Heritage is something you can’t buy – but you can certainly build it. For a brand to have heritage, it obviously needs to pass the tests of time, and we believe it goes deeper than that. Heritage brands stay true to their roots with their products, services, and philosophies, and below, Andy Myring, Head of Design at MAVIS, has shared his top ten British heritage brands, and why they mean so much to him.
Over to you, Andy.
While this isn’t the most beautiful of logos, it has done a really effective job in helping the ASDA brand stay, consistently, in the top five of British supermarkets. Its simplicity and boldness shouts ‘good value’ and ‘no nonsense’ – sharing the same style of visual language that is used by IKEA, that of a brand you can recognise from 20,000 feet in the air!
The logo has stayed consistent for 35 years, and has helped take a small, county-based retailer, owned by the Asquith family – who merged their company with Associated Dairies of Yorkshire – into a company acquired by Walmart for £6.8 billion, with a workforce of over 145,000.
I like it not just because of its directness, but because I was part of the Fitch & Co. team that designed the brand logo and the stores back in the mid-80s, with this new brand going to market in 1985. We changed not only the look of the brand, but also the whole supermarket shopping experience and format itself. The bright ‘frog green’ was chosen to stand out, feel fresh, and because it was the farthest colour way from those used by their competitors at that time.
One of my most treasured possessions is the Joseph Rodgers British Army penknife, issued to my Grandfather in WW1. When he gave it to me as a small boy, he referred it as his ‘lucky knife’ – having survived three-and-a-half years in the trenches as a young infantry officer, including the Battle of the Somme.
He ‘lost’ some of his leg, but not the penknife – which is still at work today!
Now, most brand logos are changed over time… or simply don’t last. The brand mark for Sheffield cutlery firm, Joseph Rodgers, bucks that trend – and has lasted 338 years! The mark of the Star and Maltese Cross was originally registered in March 1682 by Benjamin Rich; however, it will always be synonymous with Rodgers, having been forever associated with the company from 1764.
The brand, just like the penknife, is still at work today. Long may both continue.
A true British icon (after all, it uses the Union Jack on many a surface), MINI employs around 4,000 direct employees – and enables many thousands of indirect jobs. However, the MINI journey might not be as smooth as you’d have thought. When Scott Allan – now Mavis’ Design Director – and I approached Rover Group, the MINI brand was in decline. At that point, MINIs were being sold at a loss to production, the dealers didn’t want to sell them, and Rover had replaced the MINI badge with a Rover cars crest on the car itself. The brand was in such a sorry state, that the Group were about to scrap the MINI brand altogether – an idea which seems unthinkable now.
Having written to Rover Group complaining about their brands (Rover, Land Rover, MG, and MINI), Scott and I were invited to pitch our ideas for MINI… which we won. We created new retail environments, ideas for motor shows (the MINI box), a retail website, and a new brand – based on the ‘John Cooper wings’ and typefaces from the 1960s/1970s.
The result was a massive renewed interest in the MINI brand and sales going through the roof! BMW subsequently bought the MINI brand, and its rebirth started in 2001 – using a simpler version of the winged logo. The rest, as they say, is history – with MINI becoming the UK’s third biggest car manufacturer, accounting for 10% of all of the UK’s exports that year.
LOCK & CO.
Founded in 1676, and reportedly the oldest hat shop in the world, Lock & Co. has been trading from its St. James’s Street premises since 1765. The 34th oldest family-owned business in the world, its sartorial impact on society cannot be understated.
The brand’s bicorne was bold enough for Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar, Churchill’s Cambridge and Homburg became signature styles, and the so-called arbiter of early 1800s fashion, Beau Brummell, made sure he had plenty in his arsenal to sit atop his head.
The company is also responsible for the origination of the bowler hat – ubiquitous with British city gentlemen throughout the early part of the 20th century – so, what better example of British brands with brilliant heritage? We doff our caps to you, Lock & Co.
Every year, Fox’s Biscuits bake over 6 billion biscuits – offering 20 ranges that include the iconic Party Rings, Crunch Creams, and Rocky bars.
When they started out, back in 1853, the Fox family ran a small Victorian bakehouse in West Yorkshire, selling biscuits to fairs throughout the north of England. Today, they’ve stayed true to their northern roots – manufacturing their family favourites across three facilities in West Yorkshire, Blackpool, and Staffordshire.
There’s hardly a family in the U.K. that hasn’t enjoyed a Fox’s Biscuit – and the ones that haven’t don’t know what they’re missing out on!
No list of British heritage brands would be complete without Barbour. Worn by everyone from farmers to fashion royalty, the brand recently celebrated its 125th anniversary, and has come to symbolise much more than just waterproof jackets, with a seemingly never-ending range of clothing, leather goods and even pet accessories. Now, it is a statement of a certain way of life – but it wasn’t always like that.
John Barbour began selling his oilskin clothing in South Shields in 1894, settling on the area because the Tyne was then one of the busiest rivers in the country. Barbour’s – as the shop became known – thrived, supplying mariners and shipbuilders with the clothing they needed to protect them from the elements.
Today, the company enjoys a turnover of £200 million, and is one of very few firms to hold three Royal Warrants. The famous jackets – all 120,000 of them each year – are still made by hand at the South Shields factory, and they’ve kitted out everyone from Steve McQueen to World War Two submarine commanders over more than century.
When Barbour became a household name in the 1980s, it ran an advertising campaign with the slogan ‘The best British clothing for the worst British weather.’ They weren’t wrong then, and certainly aren’t now. Thanks to Barbour’s excellent repair and re-waxing service, a Barbour coat can survive for many years. I’ve had my coat since 1983… and it’s still going strong!
Tricker’s has been making the premium-quality heavy brogues and waterproof country boots for close to two centuries. Known for their unparalleled build quality and durability, Tricker’s boots and shoes have been the footwear of choice for estate owners and landed gentry for generations.
Today, the same high standards that made the brand popular are still at the core of what the company does. While Tricker’s country shoes and boots and their distinctive look are often imitated, they remain unrivalled in quality, personality and character. His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, confirmed this position in 1989 when he awarded Tricker’s his Royal Warrant for shoe manufacturing.
From the Prince of Wales to on-the-go royalty… Greggs is, you may be surprised to hear, the number one dining brand in eight of the UK’s 12 regions – and is no lower than third place in the rest.
When John Gregg started out, over 75 years ago years ago, he had one goal, to deliver (by pushbike) fresh eggs and yeast to the families of Newcastle. Ten years later he chained up his bike and opened Greggs of Gosforth, making, baking and selling fresh bread and tasty treats from his very own shop, where there’s still a Greggs to this day.
Behind the freshly-made sandwiches and golden, puff pastry sausage rolls, Greggs has always been committed to doing the right thing. Way back in the sixties, they started with their free ‘Pie ’n’ Peas Supper’ for older residents in Gateshead. And today, they still have that same commitment, and their annual Children’s Cancer Run has raised over £5m for Cancer Research. Plus, each year – with support from their 87 partner – they provide six million free wholesome breakfasts to primary school children through their Breakfast Club programme.
Even with over 1,950 Greggs in the U.K., they still pay attention to the important things. Like serving food that’s free of the nasty stuff (they don’t use artificial colours, flavours, added trans fats or MSG), providing the best Wi-Fi on the high street, and keeping their 23,000 staff happy (they’ve been named one of the happiest places to work). It seems to be working, as since the start of 2019, Greggs’ share price has almost doubled too, from £12.68 per share to over £22.
EMMA WILLIS MBE
Emma Willis is a force to be reckoned with. From humble beginnings in a small workroom in New Cross, this bold British businesswoman has grown her eponymous brand beyond recognition. In 1999, Willis opened a bespoke boutique on Jermyn Street, the home of homespun shirt-making. And by 2014, she had established an elegant townhouse factory in the centre of Gloucester.
Most recently, she has conquered the digital marketplace — selling the brand’s ready-to-wear offerings on Mr Porter, Matches Fashion and Gentleman’s Journal. With a worldwide reputation secured, many a turn at London Fashion Week, and a solid client list including HRH The Prince Wales, David Gandy and Benedict Cumberbatch, Willis could have stopped there. She didn’t.
“Style for Soldiers is the most meaningful thing I do. The charity has been mainly supported by Emma Willis customers and people I meet in the Jermyn Street shop – which sees such an interesting flow of people! The charity started as I wanted to create bespoke shirts for young servicemen returning with terrible life-changing injuries from Afghanistan, a token of my gratitude for their courage and sacrifice.Emma Willis MBE
Over time, it grew into providing suits, shoes and regimental walking sticks for their new and unpredictable civilian lives and careers. My contacts in the men’s fashion world – from Burberry and Lock & Co to Mulberry and The London Sock Company – have allowed us to provide all these smart items of clothing to these most deserving of young men. And our ambassadors have seen, directly through meeting the soldiers, what power this dressing has in both their physical and psychological rehabilitation.”
The Nyetimber estate counts three major milestones in its history. Its earliest beginnings saw it named in the Domesday Book in 1086, almost 1,000 years ago, when the peaceful valley of Nitimbreha made its first appearance in recorded history. (It’s believed Nitimbreha refers to a newly timbered house or perhaps a small timber plantation.)
The second milestone was the planting of the first vines – almost 900 years later – in 1988, when the holy trinity of sparkling wine grapes – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – found a new home in the lee of the South Downs.
And thirdly, when Eric Heerema became the Owner and Custodian of Nyetimber in 2006, he brought the belief that the estate, with its ideal soil and location, had yet to achieve its full potential. Eric recruited Head Winemaker, Cherie Spriggs, and Winemaker, Brad Greatrix, who both shared his vision of crafting the finest English sparkling wines.
Since then, Nyetimber wines have gone on to achieve global acclaim, winning international awards and blind-tasting competitions, as well as being recognised by some of the world’s most celebrated wine experts. As story nearly a millennium in the making, but well worth the wait.
So, there you have it – 10 iconic British heritage brands, all included on their own merits. But, have I missed anything? Is there a glaring omission? Or do you just downright disagree? There are heaps of brands that didn’t make the list – like clothing purveyors Paul Smith or Fred Perry and the many sartorial stand-outs on Saville Row – so it’s worth exploring a few more when time allows.
Let me know in the comments below, and see who else shares your views. After all, design is subjective, so I’d love to hear your views.