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  • Jack Wills – The History of the Brand

    20th November 2015 - Alex Jenkins

    Jack Wills started life in 1999 at 22 Fore Street, Salcombe, Devon. The brand was the brainchild of Peter Williams and Robert Shaw and named after one of the co-founders beloved grandfather. Williams was only 23 when the brand was founded – he and Shaw opened the first shop with just £40k. Times were hard in the beginning and they both slept above the shop to cut down on costs.

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    The brand capitalised on the university market to begin with, uniquely capturing the spirit of student life and epitomising the preppy lifestyle. It was a quick success and lots of Jack Will’s shops began popping up across the U.K, usually in towns and cities with prestigious universities or private schools. In an interview with the Financial Times, co-founder Peter Williams explained the idea behind Jack Wills:

    “When I started thinking about a premium brand I dredged up this vision of what I remembered in Salcombe. I thought, ‘What if I could create a brand that could bottle what being at a British university was all about and all the cool amazing stuff that goes with that?’ It’s such a uniquely cherished part of your life. I thought if you could create a brand that epitomised that it would be very compelling.”

    The famous Jack Wills, ‘Mr Wills’ pheasant logo

    Their ideal of fine clothing, crafted from quality materials with a classic, British flare alongside more casual, sport-inspired offerings resonated with their target audience of ‘posh’ teenagers, students and parents and the band quickly gained notoriety. The logo, a peasant adorned with a jaunty top hat and aptly named Mr Wills, was a nod to its clientele, along with its original slogan of ‘Jack Wills: University Outfitters’ which nicely reflected the brands ethos.

    Over the last few years, Jack Wills has collaborated with some of Britain’s top milliners, shoemakers, leather crafters and tailors to create limited edition items that appeal to its customers who appreciate the history and skills of these traditional British producers. Some recent partnerships have included a range of coats and jackets with Moon, one of the UK’s oldest and more respected wool milliners, a collection of tweed blazers with the iconic Harris Tweed and a selection of traditional leather shoes and bags with NPS Ltd, a family run company who have been making shoes in Northamptonshire since 1881.

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    Since its creation in 1999, Jack Wills has gone from strength to strength. They now sell a range of homeware, stationary and luggage alongside their usual shirts, tweed jackets, knitwear, polo shirts, hoodies and sweatpants. Today the company is worth over £170 million, with founder Williams debuting in the Sunday Times Rich list in 2012 with an estimated worth of £200 million. There are now over 80 stores in the United Kingdom alone, with 13 stores in the USA and plans to open stores in Asia already underway.

    In just 16 short years Jack Wills has evolved into a household name, an icon of the British high street and a feature of millions of wardrobes around the world.

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