The Blog

Heritage As The New Contemporary

From a fashion perspective, Hunter and Barbour are two brands that have seen a huge revival as British heritage brands meeting the new contemporary taste palate for fashion.

A someone who isn't particularly trend focussed in my work, it's become exceedingly apparent - certainly from a business perspective - that there has been a natural inclination from the luxury and premium industries across fashion, pop art (I'll elaborate), music and automobiles to re-embrace the legitimacy, brand clout and timelessness of heritage icons.

Referencing the past and re-inventing past icons is nothing new, but recreating these successes for a 21st Century business model and audience has become something more frequent.

How is music luxury you might ask? Music isn't luxury but the creative vision behind it can be. One of these pioneers is the newly appointed Dr. Kanye West. I think we can all agree that Kanye is a brand in his own right, whether it is through his partnerships with Louis Vuitton, his creative identity, the press success (we will wait to see the sales stats, but undoubtedly these will be huge) of Yeezy Season 1 and his press persona. He has achieved this through marketing himself as an icon of timelessness - a Renaissance painting to a certain extent. When questioned recently as to why he chooses not to smile in photographs, his explanation was exactly based on this argument. The vision of himself is that of a Renaissance painting - he states that you don't walk through a Medieval castle and see portraits of people smiling. Digital is the new and only relevant medium that exists in a multi-platform capacity - art is being created digitally and represented physically now, Kim Kardashian's partnership with Rizzoli for her book SELFISH is proof in point of what art has evolved into.

From a fashion perspective, Hunter and Barbour are two brands that have seen a huge revival as British heritage brands meeting the new contemporary taste palate for fashion. The Business of Fashion recently published a piece on When Heritage Brands Become Accidental Fashion Labels focussing on the 160 year old brand Hunter's re-emergence from signature boots to ready to wear. History of the brand creates a sense of trust, and collaboration, exciting marcomms initiatives and new product development propels levels of newness. Another example is MCM (Modern Creation Munich) - the German luxury accessories brand which was bought in 2005 by Sungjoo Group, a South Korean retail business - the brand has since undergone an incredible transformation to appeal to a more premium market - retaining the historic monogram iconic logo but developing the product to a more commercial audience.

In the automotive market, the 2015 Ford Mustang is another success story in the making of heritage as the new contemporary. The car (alongside the Corvette) is undoubtedly part of the construct of the American dream. Launching finally in Europe this Summer - after 50 years, the Mustang has already exceeded expectations in pre-orders. What was a classic beast of a car featured in pop culture in over 500 films including its debut in James Bond Goldfinger, countless editorials and pretty much wholly positive brand association, it was almost a surprise that they hadn't already broken the EU market. Ford have subsequently re-envisioned the Mustang, keeping its iconic shape, gnarly and robust bumper but injected a contemporary twist of functionality creating a multi-faceted and stylishly affordable vehicle propelling a timeless icon into the future of automobiles.

What the above examples lend themselves to is the focus on the rebirth of pop culture icons. Mustang, MCM, Hunter and so on are providing the legitimacy of established heritage combined with futuristic thinking that has evolved beyond the natural trend cycle. It is re-invention in the oldest sense of the word but for a generation that trusts and believes in an icon.