Russ Gater is the co-founder of British based clothing label Heritage Research. Established in 2007, Heritage Research has quickly found itself being stocked in some of the country’s best clothes stores. Russ was kind enough to find the time to take part in this quick Q&A; discussing the past, present and future of the Heritage Research label as well as what inspires him on a personal level.
First things first, what are you wearing today? Vintage 60’s Reyn Spooner pullover hawaiian shirt Buzz Rickson’s USMC P-44 shorts Vintage 70’s Vans Surf Lovers
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in the industry. How did Heritage Research come to be? I started out selling vintage denim, military and sportswear at Portobello market in the mid 1990’s. Through this I made a lot of contacts and really took the opportunity to learn as much as I could. I was teaching cultural theory on various fine art and fashion degrees when I started working with a friend on some brand ideas. Neither of us had any formal training in garment design but this was replaced with ideas and product knowledge and now we’ve both been working in the design and fashion industry for about 10 years.
Heritage Research was started in 2007 as project essentially fuelled by our interest in historical and military garments and their application in contemporary style. Each original piece was completely handmade and sold to a few handpicked accounts in Japan. The rest you know!
Sum up Heritage Research in three words. Concept, Narrative, Quality.
What’s been your favourite Heritage Research design from a personal point of view? That’s tough – there’s a lot of pieces I like for different reasons! My favourite has to be either the Eastman for Heritage Research Roadstar Motorcycle Jacket, based on a 1940’s D pocket bike jacket or the Tokyo Tailor Jacket from the new SS12 line which is a soft tailored jacket made from this crazy Japanese double faced patchwork cotton. It’s amazing.
Initially Heritage Research was sold soley in the Japanese market but it is now also sold on British shores. Do you think this reflects a change in tastes for menswear in the UK? Definitely.
There’s been a real renaissance in the attitudes of British males toward style and clothing in these past few years. Men as a whole, I think, have become more interested in clothing whether it’s high street, designer or niche. As a result of this people have started to become more selective and are seeking out new things. As far as a lot of people are unaware of their ‘look’ becoming homogenised, there are others who really don’t want to look like everyone else. People forget that as recently as five years ago Nigel Cabourn was being sold in Debenhams at one sixth of the price! It took a real shift in the marketplace and perceptions to allow this renaissance to happen.
Shops such as Oi Polloi, End, Peggs and Son, Kiosk 78, Superdenim, Garbstore etc have all been instrumental in changing the face of mens clothing in this country and almost reintroducing the concept of quality, tailoring and classic style. Magazines like Free and Easy, Men’s File and Inventory have really helped reinforce the message and obviously blogs have played a huge part in creating an underground ‘community’ of like minded enthusiasts.
What is also interesting is the rate at which this concept has translated to the high street. The chino is now a staple in every guys wardrobe from age fifteen to fifty. Only a few years ago it would have been predominantly fifty upwards! Classic British brands are having a huge resurgence and are bringing back made in England production to their lines. It’s great but you wonder how long it will be until the next trend replaces it.
You’ve previously collaborated with a number of other brands such as Quoddy. Can we expect more collaborations in the future? And what are your thoughts on collaborations generally? I think generally collaborations are used as a means to forward a brands profile off the back of another brand, most of them seem to fall flat or look increasingly bland. Here at Heritage Research, we run a number of collaborations each season and will probably continue to do so. Unlike a lot of brands we only work with people who we are fans of. The criteria is non commercial and based around our love for their product.
For AW11 we’ve worked with Eastman Leather Clothing which is an ongoing collaboration, English jeweller Jeremy Hoye who has handmade Heritage Research’ men’s jewellery based on 40’s military and college themes and Lofgren Japan on a range of Japanese made hats and jerseywear.
What inspires you and your work? Where are your next collections headed?I’ve been collecting vintage clothing for nearly twenty years and have amassed quite comprehensive collections in the areas I’m interested in however I regularly come across stuff I’ve never seen before or something that’s just totally different. I think it’s that verve and passion that keeps the inspiration tuned plus all of our friends are enthusiasts of one form or another – whether it’s vintage surfboards, WW2 flight jackets, American Civil War uniforms, 40’s Hot Rod’s or vintage cycling – the enthusiasm is contagious and you end up learning and taking an interest in something you hadn’t considered before.
What can we expect from Heritage Research in the future? You can expect a wide variety of clothing drawn from the 19th and 20th centuries, better and better fabrics and clothing that challenges the consumer. Hopefully we go a lot of places that other brands are too scared to follow! The AW11 collection is based around two concepts; Liver Eatin’ Johnson – a real 1860’s American mountain man and JFK – the sartorially inclined ex-President. Two very different aesthetics that compliment each other.