Tailor Made – designer discusses debut collection

This month Debenhams expands its hugely successful Hammond & Co. design collaboration with Patrick Grant to add watches and fragrances to its line of clothing and accessories. 

Department store Debenhams launched diffusion menswear line Hammond & Co. two years ago, employing the talents of Patrick Grant, the man who revived the fortunes of ailing Savile Row tailor Norton and Sons in 2005 before launching his own ready-to-wear label, E. Tautz, a long-defunct label owned by the tailors that he now controlled.

For Hammond & Co., Grant took inspiration from a sporting tailors founded in 1776 that outfitted royalty. The line was an immediate success, launching in 20 stores but quickly extended to 60 more. Debenhams also witnessed the line attracting ‘different, younger, more fashion-conscious’ customers to its stores. Grant’s star has also been on the rise since appearing as a judge in BBC 2’s Great British Sewing Bee.

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Debenhams now hopes to build on that success by expanding the range to include watches and fragrances, both of which launch into 50 stores this month. Debenhams watch buyer Richard Maynes describes the decision-making process behind the move, saying: “We’ve had really strong growth with our gents offer and we felt that there was a gap for a premium own-brand gents offer. So with the success of the brand, Hammond & Co., it was a natural fit and suited the handwriting of the brand, its heritage and Patrick’s attention to detail. It was a natural progression.”

The proven customer appetite for Grant’s other Hammond & Co accessories made watches a sensible progression, especially going into the Christmas gifting period. The new watch line sits at the top of Debenhams’ own-brand watch offer.

Despite not being a trained designer or tailor – Grant acquired Norton and Sons after taking voluntary redundancy from a technology firm – it’s fair to say he’s more than learned the ropes when it comes to clothing, the same cannot be said of Grant’s watch-designing credentials. While he is a fan of vintage watch design, he called on the expertise of Maynes, a WatchPro Hot 100 Premier Buyer of the last two years, to bring his ideas to life.

“Richard has, frankly, done all of the hard work and he is a watch expert,” said Grant. “It’s not something I could have done by myself and I think that’s the great thing about everything we do with Debenhams, it’s very much a collaboration between me and my overall take and taste on these things and a team of exceptional designers within the business who make that happen for me.

“I was surprised by how unrestrained it was. I was expecting there would be a lot of limitations on materials, on finishes, on details, but actually there really weren’t that many. The great thing about having 150-odd stores at your disposal is that we have the ability to buy things in depth, which allows us to work with really good manufacturers and to put a lot of otherwise difficult pieces in to work. I was surprised by how far we were able to go with some of these things, particularly the skeleton pieces. You’ve got to be pretty confident in your manufacturer to put something like that out there and I think we are.”

Grant set about designing a collection of watches that would complement Debenham’s Hammond & Co. clothing line, saying: “I wanted to produce a range of watches that worked across the entirety of the collection that we’d put together clothes-wise, starting at one end with beautiful, Savile Row-inspired three-piece suits in beautiful British fabrics. Very classic and crisp and tailored, quite formal. At the other end we have mesh driving shoes for the summer, quite a casual ‘Brit on his holidays in the Riviera’ feel. I wanted to do watches that worked across all the various aspects of the clothing collection.”

To achieve this Grant’s debut Hammond & Co. watch collection is influenced by classic watch design from the 1930s to 1970s, the kind of watches that he himself likes and might wear.

“I like simple, tried-and-tested things that have stood the test of time,” he explained. “That tends to be more my view on the world. I think if something’s worked for half a century there’s probably something inherently good about it.

“There are certain watch styles that I’ve always loved and they are mostly quite classic. Fairly classic case shapes, classic dials. Going from the quite formal Croc Date Tank or that rounded-off square chronograph with a beautiful, lustrous leather strap to the other end of the spectrum where we’ve got the classic pilots watch, very simple, very military-looking watch with the nylon strap.”

Grant states that while the intricacies of watch design might be different from crafting a clothing line, the basic fundamentals remain the same.

“You have aesthetic criteria that you want to hit, mostly it’s about simplicity, materials and attention to detail and creating something that feels balanced and harmonious. I think with all of these watches we’ve strived to do exactly that. In all design you require the same fundamental principles and we’ve done that.”

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