Westfield Presents: Ben Sherman

From the proto-prep mods of the 60’s to the punks of the 70’s, Ben Sherman’s history is rooted in the evolution of London’s most influential counter cultures. Starting out five decades ago, the label established itself amongst the circles of the city’s most leftwing and alternative youths. It’s this particular link to youth culture that has led to the brand’s lasting global success. We recently caught up with Ben Sherman’s National Sales Manager Tom Firth about the label’s musical influences, its cross-generational appeal, and their inspiration behind their latest AW11 collection.

The Ben Sherman brand has always been inextricably linked to music. What kind of music can we expect to hear in store at Westfield and how does that relationship define the brand? Since its inception 48 years ago Ben Sherman has been the choice of musicians, bands and vj’s and dj’s. From mods (of course) to skinheads, punks, Brit pop kids, rockers, indie kids, clubbers – you name it. It’s because Ben Sherman has, and always will, represent a counter culture. It’s an understanding between wearers that they think alike – by thinking differently. The music you’ll here in store will reflect this. It’s a moving menu of music. It will be quality and it will be cutting edge. Loads of new bands coming out of the UK and the USA mainly and then some classics.

Why do you think Ben Sherman has been around for 5 decades? What has lead to its lasting success as a youth culture label? Why do new generations keep coming back? Like all classics – Ben Sherman is timeless. It’s history lies in the youth culture of Carnaby Street and the Kings Road. These places still attract the sartorially elegant and the bright young things. The Ben Sherman shop on Carnaby is testament to its enduring relevance to this culture. And of course the Ben Sherman shirt itself is an icon of youth culture crossing over generations.

While Ben Sherman is an institution of British style, what makes it global in its appeal? British Style is timeless and it endures. British youth culture is a global phenomenon so it’s natural that we have an international appeal.

What inspired the AW11 collection? The collection focuses on the nostalgia of the humble camping trip, evident in the use of compact twills, coated fabrics and purposeful details, designed to function. These feature heavily across a range of traditional outerwear styles, made contemporary through styling, fabrication and the confident use of block colour. Key pieces are a stunning quilted hunting jacket is given a shawl collar to offer a refreshing new take on this wardrobe essential, and a traditional dry waxed anorak also features. A lightweight nylon parka with a subtle fishtail and the Mod staple of the Harrington jacket offered in waxed, laundered and check options, complete the offering.

Shirting features laundered fabrics and cotton chambrays in an array of bold and colourful options. Brushed checks, the country in winter, adds a twist to an offering of traditional ginghams and a reworked Oxford shirt, featuring a micro button-down collar and slimmer silhouette. A floating colour pallet of red, white and blue is also prevalent throughout the range.

The classic chino is given a new fit with a relaxed carrot leg shape and a drop-crotch. Lightweight Merino wool knits are worn over Oxford shirts and a deconstructed blazer in denim chambray and more utilitarian style in cotton twill offer a smart casual option to finish the look. Layering is key and a double breasted style in lightweight shirting fabric provides the perfect sartorial solution for the warmer evenings.

We noticed you have a blog affiliated with your website. As technology is changing, how important is it for companies to harness the power of blogging? It’s essential. More and more, consumers will not be told what to wear and what to buy and nor should they be! Blogging helps people make their own choices when it comes to representing themselves and their own personal style. It also allows friends and trusted groups to test run looks and products for them. It’s all about choice and empowerment and we are all for that!

How else has the Ben Sherman brand engaged with new media? We’ve tried to make it as easy as possible to get involved with Ben Sherman on-line and digital applications. The key is to keep it simple and keep it clean. We know that Ben Sherman buyers are pretty tech savvy but also have lives. We don’t want to take away from that so our on-line strategies reflect this understanding.

Who are Ben Sherman’s ultimate male and female style icons from today or decade’s past? Plan B, The Streets, Damon Albarn, Lily Allen, Kate Nash, Alison Goldfrapp, Roisin Murphy, Roots Manuva, The Gorillaz, Mark Ronson and Sam Sparro.

Who is the Ben Sherman guy/girl? The Ben Sherman guy is young. Knows his tunes, a bit of a man about town and loves a good party. Prioritises looking good and cares about his appearance – making sure he feels cool, not contrived.The Ben Sherman girl is a confident, one of the boys. Really knows her own way and is not wildly concerned with fashion fixes – more with looking good. She has interests other than what the magazines tell her. She is contemporary and cutting edge.