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HAAR Q+A with Sapeur

Sapeur is an independent German blog which is passionate about football and casual culture. Sapeur is dedicated to the lifestyle and way of dressing which is inspired by terraces and British subcultures.

Sapeur - One step beyond recently to the time to ask us some questions, you can read the full interview here:

Those who have been following us for a longer time, know that we always like to present small independent labels. HAAR from Scotland joins in here and shows a timeless classic menswear, which I am very fond of. Clean Looks inspired by Scotland’s wild nature and all produced regionally. 

The young label of Darren & Jessica from Aberdeenshire caught my attention because of their excellent shirts, the CPO overshirts (from a dry-wax ripstop among others) and the great feed on their Instagram page.  We talked to both of them about problems with producers, their careers in the fashion industry, the beautiful landscape around Aberdeen and of course about the styles and inspirations for their label HAAR, which they run as a sideline project by the way. I think that makes it all the more exciting and now I wish you a lot of fun with the Q&A!

Hi Darren, hi Jessica, it´s great to have you with us. Could you please short introduce yourself to our reader?

We are a husband and wife duo and the founders of HAAR, a menswear brand based in Scotland. We met each other at Art School and after following separate paths in Marketing and Fashion Retail, we decided to take the step to create a brand of our own and pursue something we are truly passionate about. We started to build the brand in 2016 and launched our first collection in AW18. 

A HAAR garment is hand-crafted in Scotland with care and attention. It is made from the finest quality materials from Mills who share our core values and beliefs. We are passionate about the entire process of manufacture, working closely with our suppliers to ensure materials are of the highest quality with absolute transparency in our practice.

Did you have experience in the industry before you launched HAAR?

Darren – before starting HAAR, I worked in a couple of Menswear retailers in Aberdeen: Attic clothing and Kafka Mercantile. These afforded me with a great insight into the industry and a lot of hands-on experience with some of the best clothing brands from around the globe. I worked in a marketing role for both of these companies and was able to use my time there to really learn about the clothes we were selling, the brands, and the stories behind them.  Jessica – I work in a creative marketing role for a global diving equipment company, a completely different industry, but one which has given me a wide range of skills which have been essential while building a business. I also modelled for over ten years across the UK for a wide range of local and global brands and retailers including Elizabeth Martin, Harvey Nichols and Ralph Lauren. This gave me a unique insight into brand positioning and showcasing.   

Could you explain a bit about the history of the brand?

HAAR was founded while I was still working at Kafka in our spare time. We would spend our days working and then long evenings gradually building a brand. Everything from designing our first collection to building our website, sourcing materials and developing all of our supporting material. We made some mistakes along the way, most small, but one a bigger mistake that held us back a for around a year by working with a manufacturer that over promised and couldn’t deliver. This unfortunately it had a detrimental effect on the early days of HAAR and we ended up in a lengthy legal battle in order to recover our lost investment and materials. We now work with incredible tailors, seamstresses, manufacturers and makers who have restored our faith in the industry. 

It has been a long road but we are now at a point that we are beginning to gain some traction and its very exciting. Our website attracts customers from around the world and we secured our first stockist last year in Japan. We have had a successful start to SS20 despite the Covid crisis so we are feeling positive about the future. 

What has been the most important lesson learned since you launched the label?

This has got to relate to the previously mentioned incident. This was a hugely stressful time for us and not the best start, but we came out the other side and learned a lot of lessons along the way. 

Developing good relationships is key. This has to be done slowly and in stages so trust can be built and both parties can ensure all expectations can be fulfilled without loss on either side. Maybe the saying don’t put all your eggs in one basket is apt here. We were perhaps a little naive in the beginning and trusted someone who had all the credentials and accreditations but ultimately they were not equipped to do any of what they stated. I would also add that it is important to have everything in black and white. In the end it was vital to our case. 

It is important to learn from mistakes, not held back by them. Since our initial hiccup, we have worked with some fantastic people which prove that by learning and persevering, you can find genuine people who are a pleasure to work with and you can trust.

What is your main inspiration in designing clothes?

HAAR clothes must always be constructed expertly and use excellent quality materials. We believe it is also our responsibility to be as sustainable and transparent as possible. We work with local makers and artisans; not because there are not excellent manufacturers and craftspeople elsewhere, but because by working with people in a closer proximity we can have better communication and be involved in the manufacturing process throughout. It’s important to us that the people we work with are paid a fair wage and are covered by regulations which the workers in some countries are not. We also want to champion UK manufacturing, an industry that has struggled to compete with cheap labour in the Far East.

Why did you name your brand HAAR and for what does it stands for?

HAAR is a local word for the thick sea-fog which can be found in the North-east of Scotland (where we are based and Jessica was born). The word has deeper meanings to us but aside from those, as a word, it has a symmetry and looks visually pleasing. It’s impactful and stands on its own. 

The first heartbeat. If I am right the first garments you presented on your Instagram were an overshirt and a Grandad collar pop-over shirt. How long was the way from planning to the realisation? 

We originally started with a standard button-down shirt, a grandad collar version and an overshirt. We had designed a far bigger collection but as mentioned before due to the circumstances we found ourselves in, everything was held back. So the answer to the question is honestly, far too long. If everything had have gone smoothly we believe our first collection would have been ready in approximately six months, in reality we found ourselves without materials, money, or a trustworthy manufacturer and this held us up a lot longer. We have never been financially backed by any investor, and everything has been organic. It’s a harder route to take for sure, but we feel we have learned so much from the experience and are now in a good place.