Aquascutum History

Written by hazel morgan
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Quintessentially formal and "made in England," Aquascutum is known for its waterproof fabrics, excellent quality and classic, high-end style. A single London tailor, John Emary, started the company in 1851, and Aquascutum has now grown into a multinational concern with multiple stores, royal charters and clothes worn by the rich and famous.

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Beginnings

In 1851, tailor John Emary opened for business in London's Regent Street. Within two years he had created a new waterproof fabric and changed the company's name to Aquascutum, combining two Latin words: Aqua (water) and scutum (shield). Given Britain's cantankerous weather, the fabric was a hit. British Army officers wore Aquascutum capes and coats during the Crimean war, and the company soon won the first of many awards, the freedom of the City of London. In the 1870s, Scantlebury & Commin took over Aquascutum. They invented the pinstripe suit and improved its signature waterproof fabrics, serving the rich and famous. In 1897, Aquascutum received the first of many royal warrants when the future King Edward VII named it "waterproofer."

Early 1900s

In 1900, Aquascutum opened its first ladies' department, and in 1909 founded its first factory, in Kettering. During World War I, Aquascutum created a trench coat, competing with Burberry's version. Post-war, its trench coats and, later, reversible coats became high fashion. Aquascutum started trade relations with Japan and, in 1927, opened the new House of Aquascutum.

The Abrahams

In 1932, Isidore Abrahams took over Aquascutum. He was succeeded by his sons Gerald M. and Sir Charles Abrahams. World War II rationing and shortages slowed everybody down; fashion turned staid and serious, with little decoration allowed. Soldiers and sailors fought in Aquascutum gear, cementing the company's role in the military. Aquascutum concentrated on research.

Post-war, Aquascutum clothing started showing up on the silver screen, worn by the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Peter Sellers. The company introduced its iconic Kingsway and Queensway his-and-hers trench coats.

Innovation

Aquascutum celebrated 100 years in business with a special collection. Research done during the lean war years resulted in a slew of new products. When they conquered Everest, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay wore clothing made from Aquascutum's new D711 textile; Antartex fabric went to the South Pole. In 1959, Aquascutum unveiled Aqua 5, an impregnated waterproof cotton fabric that did not need to be re-proofed after cleaning. 1967 saw the introduction of the signature checkered fabric, Club 92, now known as Aquascutum Club. Aquascutum continued to collect awards; Aqua 5 earned a Clothing Oscar. In 1966 the company earned the Queen's Award for Export Achievement, the first of several. Gerald M. Abrahams received a CBE.

Today

Aquascutum expanded internationally into North America, Asia and Europe and received its own coat of arms in 1982. In 1990, an updated factory was build in Milton Keynes and Japanese company Renown acquired a controlling stake. In 2006, Aquascutum appointed Kim Winsner, OBE as President and CEO and adopted Pierce Brosnan as its first "famous representative." As of 2009, Aquascutum's parent company, Renown, was looking for a buyer. No matter who ends up buying the company, however, Aquascutum will continue to lead in the field of high-end, stylish clothing.

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