Based in Edinburgh, Kestin Hare is a contemporary menswear designer that stands out from the archetypal traditional fashion brand. As the former Head of Design at Nigel Cabourn, whose love of British manufacture is well-known, it’s no surprise that much of Kestin’s collection is made in the UK.
The main factory is in East London, down a gritty side street so typically combining contemporary culture with traditional Victorian architecture. It exudes a feeling of real efficiency alongside a palpable family feeling. Common People make most of their outerwear in East London where possible.
As soon as Kestin Hare, Creative Director, walked through the door the team were all smiles, hugs and warmth – a delight to see. The factory manager took real pride in showing us the products they make for Common People and in demonstrating the wide range of skills his team has, from button sewing in seconds to double-stitched thick wool overcoats.
Kestin, tell us something about your label.
Kestin Hare is nearly 5 years old and is a premium, advanced contemporary British brand that is well priced, has an emphasis on craftsmanship and details, and locally manufactured wherever possible.
What’s your role in the business?
The founder, Creative Director and a bit of everything else really. These days as a designer with your own brand you have to be aware of everything from the financials, to the operations, to social media. It’s hectic but I love learning all sides of the business.
How did you get started?
I started to design and make small runs of jackets and knitwear in the UK, pulling favours with mills and factories that I had used for almost ten years previously. I then sold them into a handful of great accounts in the UK such as Sarah Coggles, manufacturing with local cloths such as Harris Tweed, British Millerain, Lochcaron, Halley Stevenson etc. I brought on board two great friends of mine and current partners who had been in the business for a long time to help with not only the financing but also the production. The brand has gone from strength to strength.
How important is the UK-made and designed aspect of the product to you?
The training I received with Nige was and still is priceless. He was all about UK-made and had 30 years of experience to back it up. He taught me everything I know about manufacturing garments in the UK and formed my core values as a designer. Supporting local industry is so important, UK factories have so much history and experience and that adds to the allure if a garment. Pricing is often an issue but if we can make it on the UK for a sensible and competitive price then we will chose that every time.
The quality and history of British manufacturing is second to none and it is important to me to support British manufacturing as much as possible.
How much of the collection is ‘made in the UK’?
It changes from season to season, but we do try to make as much as we can here if the price architecture fits into our range.
What’s your view of men’s style?
Men’s fashion at the moment is as big as I can remember with things like LCM creating an strong scene. Men are really taking pride in what they wear, the rebirth of the dandy and street style coupled with social media has made it a very interesting place to be and I am very proud to be a part of it.
Who and where are your main markets? How would you like to see these develop?
The Asian markets have particularly supported Common People. The demand for UK-made quality product continues to grow. Journal Standard, the Japanese department store who bought CP in the first ever season, have continued to buy every season and the Japanese market is expanding.
You had a fantastic relationship with the factory workers when we went in – do you think this important for business?
When you spend so much time somewhere, often under great pressure, for a number of years, you form great bonds with people. I respect everyone in the factories and their skills – from the fabric cutter to the sample machinist – I am constantly learning from them and they are so knowledgeable in their area.
How will the business develop?
We are currently looking to open a London store and we also see Asia as a key market in which to further expand.