TWR recently went to the Wolsey press day, not one we would normally have gone to, but we'd heard a rumour that the brand was giving its middleagedad look something of a makeover. Wolsey is one of the oldest brands in the world, it celebrated its 250th birthday in 2005 and made its name making unshrinkable woollen undergarments that we'd scoff at today. Long neck-to-ankle woolly jump suits that would have been jolly useful this winter (the company supplied many a polar expedition) but are a long way from the skimpy knickers we wear today. They still make lovely socks.
Being such an old lady, the brand has passed through many an owner, some better at brand building than others (we're not mad about the golf look). The period between 1920 -1950 saw some inspired graphic illustrations used to market the brand, which look like something out of an Enid Blyton novel. We completely fell in love with them and we wouldn't mind a bit of this groomed tank-top-wearing glamour back in the wardrobe of MAD. Very English-Don-Draper-ish in fact.
We chatted to the new MD, Fergus ('just call me Fergus') and asked him if he was giving Wolsey MADs a makeover . He said "Men's mindsets are changing, they might be 50 but they still think they are 30 and want well designed, comfortable but modern clothes. Wolsey has a brilliant heritage we can use, we've just engineered the clothes to make them reflect the old values of quality and detail while making them more wearable."
The presentation we saw did look good, with great merino knitwear which is still made in the UK and shirts in soft cottons and nice checks with a fabulous heritage-inspired back neck label. The story behind the brand is a great one to exploit, we have many menswear brands in the UK that have a long history, some of which have been successfully resurected and turned in global lux brands (Burberry, Pringle), but they are expensive. It would be good to see a mid market brand like Wolsey get a bit more on-trend and give stuck-in-a-rut MAD somewhere new to buy good clothes.
The revamp is happening from about August on clothes and the website will get a redesign in time (you can tell they are aiming at the men…all category driven dullness, with the heritage graphics tucked away under 'history'…a mistake! I bet it's the women buying the clothes for their men, aim it at us! ). Fergus tells us they are looking for a flagship store too, where we hope they will make it look as nice as the press day, with all the old signage and some of these lovely illustrations- all drawn while smoking was the height of cool…….