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: https://sapeur-osb.de/2020/06/sapeur-osb-im-gespraech-mit-haar-scotland/
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.
What materials do you like working with?
We like natural materials such as cotton, wool and linen. Being based in Scotland, Harris Tweed is something we love and try to incorporate in a more contemporary way than the stereotype it may have become associated with. We also have used coated fabrics from Dundee based Halley Stevenson which is world renowned for its waxed cotton fabrics made famous by the likes of Barbour. We choose to champion UK fabrics where possible. Moving forward we are excited to look at more technical outerwear options and include more interesting textures and colours to the collection.
HAAR is based in Aberdeen. Sounds like working class and fishermen. Does the city influence your designs? And if yes, by what would we recognise it?
We are based in Aberdeen, It’s were we currently live, where we met and where we have begun to build a family. Our garments are certainly inspired by the incredible countryside we have at our fingertips in Aberdeenshire and we are very lucky to have the perfect photoshoot backdrop on our doorstep. However, HAAR is not so much a product of Aberdeen itself as it is of Scotland as a whole. We work with a range of people from across Scotland and the UK. Aberdeen is widely known as the Oil capital of Europe so there is a lot of wealth here but not a great deal of that appears to be put back into the local economy. The environment and the outdoors definitely influence our designs, the changeable and harsh weather in Scotland means we recognise the need for garments that perform.
If I am informed correctly, you also run your label „only“ as a project. In addition to HAAR, what fills up your days?
We currently both work full-time in Marketing and communications for local businesses. With a newborn baby, a puppy and a horse to look after, our days are already pretty full before we start with HAAR! We’re always busy, but we make time for everything. We are passionate about HAAR and hope that in the future we can build it to be our sole occupation, that said, we aren’t in any hurry and would rather build our humble brand slowly and steadily than rushing and having to compromise on quality or delivery.
E-commerce and social media are important cornerstones of a young label. And I am really very much taken with your visual language and aesthetics. Product pictures and lookbooks in the breathtaking Scottish nature appeal to me very much. What value do you place on this and how do you organise your daily routines in the HAAR office?
As much as we know the images of the beautiful Scottish countryside serve as excellent content for the purposes of social media. We really just love being outdoors and exploring in our free-time by heading out for hikes and adventures. We‘re very fortunate in that we have have so much to see and do on our doorstep. From the highlands to the coastline we don’t have to go very far to see something spectacular. Darren grew up in a town north of London, so the environment couldn’t be more radically different. Because the photos we take are from our walks which we love doing anyway we have a huge collection of images to choose from and don’t feel a pressure to get content for the sole purpose of social media. It’s part of who we are and the soul of the brand.
What are your favourite pieces from the current collection?
Darren – I am proud of the entire collection, it has taken hard work to get it to where it is and I feel each piece is executed to the best it can be. Our shirts incorporate beautiful fabrics but it is worth mentioning the fit, which in my mind is perfect. I’m also excited that the latest release of our Distiller pant, and our Camp collar shirt have had such a positive reception.
Jessica – I love our Royal Blue Ventile CPO. The colour is bright enough to stand out and catch your eye but subtle enough to wear everyday. The white buttons add a completely new feel compared with previous versions of our CPO jacket. I wore the sample out on one of our walks to give it a test drive so I am hoping it might ‘accidentally’ end up in my wardrobe!
Where can people purchase your garments from?
What plans does the brand have for the future?
Looking forward, we’ve got lots of additions to the collection lined up. We want to continue to develop the brand further and establish relationships to bring our brand to an audience that appreciates the authenticity of our designs. Continuing to improve and evolve our clothes one step at a time.
Darren and Jessica, many thanks for your time and the insights to HAAR. The last words of this Q&A are yours. Say whatever you want to say.
Thanks for the opportunity to introduce ourselves and to your readers for taking the time to learn more about our little brand. You can keep up to date with our latest news and follow our journey on Instagram: @haarscotland
Thanks, Darren & Jessica HAAR