The very best of brands (and indeed the most valuable) are those that not only stand out from the crowd, but those that make a real difference to people’s lives and have real “meaning”.
The meaning of a brand usually comes from the functional attributes of its products or service (cleaning products that work, reliable cars, safe banking services etc. – in other words, it does a good job fulfilling a customers’ needs), but for a brand to truly have longevity and to “lead the pack”, a brand needs to have emotional meaning, too.
It is this layer of emotional meaning that creates a lasting bond and affinity between the brand and the consumer.
So, both functional and emotional meaning are crucial to a brand’s success, but being different – catching the eye of the customer and interrupting their pattern of behaviour – is vital too. When a brand combines both its functional and emotional meaning with strong point of difference, it becomes a brand that is highly salient and recognised for the right reasons. Amplification of these attributes can be a real catalyst for growth.
Many brands in the UK lack real differentiation, with brand owners frequently focussing on becoming well known, at the expense of being known for something that really matters to consumers. Being different is not just about the service or product being offered, but also how consumers experience using the brand and increasingly, how the brand responds to cultural, social and ecological issues.
In this fast-changing world, consumers will be looking out for brands that they can trust: brands that show that they value staff, customers, shareholders, the community and the planet alike.
It is the brands that have a purpose, beyond making money, and are able to translate that purpose from intent into the experience that they offer their customers that will thrive. The good news is that post Covid-19, there has never been a better time to win new customers and to build long-term loyalty.
In a world of over-choice and globalisation, people are also looking for brands with a genuine history and authenticity. They are seeking out brands that have a local or national provenance rather than those with a global blandness: again, they look for brands with a history and sense of quirkiness… brands with a meaningful story.
The Japanese perceive British brands as leading-edge, innovative and forward thinking, whilst the Americans see the tradition and history. It is this dichotomy of quirkiness and history that makes British brands so interesting.
What I love about British brands is the smart design, sense of humour, forward thinking, individuality, clever invention, compassion and the colourful fusion of Britain’s cultural mix.
Here are some new British brands to watch out for.
1. Community Clothing
Community Clothing is a social enterprise which creates employment and pathways to employment in the UK’s textile manufacturing regions, working with partner factories in six of the UK’s most deprived areas. The business works with these partner factories, filling capacity during their significant quiet periods, creating a virtuous circle of rising volumes, rising efficiency and rising employment. To date they have created over 140,000 hours of skilled work.
Whilst Community Clothing’s work’s capacity has been reduced, they have continued to operate throughout 2020, delivering positive impact in Covid-hit areas and creating over 10,000 hours of work.
Community Clothing’s model is simple: the things you buy create well-paid work. Whilst vaccines give us hope of a route to ending the health effects of this pandemic, the lasting legacy of economic hardship will not be so easily erased in those regions worst affected.
I think any business that champions local people and creates local jobs has to be a good one. I’m a huge fan of English manufacturing and would much rather spend a little more money, to help support this.
Ten years ago, frustrated by the lack of choice and quality in the dog product market, the founders of Hindquarters decided to make their own. Initially, they started making prototypes using their own sewing machines, but now collaborate with workshops and small factories across the UK.
Today, they have a full collection of collars, harnesses, leads, dog beds and bowls made to their own high standards, tested and approved by their own five dogs.
Living in a home where dogs outnumber people, they recognised the special bond between dog and human, that each dog is unique and deserves the best. Every product that they make starts by watching and understanding their dogs’ needs, observing their behaviour and quirks, which in turn informs everything they create.
Hindquarters’ collars, lead and harnesses tick all boxes: made from thick cotton weave that’s comfy to wear and use, reliable, durable and washable. They combine this with marine grade steel for fixings which is lightweight, durable and corrosion-proof.
Hindquarters use natural materials where possible, which are kinder, more comfortable and built to last. These are products that wear nicely with age.
I can safely say that my Labrador, Ruby, has tested her Hindquarters collar and lead in driving rain, deepest snow, the salty seas and brown muddy rivers, with Hindquarters products coming out on top!
3. Bennet Winch
Established just five years ago in a flurry of zips, poppers and luxury leather, Bennett Winch proceeded with one simple aim. Each product they designed and created would be an item of luggage that had been missing from their lives up until that point. And, not only have they succeeded, but they’ve done so while keeping the thing completely British; designing in Farringdon and bringing their ideas to life in a factory in Carlisle.
Every Bennett Winch product is handmade in England. Using traditional skills and materials, they engineer accessories tailored to a contemporary world. Their products are designed for the discerning minimalists; those who seek to own fewer, better items.
They are not driven by seasonal trends or fashion, inspired instead by objects of soul and purpose. They believe true quality is timeless; if you buy well, you need only buy once.
Like another great English brand, Chapman Bags (made in Cumbria), these bags are beautifully made, will last a life time and will look better with age.
4. Bramley Products
Born out of the great British countryside, bath & body brand, Bramley, blends a unique apple seed ingredient with therapeutic essential oils, creating products that smell wonderful, evoke a sense of wellbeing, and have genuine benefits for skin and hair.
Launched in 2012 by Chloë Luxton, with sustainability at its core, Bramley set out to change the excessive overuse of plastics by introducing refillable, full-size products to hotels. Maintaining a strict ingredient promise, Bramley is cruelty-free and vegan-friendly certified.
I came across Bramley products whilst staying at the very excellent Beckford Arms inn on the Fonthill Estate, in Wiltshire, making the stay there even more enjoyable. They smell great and have the right idea when it comes to the planet!
TOAST began with loungewear and nightwear, designed in a farmhouse in Wales. Originally founded by James and Jessica Seaton in 1997, the collections reflected a sense of ease and a slower, more thoughtful way of life. Today, led by Suzie de Rohan Willner, TOAST creates and curates simple, functional, beautiful clothing, homeware and editorial.
TOAST has shops throughout the UK and can be found in concept stores across the US and Europe. With studios in both London and Swansea, TOAST continues to design and develop all collections in-house and is proud to be one of the few fashion brands with its own full pattern room – lined with calico toiles and full of pins, papers, chalks and spools of thread, it is a true place of making.
I love the way that TOAST collaborates with craftsmen and women from around the world, and their ethos of making products that last (or can be repaired), their sense of community and social conscience. Like the marvellous designer, Margaret Howell, they produce timeless clothes that have a lovely Britishness about them.
6. Eight Lands
Eight Lands is an award-winning organic spirits brand from the Speyside region of Scotland, developed by the father and stepson team of Alasdair Locke and Alex Christou.
Built around the values of quality, people, experience and sustainability, everything from the bespoke distillery equipment through to the signature serves have been thought through to ensure that Eight Lands vodka and gin excite leading bartenders and discerning drinkers alike.
The products are made using 100% organic ingredients and Scottish spring water, distilled and bottled at Glenrinnes Distillery on the family’s estate.
It’s great to see a company so responsible, sustainable and respectful in everything that they do, and a product made from self-grown and locally foraged produce.
“Inspiring customers through style, creative expressionism and innovation” is the guiding principle of Hancock.
With clothing collections made exclusively in their Scottish factory, Hancock offers a range of unique, covetable products that are created using an inimitable blend of traditional and modern manufacturing techniques.
A global leader in producing handmade raincoats, Hancock’s modern approach to design combined with their heritage manufacturing process has led to a notable portfolio of collaborative work with many of the world’s leading fashion houses and young designers.
Leveraging these unique skills, Hancock pushes boundaries as both a creative studio and as a manufacturer.
8. Country of Origin
Country of Origin is a modern knitwear brand founded in 2014 by Ben Taylor and Alice Liptrot. Everything is manufactured in-house at a new purpose-built factory in Wigston, Leicestershire.
With an emphasis on strong colour palettes and high-quality yarns, Country of Origin supply the perfect array of knitwear for modern living.
9. Matthew Cox
‘Always out of the ordinary’ is the principle that guides Matthew Cox, whether designing his made to measure furniture collection, or finding and curating rare antiques.
As an antique dealer, Matthew understands what makes furniture stand the test of time – as a designer, he distils this knowledge into every piece he makes, ensuring it serves its purpose today, yet is adaptable enough to fit a different role in the future.
Cox enjoys a considered making process, paring back designs to make them economical, and favouring natural, sustainable materials that become more beautiful with time and use.
All designs are handmade in England and I love their quiet, pared back aesthetic. I think these pieces will become tomorrow’s collectable antiques!
Shackleton is a modern British brand inspired by the courage and leadership of polar titan Sir Ernest Shackleton a century ago.
Shackleton expedition-grade apparel is engineered for extremes, combining world-class high performance with luxury refinement.
Driven by exploration and innovation, the brand aims to inspire and equip the new age of pioneers, from record-breaking explorers to ultra-travellers to weekend adventurers. The range of outerwear, knitwear and accessories is designed in London and made in Britain and Italy using the latest breakthrough performance materials and production techniques.
Shackleton is a fur-free brand, and all down is RDS-certified.
11. Chapel Down
Chapel Down is England’s leading winemaker with a desire to change the way the world thinks about English wine forever by making the coolest, cool climate wines on the planet accessible and contemporary.
Truly world-class sparkling and still wines are produced from grapes grown on over 700 acres of excellent terroir in the southeast of England.
Widely regarded as the market leader in English wine, Chapel Down continually strives to innovate and has recently added a hugely successful range of premium spirits to their portfolio.
Regularly receiving international accolades, Chapel Down is also an official wine supplier to 10 Downing Street and the first English winery to ever feature in the London Stock Exchange’s 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain. Their multi award-winning drinks are sold direct to consumers online and to major stores and supermarkets, as well as leading bars, restaurants and hotels in the UK and internationally.
The Chapel Down winery welcomes over 60,000 visitors each year and offers guided tours of the vineyards, tutored wine tastings, a two AA Rosette and Michelin Bib Gourmet restaurant, and a shop stocking high-quality English produce.
Great Britain has a wonderful history when it comes to watch making and has probably been the home to more advances in horology than any other nation. The Bremont brand is determined to play a pivotal role in the reinvigoration of this industry on British shores.
Bremont started in 2002 with the first watches launched in 2007, and since this time, the brand has progressively built the necessary horological skillset in its facility in the UK. The first drive was to train-up watchmakers by putting an apprenticeship scheme in place and also hire watchmakers capable of developing, servicing and assembling mechanical watches. These activities now happen at Bremont’s workshop in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.
The second was the desire to start manufacturing watch parts and bring all the technical design in-house. Bremont now manufactures its own case and some movement parts at its facility in Henley-on-Thames, UK. It is an investment that the brand is immensely proud of, in an industry so dependent on Switzerland. Bremont is currently the only watch brand in the UK manufacturing cases and selected watch parts in the UK on any scale.
13. Noble Isle
A distinctive and exquisite modern bath and body brand, Noble Isle is made in the UK and inspired by the natural and cultural riches of the British Isles.
The creators of Noble Isle have travelled the length and breadth of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to source authentic, quintessentially British ingredients worthy of the Noble Isle crest: The Coat of Balms. Noble Isle’s sumptuous lotions and washes feature extracts sourced from some of the most celebrated local producers, including rhubarb from England, sea oak from Ireland, barley from Scotland and beetroot from Wales.
The efflorescent emblem of Noble Isle, The Coat of Balms, is the work of a Cornish artist, created from a series of bespoke hand drawings to represent the great flowers of the British Isles – daffodil, rose, shamrock and thistle – arranged in the iconic British roll-top bath.
Noble Isle have worked with a top nose in the industry to create evocative fragrances with distinct top, heart and base notes that leave a unique and lasting sensory impression, creating The New Tradition in Luxury Bathing. Noble Isle launched in 2012 and can be found in retailers and hotels across the British Isles.
Wiltshire-based knifemaker Savernake started in 2016 with just one aim – to make perfect, entirely customisable and bespoke kitchen knives. Today, founder Laurie Timpson and his small Savernake team supply knives to professional chefs and enthusiastic amateur cooks the world over.
In tests by CATRA (the Cutlery and Allied Trades Research Association) Savernake blades scored in the top 2.5% of knives tested and were rated ‘Excellent’ for both initial sharpness and durability.
Customers can use the Savernake online knife configurator to customise their own perfect knife from 44,380 possible options – or work with Laurie to design a bespoke knife from scratch, with complimentary personalised engraving.
Knives are crafted using state-of-the-art engineering and time-honoured hand techniques, with each knife taking 50-plus hours to make. The signature concave blade geometry results in knives that cut better, weigh less and sharpen more easily and which are guaranteed for life.
Previous high-profile chef collaborations have seen Savernake work with Michelin-starred chefs Tom Aikens, Mark Sergeant and Daniel Gamache; whilst collaborations with G.F Smith and leading design duo 2LG Studios have resulted in paper and recycled materials being used to create colourful knife handles and chopping boards.
In 1884, a maverick French chemist called Joseph Robert discovered a way to extract 100% pure fragrance oils from plants, and in doing so transformed perfumery. With Robert’s discovery, a new breed of master ‘noses’ emerged, capable of bottling up nature’s most brilliant ideas.
Ffern’s vision is simple: restore perfumery to its artisan roots in the days of Joseph Robert. Helping to make this vision a reality is their head nose, Francois – 4th generation master perfumer and Joseph’s great grandson.
Together, they’ve developed a new model for perfumery; putting craft, ingredients, and creativity at the centre of the practice.
They will release four seasonal fragrances per year, each of which will be available for three months at a time, to be reimagined the following year.
Their production volumes are tightly controlled to ensure that their commitment to process and ingredient quality is not compromised. Each season, they will blend just one bottle for each of the names on their production ledger. No more.
16. Galvin Brothers
Galvin Brothers was formed in November 2012 as a new handcrafted furniture business, building upon their father’s 60-plus years of joinery and cabinet making experience.
The brothers’ aim back then was to design and manufacture thoughtful furniture, using the best quality timbers, revisiting traditional techniques in modern ways.
Since launching, the business has expanded with a growing collection of furniture, an extension to workshops and the opening of the first Galvin Brothers shop in Beverley, East Yorkshire.
Galvin Brothers have sold furniture to domestic customers all over the country and in to contract environments for clients as far as Australia.
In 2013 they were nominated for Designer of the Year in the prestigious Elle Decoration British Design Awards, and they continue to be extremely flattered by all of the interest that they receive from writers and design lovers all over the world.
As they grow, the Galvin Brothers agenda remains the same; to create well-made furniture with simple forms and thoughtful detail — designed and manufactured with the best materials entirely in the UK.
17. Alice Made This
Alice Made This is precision jewellery for men and women. They work with engineers and artisans to layer the precision of engineering with the beauty of hand work, creating unique accessories and jewellery for you to gift, own and enjoy for many years to come.
Every element of the process is thought through to create timeless and beautifully simple products, with stories of past, present and future.
The team loves to explore interesting techniques and materials from all sorts of industries.
Whether it’s an aerospace factory that usually makes aeroplane parts, one of their post-production techniques like blasting, or their work with artists and artisan techniques as seen with their patina process, the business seeks to offer pieces with individuality, allowing their customers to enjoy jewellery and accessories that are personal to them.
Sop was conceived and created by Fiona Burrage, photographer and creative director of Nor–Folk. The idea was sparked by the renovation of Fiona’s holiday haven on the Norfolk Broads, as a way to embellish the guest experience.
Her family’s deep connection to the local landscape is rooted in the brand’s visual and verbal language. And this intrinsic sense of place became its name – ‘Scents of Place’ or Sop – a nod to Norfolk and the emotive fragrances it conjures.
Inspired by meandering rivers, vast sandy beaches, and the serene spaces in between, each product’s name is also rooted in the region, adopting Norfolk’s dialect to summon the scent and experience.
19. Cambridge Imprint
Cambridge Imprint is a design partnership of painter Claerwen James, textile artist Jane Powell and ceramicist Ali Murphy. They use simple hand-stencilled screen-printing to create their original designs, and spot-colour lithography to replicate that studio process in manufacturing the final paper product. The result is a matte paper of unparalleled intensity and clarity of colour.
Their influences are eclectic, but it has often been noted that their patterns have a particularly English quality, with a palette that is both sober and exuberant. They export paper all over the world, even to Kyoto in Japan, probably the world capital of beautiful patterned paper: an indication that they’re producing something with a very distinctive flavour.
Cambridge Imprint’s products are a joy: not only are they aesthetically beautiful but the quality is just fantastic. If like me, you hate wrapping endless Christmas presents, their wrapping paper will not only make the task easier, but will make you smile. I can safely say that Cambridge Imprint’s Christmas paper is the best I have ever used.
20. Unique Homstays
Think rose-covered cottages and cliff side hideaways, sea views from every window and local goodies in the fridge: Unique Homestays hand-picked home collection is the stuff of dreams.
Unique Homestays is the UK’s leading provider of luxury cottages and private holiday homes, based in Cornwall, Scotland and the Cotswolds.
The brand takes its clues from being very British, but in the most discrete way and “stealth wealth” kind of way.
They focus not on luxurious “bling”, but the luxury of time, well-being, location, attention to detail and style: In short, they are reinventing the idea of luxury UK holidays…through experiences.
Specialists in remarkable private homes, they only invite properties that truly inspire them to join their collection. For a unique self-catered escape, their cottages, country homes and coastal hideaways fuse iconic settings with stylish, well-stocked interiors, promising an immersive break that’s so much more than just a holiday.
“Unique Homestays have built their brand around the idea of storytelling and attention to detail. They see things totally from the customers point-of view and the importance of conveying the senses... sea breezes, dappled light, warmth of log fires, silence.... the sense of getting back to simple, natural experiences...have time to yourself and your love ones. A true escape from the every day. They are an absolute blue print for how the UK tourist industry needs to change. Unique Homestays are a real benchmark for others to try and follow”.
So there you have it: 20 amazing British brands that have functional, emotional and different all wrapped up. As the economy struggles to escape the clutches of Covid, they’re making the most of their boldness and individuality to set themselves apart. If you’d like to hear more from our brand experts, you have but to ask. Our in-house team, aka Mavis, have over thirty years’ experience under their belts, honed with major clients in sectors like technology, culture, retail, energy & utilities, media and non-profit.