Superdry has become a juggernaut of a fashion brand in what seems to be a blink of an eye, if anyone was in doubt of its status as an aspirational brand all they need do is visit, the frankly enormous, flagship emporium of the brand which along with another stella British Designer name, in Burberry dominate the retail architecture of Regent Street. Plus, on a recent jaunt to Egypt, Superdry was quite clearly amongst the top five Fashion brands who were subject to the highest form of flattery, if you know what I mean.
So where did the journey for this Superbrand’s begin ? Well of all places, believe it or not, that Fashion Capital, Cheltenham. This is where Julian Dunkerton, founder of CULT Clothing, joined forces with designer James Holder who had previously founded the Bench brand, to develop and create a new in-house brand and Superdry was born.
Instantly recognising a gap in the market James and Julian travel to Japan in 2003, where Julian’s passion for vintage Americana and James’s love of Japanese imagery, plus their shared love of British tailored fits, all came together to create this shared vision. Since this point the brand have managed to entice one or two celebrity fans including David Beckham, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet to name but a few.
As the brand has grown, James has turned his creative eye to new areas including launching womenswear and denim along with unexpected collaborations with established British designers and brands including Joseph Cheaney and Timothy Everest. More, recently, Superdry have played a key and interesting role in establishing London Collections:Men as the premier destination in the Menswear Fashion calendar.
As we conducted this interview there where projects for the brand going on in Coachella LA, Snowbombing in Austria and planning a top Secret event to coincide with LC:M next month. To say James is a busy man is kind of an understatement in atomic proportions.
If you had one day to live what would be your biggest regret?
I don’t really have any major regrets, I have an incredible family, both personally and at Superdry… we work closely together and many of the teams are friends as well as colleagues. I truly believe in pushing boundaries, living each day to the full and filling it so it is literally overflowing, meaning there is little time to reflect or regret.
I have a positive outlook and this helps my creative flow. Life is good.
What would be the one piece of clothing you would rescue from your home in the event of a fire?
My absolute favorite at the moment is our forthcoming Diablo biker jacket… (pictured above) the quality, fit and heritage detail is off the scale, a true rock and roll piece.
Who is your style icon ?
For menswear, although it may considered to be a little clichéd, I think that David Beckham has impeccable style… whatever he wears looks effortless and of the moment. Like Superdry, he doesn’t follow trends although when he chooses a style he defines it.
Tell us something no one else knows ?
Branding doesn’t have to be in your face to work. We are continually designing garments that are extremely branded but done in such a highly considered, intelligent manner that the design works and no one notices the quantity of discreet Superdry logos being used. We also devote as much time and effort to the inside of garments as we do the outside and it is within these internals that we can be more vibrant and bold with our designs. These styles often became best sellers and attract customers of different demographics.
Can you tie a bow tie ? If yes, who taught you ?
Currently not, but I would have to be shown only once to learn.
My tailoring style is sharp but more relaxed. Dinner jackets have to be millimeter perfect slim and these will be paired with high cotton white shirting, skinny dark jeans and a burnished saddle leather belt.
Have you ever bought a piece of clothing and regretted it ?
Since the birth of the brand (over 10 years ago) rightly or wrongly I’ve only worn Superdry. If the garment didn’t exist within our wardrobes we wouldn’t have created it.
Working so closely with the whole design team, I genuinely love and believe in every incredible product in the collection. For me, there’s little need to look elsewhere.
I am sure during my hedonistic 90s there may have been some acid house inspired faux pas but I cannot recall any specific horrors.
What do you have to do after this conversation?
My life is a constant juggle of roles and job responsibilities: one moment I may be looking at fixtures for a new store, then overseeing detail for an event, attending board meetings, approving a new fragrances, accessory ranges, detail on a new zip or perhaps choosing the perfect leather for watch straps… it is utterly diverse.
Today, however, I am flying back from the Superdry Snow event in Austria. Superdry partnered with cult festival Snowbombing where we launched our technical ski wear line to the Fashion press and held a weeks worth of DJ events in the Superdry Arctic Disco on top of a mountain. After that I will be talking to our team who are in LA for a secret event we are organising, at the Coachella music and art festival (coachella.com). Following that we begin our line review to approve the SS15 products and a call with the British Fashion Council to discuss ideas for the next London Collections: Men. If I can get out of the office before it gets dark, I will go for a cross-country run. I live in the middle of the Cotswold’s and hard running helps me relax and is part of my personal mantra – a good physical state of mind and body stands you in good stead – I always have to push myself both professionally and physically.
What piece of clothing best describes you?
I would say a Premium Superdry leather biker. Something with an impeccable, slim silhouette that is steeped with integrity, cuts a rock and roll style and never let’s you down.
What track would always get you on the dancefloor ?
Anything from Black Butter Records is good, from Rudimental to Clean Bandit – it has to have an all-encompassing bass that captures you. As a die hard illegal acid house raver, anything epic and electronic will usually does the trick with the new incarnation of The Prodigy being the perfect example.
Check out the lineup for the last Superdry Arctic Disco at the recent Snowbombing event for an insight into my musical preference.
What is your most memorable moment?
From a personal point of view it has to be the birth of my son, the meeting of my partner Charlotte and the impending arrival of our baby daughter. That gives purpose to my crazy world.
From a business point of view, I still get a buzz when I see people walking down the street in far-flung countries wearing our product – this is always a moment for me… even today I am straight on the phone to my partner Julian to tell him where we are being worn.
If you could give your teenage self advice, what would it be?
Trust your instinct and take risks. Mistakes will be made along the way but the successes should far out weigh them and define you as a person and brand.
If you could collaborate with one brand, who would it be and why?
It would have to be someone who shares our passion and dynamic; someone with integrity and to whom design and progression – both through people and product – are the driving factors.
We have so much talent here in Britain with heritage and Great British design values being of paramount importance. Working with like-minded contemporary British tailor Timothy Everest showed me how successful a collaboration with the right partner can be. I am always keen to work with new and exciting talent and when the right, long-term opportunities with brands or individuals come along we will do more of them.