The new lease of New & Lingwood
As the grand British brand opens a concept store on Chiltern Street, we meet the men ‘refocusing’ the label for the 21st century...
The ‘new’ in ‘New & Lingwood’ has always felt oddly out of place. There’s no reason it should, of course — it’s the name of co-founder Elisabeth New, who launched the gentleman’s outfitters with Samuel Lingwood in 1865. But branding the brand ‘new’ when its clothes have always been so classic sticks out like a sore (if sartorially-sound) thumb.
Because, for decades, New & Lingwood has been typified by tradition; with sumptuous silk robes, decadently decorated slippers and trimly-tailored suiting. But, as we barrel into a post-pandemic world, there’s a new New & Lingwood to discover. A freshly-minted CEO and creative director are stitching the hallowed heritage label in a bold new direction — and giving the grand old brand a new lease of life.
“The wonderful thing about historic brands,” Freddie Briance, CEO of New & Lingwood, tells Gentleman’s Journal, “is that successful reinvention is in their DNA. That’s why they stand the test of time”.
Briance became CEO in March 2020, just as the pandemic took hold. It would have been a challenging enough time for anyone to start a new job — but Briance was faced with reinventing a century-old institution. So how did he do it? How did he figure out what of New & Lingwood’s ‘DNA’ should stay — and what should go?
“Going through that process without losing loyal customers is a balancing act,” Briance explains, “but we’re lucky that reinvention for New & Lingwood was more of a ‘refocus’. The elements at the core of the brand – the fusion of elegance and comfort and the tension between sophistication and boldness — were plain to see and didn’t need to change. We just needed to channel them into collections that expressed them in a way that modern customers could understand”.
And that meant bringing in Tom Leeper. In October 2021, as the world began to readjust and reinvent itself, New & Lingwood was well down its ‘refocusing’ path. But Briance knew they needed a firm, visionary pair of hands on this new steering wheel. Enter Leeper; a man with a finely-fashioned background in both menswear and magazine publishing.
“It’s not so much the direction I’m steering the brand in,” Leeper explains of his role, “but rather how I take the essence of the brand and narrate it into something that makes sense for now. I have my own aesthetic and take on things, but I draw a lot of my inspiration from outside of the industry, whether that’s art, literature, food, talking to someone that inspires me”.
It’s a refreshingly inclusive answer. And you won’t find any cliquish high fashion and haute couture qualities from the new New & Lingwood. Instead, these are clothes created for the modern world; for the work-from-home brigade — a generation that spent two years in sweatpants and now prize comfort as passionately as they do style. The cuts are relaxed but refined, the collections utterly versatile and the colours slightly less obtrusive and ostentatious than the brand’s back catalogue.
“I took a lot of inspiration from The Scottish Colourists for this season,” the creative director reveals. “A dear friend of mine, Wes Robinson, and I had been talking about them a year prior to thinking about the collection. The more we talked and the more I looked at their works the more I became fascinated with the palate they were using. I really loved their use of bold explosive colours but at the same time how they could get them to sit so effortlessly next to more muted tones”.
Leeper’s looking forward, then, in some aspects of his design — but still consults with the classic ways of doing things. Infusing the new collection with the subtler shades of The Scottish Colourists is a delicately-inspired decision; and one which pays dividends in the pairing stakes. From linen blazers to pyjama sets, almost every piece of New & Lingwood’s latest range marries and matches with the rest. So what made CEO Freddie Briance look to Leeper for New & Lingwood’s future?
“I knew from day one at New & Lingwood that I wanted someone to lead us creatively who understood the significance of our history, but shared my desire to articulate a modern expression of the brand,” explains the CEO. “Tom has a special reverence for heritage and provenance but, most importantly, a very fresh perspective on how to take things forward.
“He blends contemporary and classic style in a way that I felt reflected the core appeal of New & Lingwood,” Briance adds, “but also knows how to draw out the subtlety of British style in a way that appeals to an audience broader than anything the brand has targeted in the past. His style is elevated, but approachable — and immediately appealing. That’s something that I felt the brand needed”.
And it’s not just a new lease of life for New & Lingwood as a brand — but also a new lease literally. For, on Marylebone’s burgeoning Chiltern Street, the label recently opened a new concept store. Worlds away from the dark wooden shelves and antique carpets of the brand’s other outlets, this is a fresh new space for this fresh new spin; and showcases everything from the brand’s bamboo trousers to the natty next generation of the brand’s hallmark dressing gowns.
“Before I joined,” says Tom Leeper, “when I thought about New & Lingwood, I would picture the beautiful silk gowns. And I’ve enjoyed bringing more silk into the collection with knitwear — but I’ve also wanted to experiment with other fabrics, like linen, bamboo and seersucker”.
"The wonderful thing about historic brands is that successful reinvention is in their DNA..."
The collection, Leeper explains as he guides us around the shop, was born from the same aspirations and ambitions that built this concept store. It may feel slightly different to what established customers are used to, but it presents an opportunity to introduce the brand’s future vision and test new products with a new audience.
“And using new or different fabrics — as with different colours — can evoke different feelings,” Leeper continues. “Pieces drape and fall differently and that helps to create different moods. Think about how it feels when you put on a perfectly tailored woollen suit. It instantly holds you upright; it almost commands you. Now think about how it feels when you wear a sand washed silk shirt. The feeling is totally different. And that’s what I love about good clothes — they can transform how we feel about what we are doing”.
Transformative is the right word. And, while the new collection of clothes forms the cornerstone of the brand’s ‘refocusing’ strategy, Freddie Briance is keen to ensure the company also reevaluates every other standpoint or stance it holds — from sustainability to the ethical sourcing of materials. And, chief to champion among these values is the brand’s Britishness.
“We want to promote craft and British design to a global audience,” Briance says simply. “We’re constantly looking at how we can do that in innovative ways through our stores and digital channels. Because, ultimately, we want to shape how the world views British style. We want to ensure our collections — and every touchpoint we have with our customers — be a leading reflection of a modern British lifestyle”.
Leeper agrees. And such is the creative director’s commitment to leading the way that he’s already peeking far into the future. “I think it’s always important to respect what has come before,” says Leeper. “But it’s also important to be able to adapt and change. The world is constantly changing. Tastes are constantly changing.
“To me,” he says, gesturing around the store, “this is how you keep things interesting and dynamic. You keep moving forward. But I have the upmost respect for New & Lingwood and what came before me. It’s because of this rich brand history that I can help drive things forward”.
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