From his Scottish base, Kestin Hare’s eponymous fashion brand champions UK manufacturing on an international stage
Founder of Kestin Hare
After working for people like Nigel Cabourn and Margaret Howell, Kestin Hare relocated back to Scotland to set up on his own menswear brand focussing on functional design with a premium finish. He cleverly combines details from workwear, military, sports and outdoor wear to produce good-looking, everyday, easy-to-wear garments that last. As well as being stocked in over 90 international stores the brand has two of its own retail stores, one in Edinburgh attached to the Design Studio and the other in London. We are proud to have a selection of Awling belts in each store. We sat down for a chat with Kestin to find out more about his thoughts on the industry.
Have you always been creative? When did you start designing?
In a world of online fashion was opening two stores a hard move?
I come from a creative family, my dad is a trained architect and my mum is an interior designer. I decided to pursue a career in the fashion industry towards the end of school when I realised I was more into fashion than anything else. When I started clubbing I realised the power of brands; everybody was buying into branded T-shirts in the early 90s. What you wore defined you, gave you confidence. I was hooked. After graduating with a BA (hons) in Fashion Design & Marketing I got a job with a big high street retailer in London and started grafting to learn as much as I could.
When did you know this industry was for you?
When I got the Head of Design job for Nigel Cabourn and started working on some now iconic collections such as “The Ascent of Cabourn”, I felt like it was all falling into place. I love what I do, creating quality product that’s functional for men that they appreciate.
You’ve worked for some big names in the past, who has been your biggest influence
I worked for Nigel Cabourn for 4 years and was eventually promoted to Head of Design. It was an intense period of training by Nigel where he taught me my core values: vintage research, learning about the history of garments, where they were manufactured, the function of the materials and the details, and the ultimate importance of championing UK production. I’ve now developed my own approach where I take the details but then turn it into my own design.
What made you decide to go it alone?
I would always advise anyone to work for someone else first, learn from them and then apply that to your own business. It’s always been a dream of mine to have my own brand, and relocating to Scotland was a catalyst to make it happen.
I launched Kestin Hare in 2015 and have steadily grown a global business with two stores, one in Leith, one in Shoreditch, London, an e-commerce business, and wholesale to around 80 of the best global independents. It’s challenging doing what I do based in Edinburgh, but I believe in supporting Scotland and its design and textile industry, and want to continue creating jobs here
It’s not easy but this is what I have always wanted to do really, so I feel incredibly lucky to be doing something that I love and creating something that people buy into. I am so connected to the product and I love that my customers value what I do. It’s not just a job; having a fashion brand is a lifestyle – the travel, the relationships, building something that is growing with my family and me. I’m proud of coming from Scotland and am delighted to be back here surrounded by friends and family and working hard to build a unique take on modern Scottish design. Retail is challenging, but it’s important to have a physical relationship with your customers, and to immerse them in your lifestyle. To allow them to see the quality of the products and talk to the staff, it brings the brand to life. Three routes to market – retail, online and wholesale – and trying to get a very delicate balance between these channels is the name of the game.
Why did you decide to stock Awling belts?
Awling shares some important values with us. First being Made in the UK with all the belts being handmade in England. Secondly I like the mix of heritage with modern, taking something old and making it new.
You produce the majority of your collection in the UK, how important is finding the right factories and people to work with?
Native manufacturing is a core brand value. We produce approximately 70% of the collection in the UK, supporting local industry and craftsmanship. We are proud that our designs are made in small production runs in the best factories in the UK, Portugal and Japan. Small production means higher production standards as well as being able to control the entire supply chain. We have a transparent supply chain with our factories and mills, and ensure that we only work with those who promote fair wages, good working conditions and ethics, worker’s rights, high quality standards, and maintain a strong bond with the surrounding community. I have developed a personal relationship with these factories and mills over the years. For example, we make all of our knitwear in the Esk Cashmere factory in Dumfries. Almost 20 years of building a relationship with the owner shines through in the amazing quality product they produce for us.
Where do you look for influence and inspiration?
I’m inspired by a little bit of everything, there’s no one person or thing that takes over. I’ll always take something old and make something new with it, but it’s an accumulation of lots of different elements. Scotland is always a key point of inspiration for me, it’s all about weaving in the references and challenging the preconceptions of Scottish design.
What is your staple outfit?
I wear something different every day, I don’t have a uniform, I like to feel inspired and keep changing things up.
If you could keep just one of your designs what would it be?
That is a seriously hard question. It would probably be the Nevis Smock collaboration with Blacks of Greenock for AW19. It’s such beautiful quality, steeped in history and seriously functional, pretty much sums up my brand and design philosophy.
And finally...what does style mean to you?
Confidence, enjoying what you wear, and how you look.
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