Jack Wills Clothing // Aubin & Wills Clothing
View Jack Wills Fashion collections on London Fashion Review Blog
History of the Jack Wills fashion label
University friends Peter Williams and Robert Shaw founded the Jack Wills fashion label and opened their first store upon leaving university in 1999, with the aim of targeting university students aged 18-22. Since its inception, the brand has expanded to include, menswear, womenswear, accessories, fragrance, toiletries, kitchen wares, stationary and soft furnishings. All product lines are “fabulously British” and inspired by British history and culture, and of course – the university lifestyle.
The Jack Wills stores are more than just shops, holding events such as music gigs and silent Disco’s to tie in with the brands reputation as ‘University Outfitters’. As of 2011, the Jack Wills brand has over 40 stand alone shops in the UK, Ireland and US plus a catalogue and an online store.
- 1999: The Jack Wills brand is founded by Peter Williams and Robert Shaw, named after Williams’ grandfather. The first Jack Wills store opens in Devon.
- 2005: The ‘Seasonnaires’, a marketing team of young attractive individuals hired to generate a buss about the brand, makes its first appearance at the French ski resort of Val D’Isère.
- 2007: Private equity firm, Inflection purchased a 27% minority stake in the company for an undisclosed sum.
- 2008: The Aubin and Wills brand is launched aimed at an older clientele.
- 2009: The Jack Wills launched a new website, the Jack Wills Outlet, which allows a limited number of people to purchase last seasons collections at a discounted price – normally the end-of-sale price or less. Access to the website is by invite only via submission to a waiting list.
- 2010: Jack Wills expands into the American fashion market with the opening of three stores in the New England locations of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and a US flagship store in Boston. Also in 2010, the flagship London Covent Garden store is opened as is a new Aubin & Wills concept store in Shoreditch, which includes a cinema and a gallery.
- 2011: The brand branched out into the world of skateboarding by sponsoring boarding pro, Adam Comber.
- 2012: In October, Jack Wills announces that their sister brand, Aubin & Wills will cease trading by the end of the year, with the 11 standalone stores of the sister brand closing or being converted to Jack Wills boutiques.
Jack Wills styling
The brand incorporates traditional heritage influences and influences taken from heavily branded American brands Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren favoured by US college students. Traditionally tailored old Harris tweed jackets, made in England, feature in the same collection as logo hoodies and sweat pants popular with University student across the UK.
Jack Wills: Marketing Strategies
Jack Wills thrives on word of mouth and viral marketing, and is known for its unconventional advertising campaigns and marketing strategies. One such unusual method involves ‘in-person’ viral marketing through ‘Seasonnaires’. The ‘Seasonnaires’, a group of young and attractive men and women are employed to network throughout the community to create a buzz about Jack Wills clothing. Parties and social events are held with the primary aim to promote the Jack Will Fashion label and brand name. The ‘Seasonnaires’ were even implemented in the US, a whole-year before a Jack Wills store opened to create a buzz around the label. ‘Seasonnaires’ continue to promote the brand by cycling to work on Jack Wills bicycles. In the UK a similar marketing strategy is employed by sponsoring events such as polo matches at Windsor or student balls and holding social events within the brands many stores.
The Jack Wills brand is no stranger to controversy. In 2009 it caused outrage among health chiefs in Gloucestershire when it used cigarettes in its window display. As reported in The Times, the brand was urged to axe the display by a group of senior doctors, who claimed the window display “lacks corporate responsibility in its implicit promotion of smoking”. Jack Wills responded to the doctors by saying “Jack Wills has always set out to target customers over 18 years of age and in particular those aged 18-22. The window display aims to depict ‘real life’ situations associated with that particular age group.”
In 2011, Jack Wills was once again receiving criticism for a controversial advertising campaign. The brand was banned from reprinting its 2011 Spring Term Handbook deemed as too provocative. An image of a young woman wearing only a pair of Jack Wills knickers with her leg draped around a near naked man, was one of four images deemed inappropriate for young teenagers by the Advertising Standards Authority. Jack Wills responded to the complaints by saying that the images were simply portraying the ‘Hedonistic University Lifestyle’. However, the ASA upheld the complaints and said the images were likely to be seen by younger teenagers and may well appeal to them, ‘because they portrayed a lifestyle to which they might aspire’. It said the partial nudity ‘went beyond what could be described as fun or flirtatious’, and ‘was sufficiently provocative as to present a risk to younger teenagers’.
The Aubin and Wills fashion label: Targeting the older demographic
The Jack Wills spin-off brand, Aubin and Wills label is aimed at a slightly more mature clientele than the Jack Wills label. The target age range is said to be between 25 and 35 years, such as those who have recently graduated from university and are in full-time employment.
In 2010, the Aubin Gallery was launched, on the top floor of the Aubin and Wills Shoreditch branch, the result of collaboration between Aubin and Wills and the British artist Stuart Semple. The gallery features various in-house art projects and pieces by new artists. The 7,500square-foot concept space also includes The Aubin Cinema, run in collaboration with the members club Shoreditch House to create a unique shopping and social experience. Aubin and Wills also has additional standalone stores in London (including a concession in Selfridges), Brighton and Edinburgh.
In October of 2012, Jack Wills announced that they would be folding their sister brand, Aubin & Wills, shortly after the Christmas period. The global expansion of Jack Wills has left no room for the sister brand, sadly meaning that the 12 standalone Aubin & Wills stores will cease trading at the end of the year.
British supermodel Sophie Dahl fronted the brand’s Autumn/Winter 2012-2013 collection, and stars such as Fearne Cotton and Sophie Dahl have been seen in Aubin & Wills pieces. Despite this “At its core…it just does not have the fundamental business model advantages that Jack Wills has,” said Jack Wills Chief Executive, Glen Tinton.
Future of Jack Wills/Aubin & Wills
In September of 2012, Jack Wills announced that pre-tax profits from the 12 months to February 2012, had dipped to £3.8million from £10million last year. The dip in profits were attributed the continued international expansion of Jack Wills, as well as the development of the Aubin & Wills brand. During those 12 months, £20million was spent opening 11 new jack Wills stores in the UK, 8 in America, 2 in Asia, as well s, 8 Aubin & Wills boutiques.
So does the folding of Aubin & Wills mean that an Initial Public Offering of Jack Wills is off the cards? Co-founder Peter Williams has stated that there are no plans for an IPO and he, co-founder Rob Shaw and 20% stakeholder the private equity firm Inflection ‘are very happy together’. And how will the increasing global expansion of Jack Wills, stand up to competition from equally preppy Superdry, Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister? Watch this space.