We sit down with Nick Brooke, CEO of classic luxury men’s & women’s clothing brand Sunspel based on Marylebone’s Chiltern Street.
What is the story behind Sunspel so far?
Sunspel has had a long history in British manufacturing spanning generations. We’ve been making our quality wardrobe essentials since the 1860s when Thomas A Hill originally founded it. Hill’s expertise in importing high quality fabrics led to the manufacture of luxurious undergarments to be sold across the British Empire from his base in Long Eaton, Nottingham. The factory still stands today, where we produce a lot of our garments.
At what point did you become a part of Sunspel?
I took on Sunspel in 2005 with my business partner Dominic Hazelhurst. We’ve had a long-standing relationship with the brand, having worn it myself for years. It was through a personal connection with the family that we were able to buy the company from Thomas A Hill’s great grandson Peter Hill, who at the time was looking for buyers to maintain the brand and keep the Long Eaton factory open.
What is the biggest challenge for Sunspel as a brand?
Simply put, staying relevant. When I acquired the brand, I was concerned it was too old-fashioned and stuck in tradition. The brand had numerous positive assets, including products that were unique, fabric development and an unrivalled history in manufacturing. Sunspel was one of the first brands to bring the boxer short to the UK in 1947, which is fantastic, but the challenge is to take that history, that reputation for superior craftsmanship and turn it into something that is relevant for the contemporary audience. In the last ten years I hope we have revitalised it, whilst never forgetting Sunspel’s founding principles. Making subtle improvements on fit and quality of fabric.
It’s that attention to the principles that has allowed us to take the company forward by modernising it very slowly.
Of your products, which is your personal favourite?
Whilst I’m inclined to say they’re all excellent, I think a stand out of ours would have to be the Riviera polo. The polo itself is one of the styles I reach for day in day out. Much like a lot of our products it has a great story behind it. Peter Hill, grandson of Thomas Hill, originally developed the unique mesh fabric in the 50s. We then updated it in 2006 as a shirt to be worn by Daniel Craig in his role as James Bond in Casino Royale. Since then the polo continues to be one of our most popular styles.
Why did you choose to open a store in Marylebone?
When deciding where to set up shop, we always look for streets that show great potential. They’re usually less established streets that we feel not only represents us as a brand but also where we’re going. Chiltern Street was no different. It has a distinct character within the city, with a healthy mix of residential and commercial properties. It’s this mix that makes Marylebone so unique, and right for us. It’s a particularly interesting time for Marylebone in general and its rise in prominence has been exciting to watch.
Growth. We’re constantly looking to the future and how we can increase our presence, and innovate both in fabric and fit. We also have some great developments for the brand in the near future so make sure to keep a look out.
Where do you go to get away from work in the area?
Blandfords café on Chiltern Street is a poorly kept secret, but the cafe has always been a great spot to pick up excellent coffee. A lovely Italian family who deliver exceptional service with warmth runs it. Drop in for their Tiramasu, which can’t be beaten.