The fall of fashions British empire: Aquascutum on brink of collapse as Harold Tillman sells majority stake in business


The fall of fashion’s British empire: 110-year-old Aquascutum on brink of collapse

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UPDATED:

13:30 GMT, 17 April 2012

It abandoned its legendary central London flagship store on Regent Street last spring, after 110 years.

And now the 160-year-old British clothing brand, Aquascutum, famed for its signature club check, waterproof trench coats and noted clientele from Winston Churchill to the Queen Mother, is reportedly on the brink of collapse.

Owner Harold Tillman
sold a majority stake of its sister company Jaeger yesterday, and administrators were called in today, putting some 250 jobs at risk.

The 160-year-old brand, Aquascutum, famed for its trench coats, is said to be on the brink of collapse

The 160-year-old brand, Aquascutum, famed for its trench coats, is said to be on the brink of collapse

An email from the Aquascutum press office
also confirmed that the label's forthcoming autumn/winter 2012 press day has been
cancelled due to 'unforeseen circumstances'.

Along with Belinda Earl, the former chief executive of Jaeger, Tillman fought to turn the brand around when he acquired it from Japanese company Renown for an undisclosed price in 2009.

It was previously family-owned until Renown bought it for 77m in 1990.

But despite best efforts, the Financial Times understands Tillman can no longer afford to support its losses.

For the year ended 29 December 2007, Aquascutum's UK pre-tax losses nearly doubled to 15.7m, from 7.5m the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House, and it is thought that they remain at a similar, if not higher, level.

Last spring Aquascutum abandoned its central London flagship store after 110 years

Last spring Aquascutum abandoned its central London flagship store after 110 years

Aquascutum

Aquascutum

Aquascutum

Fashion staple: As a British brand Aquascutum has been a regular at London Fashion Week

Aquascutum was founded in 1851 by tailor
John Emary, who invented and patented the technique of shower-proofing wools and was the first to introduce rain repellent cloth. The brand name originates from the two Latin words ‘aqua’ (water) and ‘scutum’ (shield).

Harold Tillman bought Aquascutum in a deal that united it with Jaeger, and he has invested some 20 million to reignite its image

Harold Tillman bought Aquascutum in a deal that united it with Jaeger, and he has invested some 20 million to reignite its image

He found success providing coats for
officers in the Crimean War and both World Wars and decades on
Aquascutum designs have been worn by Sophia Loren, Greta Garbo, Sean
Connery, Lady Thatcher, Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant.

Fashion entrepreneur Tillman bought Aquascutum in a deal that united it with Jaeger,
which he saved from collapse in 2003, and he has invested some 20 million to reignite its appeal.

But yesterday he sold a 90 per cent stake in
Jaeger and all its secured debt to Better Capital – a private equity firm
owned by British venture capitalist Jon Moulton, for 19.5 million.

It is understood that the move was to
protect Jaeger from any fall-out from the collapse of Aquascutum, which
is based in Corby, Northamptonshire.

Currently it's clothes are sold through 11 high street and outlet stores as well as 20 concessions across the UK, including Harrods.

Tillman made his fortune in the rag trade, starting his career in the 1960s with wholesaler Lincroft Kilgour, where he later rose to Managing Director before floating it on the London Stock Exchange.

The south Londoner and Chairman of the British Fashion Council later added to his fortune by buying and selling UK Yves Saint Laurent distributor Marchpole.

Belinda Earl, Aquascutum and Jaeger’s respected chief executive, recently left the business due to health issues.

Actor Cary Grant wearing an Aquascutum coat

Hollywood legend Cary Grant was a fan of the British label

Margaret Thatcher visits the London store in 1979

Margaret Thatcher visits the London store in 1979

AQUASCUTUM: THE HISTORY OF THE BRITISH FASHION BRAND
Founded in 1851 by John Emary who invented and patented the technique of shower-proofing wools and was the first to introduce rain repellent cloth The name originates from the two Latin words ‘aqua’ (water) and ‘scutum’ (shield)Granted its first royal warrant in 1897
Designs have been worn by collection of
famous faces including Winston Churchill, Sophia Loren, Greta Garbo,
Sean Connery, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart and Peter SellersMenswear, womenswear and accessories from the Aquascutum range are available worldwide, in department stores including Harrods, Selfridges, Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdales.It was family-owned until 1990, when Japanese company Renown bought it for 77m
Aquascutum came back to British ownership in September 2009 when Harold Tillman and Belinda Earl acquired the company for an undisclosed amount