Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Jaeger: dressing women 125 years on

Originally the choice of adventurers on exploration to the Antarctic, Jaeger is now the choice of fashionistas on exploration to find a luxury brand which is fashionable, functional, fun, elegant, timeless. Jaeger has stood the test of time and for this it has much to celebrate as it reaches its 125th anniversary. The brand originally focused on the benefits of clothing made from natural fibres, and Jaeger (named after Dr Gustav Jaeger, professor of zoology and physiology and who poineered the benefits of animal hair in clothing) remains true to this thinking today, sourcing the purest cotton to the softest cashmere. Fashionista is thrilled to see that one of Britain's oldest brands is doing so well and not only fighting off the competition, but challenging and directing it.

There is much to be said for a birthday fanfare. In the current economic doom-and-gloom, it is refreshing to see a brand with something to celebrate. The psychological message is strong: this is a brand that is not buckling under the pressure of the economy. Its longevity is a testament to the strength of the brand, reinforcing its reputation as a serious player in the fashion world and increasing customer appeal. If the brand sends out such an encouraging message, customers will surely be encouraged by what the brand provides. After all, surviving 125 years in an industry where the customer is faced with immense choice and loyalty can be fickle suggests that Jaeger is doing something very right.

To celebrate its 125th birthday, Jaeger is honouring its heritage with the help of fashion curators Amy de la Haye and Judith Clark from London College of Fashion, who hosted an exhibition at the London College of Fashion earlier this year showing pieces from Jaeger's archives and who have co-authored the book "Jaeger 125". Fashionista turned the pages of the book with fascination, as she was taken on a journey illustrating the history and development of this iconic brand and documenting its success. Jaeger has also launched the 125 Collection - a capsule clothing collection drawing its inspiration from the brand's archives and putting a modern spin on a few key designs from the 60s: the defining era in Jaeger's history.

For the Fashionista-at-Law Birthday Q&A, Fashionista was lucky enough to speak with Shailina Parti, Buying Director for Jaeger, and asked:

(1) What is the Jaeger brand?

Jaeger is an iconic, stylish lifestyle brand stretching from womenswear to mens, to fragrance, to home - built on luxury, quality, style and wit. Whimsical and fun, it does not take itself too seriously. It is confident and bold with clean lines and fabulous fabrics.

(2) Who is the Jaeger customer and how has she changed over the years?

A confident woman of 35 and older who wants beautifully made and well fitted contemporary fashion. At first, she touches the fabric. If it feels wonderful, she'll try it on. She wants to look and feel fabulous in what she wears. It used to be that the brand was perceived to be for mothers and fathers. But with Jaeger appearing at London Fashion Week alongside Topshop and other youth brands, and lowering the price point for certain products, it is now appealing to the younger fashionista, so that mothers and daughters have a one-stop shop for their fashion needs. Jaeger dresses women, certainly. But the menswear collection does surprisingly well amongst young men who, armed with their first big paycheque or bonus and wanting to treat themselves to a great quality suit, are increasingly heading to Jaeger. Menswear is hardly advertised. There is no PR drive. The quality and fit of the suits are the selling point.

(3) What inspires Jaeger?

Everything around us: vintage markets, films, art. Exhibitions at London museums are a regular source of inspiration. You can guarantee that if there is a Byzantine exhibition in a museum, you will see Byzantine inspired pieces appearing on the market shortly after. Importantly, Jaeger's own archives are a great inspiration, showing that great designs transcend time.

(4) What does the future hold for the brand?

Further development of the luxury lifestyle values. The Internet has provided an incredible sales platform, allowing the brand to reach a far wider audience and attracting: new and younger customers; those who may not otherwise have entered a store; customers who are time-pressed but know they can rely on the quality, design and fit of Jaeger clothes; and - importantly - "Rural Fashionistas" who may be after catwalk items which are only available online or in the Regent Street flagship store. An online presence goes hand-in-hand with the brand's international expansion and Jaeger's plans to broaden the range of products, introducing a larger range at a more accessible price point to rival top end high street favourites such as Hobbs and Reiss, together with expanding the Jaeger Black demi couture range for that ultra-special piece.

Fashionista happily remembers raiding her mother's wardrobe as a little girl and dressing up in beautiful Jaeger pieces. A few decades later, and Fashionista is raiding her own wardrobe to dress up in her own beautiful Jaeger pieces. In the words of one of the iconic brand's early advertising slogans: "We don't sell clothes, we dress women". Fashionista says: Happy Birthday Jaeger, and thank you for dressing us so well!