extremely pleased to say that my Business Shaper today, a quintessential British icon is none other than Jeremy Hackett and he is the founder and chairman of Hackett, the rather famous clothing brand that has been gracing the UK and International markets for over 30 years. You are going to be hearing lots from Jeremy shortly. In addition to hearing from him, you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya, some words of advice for your business and then we’ve got some fantastic music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul, including Mavis Staples, Stevie Wonder and this from the one and only BB King.

Better Not Look Down, the mantra of so many people who have built big businesses I am sure, from BB King. My Business Shaper this morning as I said is Jeremy Hackett and he is the founder and chairman of Hackett, the business that began and this is factually correct, in 1983. One of those dates that is indelibly marked probably on my guest here today, Jeremy. Jeremy thank you so much for joining me.

Jeremy Hackett
No it’s a pleasure, thank you for having me.

Elliot Moss
How did this happen? How are we having this conversation all these decades later with you? Did you think back in the day when you were a young man, a teenager, that you would have an empire at your feet?

Jeremy Hackett
Absolutely not a clue because in fact when I was still at school I got a particularly bad school report and my father said to me, ‘if you don’t pull your socks up, you’ll end up working in a shop’. Fortunately that’s exactly what happened because I left school soon after that and went to work in a tailor’s shop where in fact I already had a Saturday job and the tailor very generously took me on and so I have been in the clothing business ever since, 45 years.

Elliot Moss
Now some people who morph towards businesses that are just about the money and they see an opportunity and other people fall in love with the business that they end up running or the business they end up being involved in, in fact, they probably don’t even see it as a business, it’s just what they do. Where did your love of the world of fashion and the world of materials emanate from?

Jeremy Hackett
Well I think I have always been interested in clothing probably from a 5 year old when I had my first suit made and even then I was probably quite precocious and said, ‘not this is the sort of cloth I want and those are the pockets I want’ and so I had this suit made but my father was in the textile business, so there was always cloth around the house and my mother was a seamstress so there were paper patterns everywhere. So I grew up in an environment of cloth and tailoring generally.

Elliot Moss
And did it at that time, that 5 year old because I have a number of children and none of them have shown quite that interest in material, were there other things? I mean you seem to remember that moment very very clearly. What drew you to the cloth and the material and the feel of it and the fact that you knew where you wanted your pockets age 5 because I mean, a 5 year old, that’s a pretty young age to know these things Jeremy?

Jeremy Hackett
To be honest I am not really sure where it came from. I think I just liked the feeling of cloth, to touch cloth and in fact even today I won’t buy anything unless I can touch it and feel it and try it on so how people buy on line I struggle to come to terms with that. I have to touch it.

Elliot Moss
And that day that you opened your first shop. Can you recall the feeling you had, 1983, with your partner, Ashley Lloyd Jennings? Was it trepidatious or was it ‘this is going to work’?

Jeremy Hackett
No, we just thought ‘well this could be a bit of fun’. We’d been buying second hand clothes for quite a while and selling them on to a friend of ours in Paris and we thought well ‘why sell it to him’ we may as well sell it ourselves and make a bit better margin on it and so we opened this little shop and the bank manager at the time lent us, very generously lent us, two thousand pounds and said to us, ‘it’s a retailers graveyard’ so with those encouraging moments we opened the shop. We didn’t have a name for it; for six months we traded and everybody called the shop, ‘the shop with the funny little round window’ and eventually we decided ‘oh well let’s call it Hackett’. That was the beginning of the brand really.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me to find out how this brand called Hackett and then the funny looking shop has developed into a global empire. Stay with me for more from Jeremy, my Business Shaper. Time for some more music right now, this is Son of a Preacher Man, I love this number, and it’s from Mavis Staples.

That was Son of a Preacher Man with Mavis Staples. Jeremy Hackett is my Business Shaper today and we were talking about the funny little shop that they opened in 1983. It didn’t even have a name. So much for the power of brand I mean, and then it seemed like ‘well why don’t we just call it Hackett’. Why did you decide that? I mean it’s obviously the family name for you but it’s an interesting, I mean it sounds great now but it has 30 years of heritage. Why then?

Jeremy Hackett
Well before we opened Hackett I had had a business with Ashley, it was a shoe business in Covent Garden before anybody else was in Covent Garden, which was the problem and we’d called the shop Lloyd Jennings so we thought ‘well maybe it’s time to have my name up in lights’.

Elliot Moss
It was just the equitable transfer, that’s all it was?

Jeremy Hackett
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
Okay. And at that time, when did you… people have said of you that you just have an eye. I mean your own business now, you’re chair and obviously the business is in different hands and has been for a while.

Jeremy Hackett
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
But you just have an eye. Where has that eye come from Jeremy?

Jeremy Hackett
Well I have a problem with the other one.

Elliot Moss
I set myself up for that. That sense of taste though because I have spoken to different people in different creative industries and John Hegarty, many many years ago on this programme said, ‘you can’t teach people taste’. Is that true?

Jeremy Hackett
I, well I think people have to be receptive to it. I think you can teach a certain amount but people have to want to engage with it really and if there is no interest then you know, maybe you are banging your head against a brick wall but I don’t know where it came from.

Elliot Moss
But your own sensibility and now people say ‘well look, Hackett’s an iconic British brand’.

Jeremy Hackett
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
It is quintessentially British. I don’t imagine that you woke up or have ever, because you don’t strike me as that kind of person, and said, ‘I know what I am going to do, I am going to create a British fashion brand’. You thought ‘I am going to create a fashion brand that I like’.

Jeremy Hackett
Well you know, when I started selling second hand clothes which sold incredibly well and the problem was, they were selling so well that I couldn’t get enough of it and in the end I thought ‘well I’ll start making new clothes based on the old clothes’ and all the old clothes had been things that came from either Savile Row or tailors around the country and it was hunting clothes and shooting clothes and formal dress so everything I bought really was clothes for particular function and of course British and so I thought ‘well maybe I will just emulate this in new clothes’ and that’s really how it became really a proper brand.

Elliot Moss
And between 1983 and 1992 and ’92 I believe that’s when the Richemont business came and swooped in…

Jeremy Hackett
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
…and said, ‘you know what, here’s a ‘you can’t refuse’ offer’. How did that feel at that point? Did you feel like you were relinquishing your child?

Jeremy Hackett
Well it’s quite a complicated story really because we had, we had been doing very well, the business had grown pretty, well from nothing, to something like five or six million pounds and we made a critical error in opening a shop in Boston. We had a very good American customer who said, ‘oh come to Boston, I’m a property developer, I’m building this whole arcade of shops and I’ll do you a good deal and all this sort of stuff’ and we thought ‘oh well you know, Boston, they are very British there’ and so we went and we opened the shop and of course it was a complete disaster and cost us an absolute arm and leg which really sort of forced the sale of Hackett to the Richemont Group.

Elliot Moss
And here we are, a few things later but I want to come back to that and how you have dealt with that particular kind of bump as it were because we are still here talking about a, a very powerful brand which in itself is a very good story. Stay with me for more from Jeremy Hackett, my Business Shaper today. Latest travel in a couple of minutes and before that some words of advice for your business from our programme partners at Mishcon De Reya.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss. If you have missed any of the previous programmes then iTunes is your destination. If this summer you are travelling on British Airways, you can also catch the programme there or if you are at a computer, CityAM.com is another place where you can find some of the fantastic people I have interviewed over the last few years. Jeremy Hackett is my Business Shaper today; founder and chairman of Hackett. Now turning over I think around two hundred million pounds globally, that’s right you heard that correctly, two hundred million pounds. The business employs a good few hundred people but it began in Parson’s Green in London many years ago and it was an exciting time then and you were saying Jeremy just before the travel, we were talking about the not so brilliant time in Boston and what happened after that which is that Richemont came in and kind of you know, kind of continued, took the business on and then you’ve grown since then. How did you personally deal with that at that time, as much as one doesn’t want to dwell on difficult times? I often find that you know, in there is why you are you? What happened?

Jeremy Hackett
I… in some respects it is a shame that we had to do it but we were up against it and for me personally, I wanted to make sure that our creditors were paid because I worked with a lot of people who were small manufacturers and if we had gone to the wall, they would have gone to the wall so I felt duty bound to pay off all our creditors and that way I could sleep at night and so fortunately Richemont came to the rescue and overall I was very relieved and then we had the investment and the support and particularly good financial advice which I think if we had had in the early days, we didn’t have a financial director, Ashley and I were both more creative than financial and I think that was probably the mistake, somebody to rein us in a bit when we got a bit too carried away.

Elliot Moss
And over the years now that management in the team has been there I imagine?

Jeremy Hackett
Oh yes.

Elliot Moss
Through the ‘90s.

Jeremy Hackett.
Oh yes. It has got much bigger, I mean it’s you know, it’s a corporation now.

Elliot Moss
But there must have been… there is an inherent tension between the creative person and the commercial person and finding that casting and getting that casting right is critical?

Jeremy Hackett
Yes it is a balance really because you obviously, the creative part is vital but without the back-up of the financial nous then you know, it can be difficult.

Elliot Moss
And as the business expanded through the ‘90s and though the ‘00s, how did you decide to go one way, not the other and left and not right and so on and so forth with regard to the kind of materials that you were using and the kind of cuts or has it remained true do you think to a certain quite tight range of what Hackett clothes are?

Jeremy Hackett
Well it’s certainly evolved over the years and as we’ve grown and we are now a global business, certain markets demand certain types of clothing and what you can sell in Germany you may not be able to sell in Italy or what you can sell in China, you can’t sell in South America so it’s… we have to adapt to the market and we have certainly broadened our horizons from what we initially sold in the very early days was a very edited range of British clothing which is all very nice but not commercial on a grand scale really.

Elliot Moss
And finally the materials. I mean I know you know having read about people like Steven Marks and others that jump on planes to India and things like that. Where has the Hackett heritage of material come from? Is it all British or is it Italian? I mean is it a mixture of stuff?

Jeremy Hackett
It is now a mixture. When we started it was probably 95% made in England and unfortunately through the ‘90s a lot of British manufacturing disappeared. We buy an awful lot of cloth made in England, people like Fox Brothers and Robert Noble and we buy all our tweed in Scotland but some markets demand much finer quality cloths so we buy from Italy as well.

Elliot Moss
A global business under the bonnet of Hackett…

Jeremy Hackett
Yes.

Elliot Moss
…the British brand. Stay with me for more from Jeremy, my Business Shaper today. Time for some music, it’s a cracker, it’s one I used to play myself back in University days, it’s Stevie Wonder and I Wish.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers and Jeremy Hackett is my Business Shaper today; founder and chairman of the enormous brand called Hackett. This brand that we are talking about now, when you started in business and even when you were acquired by Richemont and so on, did you think about the notion of brand? Was brand a thing that you had in your head or was it producing a great product?

Jeremy Hackett
I didn’t initially until we started making new clothes and prior to working at, well not working at Hackett, starting Hackett I had worked in Savile Row for about 3 years and I worked for a very inspirational retailer called John Michael and John Michael was one of those guys who was probably quite early in recognising what a brand was all about and he would go absolutely berserk if anything came into his shop and it didn’t have his name on it, a shirt, a tie or whatever. He would go berserk and so I learnt from that that when I started making new clothes, that I was insistent that everything that came into the shop was our design and had our name on it and I think that’s how you… so you are creating a real point of view and that I think is the excellence of a brand is that you have a point of view.

Elliot Moss
That’s a really interesting way of articulating it. In enforcing that point of view through the team as it’s grown over the years, how would your team of people describe the enforcer? Are you a gentle giant, a gentle manager or are you a kind of a bit tougher and you know, do you move into what the cliché of the fashion dilettante would be which is, you know, the crazy creative person?

Jeremy Hackett
No. I am not any of those things.

Elliot Moss
You don’t strike me as that by the way. You don’t look like one.

Jeremy Hackett
No, I want to work with people together not… I certainly don’t… I encourage, I like to think I encourage people and bring the best out in them and I like to put my view across and you know, let people see what they think of it and you know, I am open to suggestions because, you know, you are not always right.

Elliot Moss
And when…

Jeremy Hackett
I am most of the time.

Elliot Moss
…I was going to say, of course, quickly add that Jeremy. And when are you at your happiest do you think?

Jeremy Hackett
Probably when I’ve made something and it’s, well, thought about, had an idea, thought about it, taken it to the factory, it’s come back and the sample looks great and then I place the order and then it goes into the shop and it sells and then I think ‘God that’s fantastic’. You know it’s not about how much money I made, just the idea that a little something I did that people really appreciate and that, for me, is you know, the ultimate.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for my final chat with Jeremy Hackett plus we are going to be playing a track from Sam Cook. Lots of classics today. That’s after the latest traffic and travel.

That was Sam Cook’s take on the classic, another classic with Summertime and Jeremy loved that as well.

Jeremy Hackett
I love the choice of the music; I think it’s absolutely brilliant.

Elliot Moss
We paid him to say that. We were talking before about this passion for cloth and the 5 year old in you that then became the teenager that then became the adult and so on. I imagine you haven’t stopped, rumour has it you still are around and about in different markets finding different bits of beautiful clothing. Is that true?

Jeremy Hackett
Well whenever I have got the time I will go to the market and if I ever pass a second hand charity shop, I am in there. Just in case. It’s the thrill of the chase, you never know what you are going to find and funnily enough I was in Portobello Road not so long ago and there was a rail of old tweed jackets and I was looking through and I spotted one that looked quite familiar so I pulled it out and I said to the lady, ‘why is this one more expensive than the others?’ and she looked back at me and said, ‘it is Hackett you know’ and I thought it was brilliant.

Elliot Moss
Now what would you say to a young person who is thinking about setting up their own business and it might be in the fashion trade and you said something earlier about ‘I don’t know how people buy on line’. There is a massive on line market isn’t there. I mean I am with you by the way, I much prefer to touch and feel and all those things.

Jeremy Hackett
Yeah, I mean we sell on line and obviously it is a growing business but for me it is about the touch and also when you are selling tailored clothing, I think men want to try it on and they are knowledgeable about fit and things and so to buy one through the post and it arrives and it doesn’t fit and you’ve got the hassle of sending it back and I don’t know, men I don’t think have the time for all that. You know.

Elliot Moss
And in terms of this young 18 year old who is coming out of college or something or 16 year old even and wants to do what you did. Do you think it is as easy now or not that it was easy for you but are there as few barriers to doing that as there were then?

Jeremy Hackett
Well you know at the time I never thought about whether it was easy or difficult. I just got on with it because it was something I knew, it was something I had passion about and I thought ‘well maybe there is something can turn this into a business’. I have to say there was no business plan, no marketing plan and hardly any money but I think if you have got a passion for something and you really believe in it and you get stuck into it, there is no reason why you shouldn’t make a success of it. My only advice is make sure you have got a decent financial backing.

Elliot Moss
Absolutely. This point about the British brands and the renaissance of kind of Great Britain as it were, probably from the late ‘90’s – there’s more to come? Is Britain, I mean is the British brand still great?

Jeremy Hackett
Yes, very much so and I think even more so. We sell through China and Japan and the Far East, they are mad about British products and in fact they know more about British products than most British people but they love the heritage, they love everything that goes with it, the whole sort of sense of occasion that they feel that Britain has because you know, we dress for certain occasions here, whether it is weddings or parties or going to the country or going racing. We have this sort of wardrobe of clothes that they feel that every Brit wears, you know, it’s a romantic notion but you know, everybody around the world seems to enjoy it. More so than the British.

Elliot Moss
Yeah that’s probably true. And for you personally Jeremy, you’ve been… it’s your business, you’ve been in this business for over three decades.

Jeremy Hunt
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
What happens next? What’s the plan for you? You don’t look like someone who is about to put his feet up?

Jeremy Hackett
No not yet. I am 63 next week.

Elliot Moss
He doesn’t look it. He’s very elegant this man but I wasn’t surprised and I didn’t dress up for you, I feel very guilty.

Jeremy Hackett
Thank God we are on the radio.

Elliot Moss
But obviously you are not stopping but what is still driving you? Is it just because you still love the business you are in?

Jeremy Hackett
Yeah it is one of the few things I know anything about really and we are now working on Spring next year so I am just putting that collection together which is a lot of fun and then we are going to open in the States, our second time.

Elliot Moss
We are crossing fingers it’s going to be alright this time.

Jeremy Hackett
But this time you know, things have changed dramatically for us all and so we open in the Autumn, our first shop in the States. So that’s very exciting because that could be a huge market for us yep.

Elliot Moss
Listen thank you so much for being my guest today. Just before I let you go, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Jeremy Hackett
I have chosen Moonlight Serenade by Glen Miller because my father was a big jazz fan and for his 90th birthday I arranged for him to come to London and we stayed at the Savoy and the Savoy laid on a Rolls Royce for us to go to Ronnie Scott’s, so I took my dad to Ronnie Scott’s and Ray Gelato and The Giants, I think it was called yeah, were playing and my dad had an absolute ball. He was absolutely thrilled. Talked about it for months and in fact, he barely ate his dinner because he was so excited so Moonlight Serenade was something that he was always playing at home so I dedicate that to him.

Elliot Moss
And here it is, thank you very much Jeremy.

Jeremy Hackett
Thank you.

Elliot Moss
That was Moonlight Serenade from Glen Miller, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Jeremy Hackett. Someone who from an incredibly young age was absolutely in love with clothes, someone who understood what a brand was and in his own words and a great articulation it was too, a brand has got to have a point of view, and a gentleman, someone who obviously treats his people well, treats his team well, likes the notion of people contributing and has continued to be a great ambassador for the Hackett brand all these years. Great stuff. Do join me again same time, same place, that’s next Saturday 9.00am for another edition of Jazz Shapers. Meantime coming up next here on Jazz FM, its Nigel Williams.

Jeremy Hackett is Chairman of Hackett and is one of the original founders of the company.

Jeremy’s appreciation of clothes started at an early age as his father worked in the textile  furnishings  business. His first weekend job was in a tailor’s shop in Bristol and this initiation into retail led him to move to London to a full-time job at the age of 18. Jeremy worked for the menswear chain, Village Gate, in London before moving to work for John Michael in Savile Row for five years. He met Ashley Lloyd-Jennings whilst dealing in the second-hand clothes market and this partnership led to the conception of Hackett, the gentleman’s outfitters.

In his spare time, Jeremy enjoys browsing round markets such as Portobello in Notting Hill, looking  for vintage clothes or pieces to decorate his home. Interiors are his passion and his home has been featured in many magazines and on TV. His style is simple, which is echoed in the first Hackett shops –uncluttered, white walls and elegant furnishings.

Today, Jeremy Hackett continues to have ‘hands-on’ involvement in the business and a week rarely goes by in which he is not to be found serving a customer in at least one of the shops. He is as an ambassador for the brand at many of its global events, often held to celebrate the opening of a new Hackett shop.  Jeremy also has an active involvement within the styling and presentation of the brands seasonal brochure and look book photo shoots.

Follow Jeremy on Twitter @HackettLondon.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

“My father said to me, ‘if you don’t pull your socks up, you’ll end up working in a shop’. Fortunately, that’s exactly what happened.”

“As a five year-old, I had my first suit made and I was probably quite precocious and said ‘this is the sort of cloth I want and those are the pockets I want’…”

“I grew up in an environment of cloth and tailoring.”

“We didn’t have a financial director. Ashley and I were both more creative than financial and I think that was probably the mistake.”

“What you can sell in Germany, you may not be able to sell in Italy or what you can sell in China, you can’t sell in South America…”

“The excellence of a brand is that you have a point of view.”

“If I ever pass a second-hand shop, I am in there. It’s the thrill of the chase, you never know what you are going to find.”

“…at the time I never thought about whether it was easy or difficult. I just got on with it.”