The world of fashion is often accused of being fickle. Whether this is a misappropriation of the term in relation to the endless shift of trends or a cynical description of the people who populate the industry, we're not sure. But anyone looking for a fine example of loyalty need look no further than Savile Row tailors Richard James.
Click here to see each of the 14 campaigns
Recently victorious in our Wallpaper* Design Awards for their Autumn Winter '07 advertising campaign, we wanted to highlight how much we admire the longevity of their creative partnership, so unusual in the fashion world regardless of whether it's fickle or not.
Toby Lamb, Design and Brand Director of Richard James, and photographer John Spinks have worked together for eight consecutive years, producing 14 campaigns. We took the opportunity of talking to Toby about the pairing, the campaigns and how the brand has developed into such a formidable British label in a remarkably short space of time.
How difficult has it been to establish a contemporary suit brand in Savile Row?
I started back in 1995, as a placement from my course at Central Saint Martins, working as one of four alongside Richard James and Sean Dixon, the Managing Director. We had a clear idea of what the brand was about: respecting the traditional values of British tailoring, but bringing them up to date with a more modern accent.
How did you go from work placement to Design and Brand Director in such a short space of time?
Well when I graduated I was offered a full time job, helping in the shop as well as working with Richard on the collections. In 2000, after we'd moved to our current location at 29 Savile Row, Richard suggested we do an advertising campaign, which I then art directed. And things have just developed each year from there; we're now a company of around 25.
Why did you decide that John Spinks was the right photographer for your first campaign back in 2000?
Until then all the press had been through word of mouth and supportive magazine editorial. We'd met John when he came to shoot Richard's portrait for a piece in Stern magazine and got on well with him. So when we came to looking for a photographer I got back in touch with him. I had an idea of what we were after in the first campaign and I felt John understood this. Following the success of this, we continued to use him.
Do you feel it's a successful creative partnership then?
Very much so. We both understand what we want to achieve and having worked together for eight years now on a total of 14 campaigns I feel we've developed a certain style that complements and reflects the Richard James brand.
How do you feel the adverts reflect the brand identity?
The definitive style we've developed avoids showing any of the models' faces. We don't use big name models unlike so many other fashion campaigns. Both these elements keep the look very anonymous and avoid making our label ageist in any way too. We like to keep the styling as minimalist as possible, so often it's not even about the product. We're keen to stress that the adverts aren't just about selling products but about creating beautiful images that people will stop and look at.
There's a certain ambiguity to a lot of the images too.
Indeed, like in the Autumn/Winter '07 campaign with the model against the red background, where we wanted to leave it unclear as to what might have happened. People don't know whether he's just falling or perhaps he's been shot. It's these sorts of scenes and situations that we hope will make people think rather than just look and I think this is why there's quite a cultist element to the campaigns.