As it embarks on a bold move into bricks-and-mortar Stephanie Smith takes a look at the history and the contemporary classic style of Keighley-based menswear company Brook Taverner.
The well-dressed Yorkshireman is wearing tweed this season, especially the Haincliffe Tweed suit by Brook Taverner. In a soft blue cloth with windowpane overcheck in camel and red, woven in Guiseley by Abraham Moon, it’s striking but certainly not loud.
For more than 100 years, Keighley-based Brook Taverner has been a best-kept wardrobe secret for discerning and dapper dressers. The brand was established in 1912 by Frank Brook and Walter Taverner, who met on a boat to Calcutta. First they sold buttons, then linings, then cloths. In 1967, as tailoring shops were on the wane, Brook Taverner decided to launch a cut, make and trim service and five years later a ready-to-wear range was born.
Now, at a time when many are constantly bemoaning the demise of the high street, Brook Taverner is ploughing its own furrow once again and placing its confidence in real shopping by embarking on a bold programme of shop openings.
“It’s fantastic to contradict the now-regular news of a gloomy high street by bucking the trend and opening new stores,” says managing director Jason Scott, who bought the company with Ben Jones and Andrew Booth in 2004. “We believe that when you establish a connection with the local community, the high street is responding better than it has done for years and we hope others will follow suit in the foreseeable future.”
Retail sales director Roger Meeke adds: “We already had three Scottish stores when a concession unfortunately went out of business a few years ago, and as they sold such a vast amount of Brook Taverner garments, we took the decision to employ knowledgeable staff and continue trading under the Brook Taverner banner.”
The success in Scotland suggested the potential for further standalone stores and 2019 saw the opening of Brook Taverner’s first stand-alone English shops in Beverley and Northallerton. “Market research told us that, when done properly – the right town, the right spot on the high street, the right market with the right customer – the landscape perhaps isn’t as bleak as it’s made out,” Mr Meeke says.
“Both Beverley and Northallerton are prime examples of a close-knit community who are big fans of their respective towns. This is something we can buy into and work in tandem with, and certainly something we hope to replicate in the future.”
The aim from January 2018 was to have 15 standalone stores by the end of 2020. “We’re now up to five and two more have now been signed and completed,” adds Mr Meeke. “Cirencester opens in February and Stamford in March. We have a list of potential locations that are being thoroughly researched so we’re confident we’ll be able to hit this target.”
The 21st century saw Brook Taverner continue to expand its cloth and wholesale departments and mail order and corporate wear divisions. Today its clothing can be found in independent menswear specialists and department stores throughout the UK and Ireland and its fabric business still supplies many traditional tailors, including Savile Row. Brook Taverner has around a dozen manufacturing factories across the world. Via its website, it offers both formal and casual menswear, including check shirts, fairisle knits, coats, ties and accessories.
The AW19 collection reflects the recent rise in demand for checked suiting. Mr Meeke says: “I think this is because of that growing desire to stand out subtly – a bit of an oxymoron I know. But it certainly feels like traditional colours contrasted with bold checks is what our customer is demanding. We have also seen a growing prominence of unstructured jackets, highlighting perhaps a growing want for a stylish jacket that is easy to throw off and on as and when is required.”
The Haincliffe Tweed and the traditional Harris Tweed collections both sell well. “There are still many who will not venture anywhere other than in tweed. After all, we live in the UK and the climate is as unpredictable as ever,” Mr Meeke adds.
The AW19 shoot took part in various Yorkshire locations. Mr Scott says: “We are extremely proud of our Yorkshire heritage. We specifically wanted to highlight the versatility of our range, which is why you’ll see shots in the Yorkshire Dales, on the beach at Filey and by Fewston Reservoir with snow on the surrounding hills, contrasted with fast-paced towns such as Harrogate.
“The menswear market can be hugely rewarding. When customers find one brand that gets it right, they tend to be very loyal and that’s why we work so hard on getting it right.”
Meanwhile, the Brook Taverner name looks set soon to become a familiar one on the high street – albeit one with which many discerning dressers are already familiar. Mr Meeke says: “I am amazed at how many people know about the business and have worn the garments. When people know where I work, they are often keen to show me their old Brook Taverner garments dating back several years, but always looking pristine and timeless.”
Brook Taverner is at High Street, Northallerton; Toll Gavel, Beverley, and at brooktaverner.co.uk.