The story of British leather goods specialist, Pickett, is very much the story of its founder, Trevor Pickett. Yet – despite the unmistakable whiff of the eccentric Englishman – Trevor is no megalomaniacal creative director helming his brand with a will of steel and a fist of iron, in the manner of so many of fashion’s biggest names today. In fact, he sees himself not as a designer at all, but rather as an editor. Thus, while the history of Pickett and Trevor’s own life story are inextricably intertwined, the brand’s offering is the result not merely of Trevor’s creative genius, but of collaborative curation, of an ongoing dialogue between Trevor and the world around him. “I see our product on a journey that our customers join us on because we are not pandering to them; we are supplying their needs.”
And what a journey it’s been! It’s no surprise that Trevor is able to make the subtle distinction between fulfilling needs and humouring wishes; the former is an art that he has come to master over the past (nearly) 40 years working in retail. There were early signs of success – Trevor was a prodigious talent in his first job at Army and Navy Stores, which he took up after leaving school aged only 16. He soon landed himself a job at The Unicorn Leather Company on Burlington Arcade, where he was promoted to manager after only six months. Then in 1988 came his big break: a management buyout led to the Burlington Arcade shop going on sale. Trevor saw his chance and found himself in charge of his own brand at the age of 25. Pickett was born.
Trevor’s initiative-seizing, self-starting approach is something that he carries across to his own life too, recently taking up triathlon (he is now 55). It’s this dynamism that has characterised Pickett from its inception to the present day, leading to continuous expansion and the opening of a second Pickett store on Sloane Street in 1996. “From there, I just wanted to keep on going! The most important thing I wanted to achieve from then on was longevity selling luxury made English leather goods, which – 30 years later – I believe I have done well.” There is a thoroughly British modesty about Trevor; his modesty has not come at the expense of charm. There is a reason for his humility: “I’ve never been desperately ambitious in the sense that some people focus on global domination that can compromise on integrity.” The quality of Pickett’s products has always been this editor’s primary concern, and he has never allowed hubris to cloud his vision.
This forward momentum with which Trevor has propelled his brand doesn’t, however, preclude moments of retrospect. Such was the case with Pickett’s most recent ‘Burgundy Collection’, a celebration of the brand’s 30th anniversary as a business. “The reason we have brought burgundy into the collection is because, in the mid-80’s, burgundy was the most important colour in the fashion industry. It was very much the centre colour of everything fashionable. With Donna Karan later arriving on the scene, black became the most principle colour in the 1990s, so suddenly black was the colour, particularly for women, and men tended to buy more tan.”
Trevor is like an encyclopaedia of men’s fashion; the pages of his book are packed full of past references and new ideas. This fusion of history and future, of time-honoured techniques and fresh creativity, is at the core of Pickett as a brand. “It means that our products are constantly becoming more unique to stand out in a crowded market.” This competitive edge manifests itself in the very leather from which Pickett’s products are made. The brand’s patterns are cut by hand so that prime areas of the skin are used, and the leather is then tanned to Pickett’s exacting specifications to ensure exclusivity. Only naturally tanned leather without a top surface is used, a process which is more time-consuming, but which results in the patina and richness sought by more discerning customers.
Of course, the Made in England label is also an important component of Pickett’s output. “We strive to make everything in our own leathers with our own styles and fittings, and that is what I truly love about English craftsmanship. There is no better feeling than walking down the street and identifying a product made by us because of the unique features we created for it. In a diminished market, we still buy British where we can, and its artisans stand out as only the best have survived a difficult, competitive market.” And for all his achievements, it’s this that Trevor is most proud of. “The thing the company stands for is the way we’ve managed to maintain a loyalty towards and promotion of British craftsmanship, and how we endeavour to maintain the integrity of our company. Selling British-made leather goods in today’s market is quite difficult, but it’s important that we maintain the standard that we feel is very vital to our brand.”
And why leather goods, when Trevor could have put his mind to any kind of clothing and undoubtedly have made a success out of it? “Leather is luxurious precisely for its natural beauty and its incomparable feel; it breathes and matures and evolves with its owner. Leather is the ultimate heritage material because of its long life, a well-made leather handbag that is repairable can be passed down the generations. Not great for us – as there is a lack of need of a replacement.” Here again we find that self-effacing modesty that marks Pickett’s flavour of luxury apart from conventional high fashion. “I find luxury a difficult word as, for me, it has evolved negatively. The luxury I like is a picnic on the East Coast of England – not necessarily a five-star whatever. It’s about the experience, I hope we offer an expertise and a quality that crosses over and makes for true luxury.”
How, then, can we go about emulating Trevor’s mature and authentic approach to luxury? He has some lessons for us. “Firstly, it’s evolution, not revolution, it’s taking care to give a gentle twist to a look or adding a detail, thus ensuring that the spin does not wear the wearer, the wearer wears it. There is always a danger of trying too hard at making a statement which turns clothing into costume, when it should be heightened by cut, angle, edge or flair. Pared-down and understated always calls for respect – that is not the same thing as dumbing down.”
For an exemplar we might look to Trevor’s own personal style. Trevor keeps it classic in suits that are “defiantly 80% grey plus 20% navy,” name-checking Richard James, Kilgour and Hardy Amies as examples. Simple and straightforward, he pairs his suits with Emma Willis shirts, George Cleverly shoes and a Hermes tie. But then comes the twist. “Recently,” he explains, “Converses have come into my life.” And here we have it: that injection of the new – unexpected but not unpleasant – that can really make an outfit sing. We’d suggest browsing The Rake’s Picket collection to acquire some fresh luxury of your own