Aquascutum, the 158-year-old luxury clothing brand, has new British and Hong Kong Chinese owners after being sold by Renown, the Japanese clothes maker. Renown on Tuesday announced the sale for an undisclosed sum to a company controlled by Harold Tillman, the entrepreneur who owns Jaeger, the British clothing chain. As part of the transaction, however, the Asian rights to the brand have been bought by Hong Kong’s YGM Trading, which is already the Aquascutum licensee in China and Hong Kong, for £13.7m.
Aquascutum, derived from two Latin words meaning water and shield, was founded in 1851 and developed a trenchcoat for soldiers during the first world war. Over the years, it has dressed Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, Sir Winston Churchill and Baroness Thatcher, while retaining a particular reputation for its rainwear.
The Aquascutum deal gives Mr Tillman, chairman of the British Fashion Council, two prominent British brands. Since he acquired Jaeger in 2003, the upmarket clothing retailer has become more fashionable.
Mr Tillman said that Aquascutum was “steeped in quality history”, likening its potential to that of Jaeger, whose flagship store is only a few doors from Aquascutum on London’s Regent Street.
Although lossmaking, he said Aquascutum had received leadership and investment under its previous owner: “Belinda Earl and I believe we are the next blood that this business needs.”
He said Ms Earl would have little trouble running Aquascutum and Jaeger simultaneously given the fact that she used to run a much bigger business in the form of Debenhams, the department store chain.
Asked whether Aquascutum’s production would remain in the UK, Mr Tillman would only say that he was looking forward to seeing its factory in Corby, in the Midlands.
He denied that splitting ownership of the brand created a risk of damaging divergence between the Aquascutum products sold in Asia by YGM and those sold by the UK-based company.
Tastes in clothing had converged around the world, he argued: “It is not as if they [YGM] are going to go off and do something so radical.”
He added that he viewed Europe, North America and the Middle East as the most promising growth markets for Aquascutum.