Simon Holloway Swerves Tradition, Shows His Debut Dunhill Collection at London Fashion Week

LONDON — Dunhill’s new creative director Simon Holloway has chosen a predominantly women’s fashion showcase to unveil his debut menswear collection, and while the choice may seem unusual, there’s a logic to it.

Holloway, who took up his role last April, wants to swing the spotlight onto British luxury menswear once again. Despite a host of thriving brands and businesses on and around Savile Row, there’s no longer a menswear fashion week here. So what better place to make a splash than London Fashion Week?

“It’s important to reclaim the mantle of exquisite British menswear because it’s been a bit absent,” Holloway said in an interview.

“The world references British menswear in their design work, whether it’s heritage in color, typology of fabric or even the codes of classic menswear — it really does derive from an English construct. To celebrate that in a really handsome way will be wonderful,” he added.

Archive dunhill Compendium

Archive Dunhill Compendium

Courtesy of Dunhill/Jeff Boudreau

Since joining the 131-year-old British house, which is owned by Compagnie Financière Richemont, he’s been attempting to create a strong visual language for Dunhill by way of activations and campaigns that accent British style and craftsmanship.

Holloway is familiar with many aspects of British style, and his background has stretched across women’s and menswear, accessories and footwear. He arrived at Dunhill after a brief stint as creative director of James Purdey & Sons, the famed gunmaker and outdoor clothing provider that is also part of the Richemont stable.

He is British, based in London, and studied fashion design at Kingston University School of Fashion. He is known for his soft touch, luxury fabric and leather expertise, and ability to work across ready-to-wear, footwear and accessories.

Before joining Purdey, Holloway served as creative director of Agnona, and has spent a career in fashion and luxury, holding senior creative roles at brands including Hogan, Jimmy Choo, Narciso Rodriguez and Ralph Lauren.

Close-up of archive dunhill car coat

Close-up of archive Dunhill car coat

Courtesy of Dunhill/Jeff Boudreau

He said his priority is “to retell the tale of Dunhill, and it’s a tale that a lot of people don’t really know. Dunhill started with all things automotive. And there was an exploration of outerwear such as the original car coats that were made in the early 1900s.”

“Sporty tailoring” was Dunhill’s path into ready-to-wear, and early styles were inspired by English aristocrats’ love of driving.

In the archives, Holloway found driving coats and jackets made from leather and sometimes tweed, which he used as inspiration for the fall 2024 collection.

He’s unpicked those early designs, and recreated them for the 21st century, giving them a lighter and more contemporary spin.

Archive dunhill car coat circa. 1900

Archive Dunhill car coat from 1900.

Courtesy of Dunhill/Jeff Boudreau

The silhouettes, Holloway said, feel “quintessentially English,” but they won’t be produced in a way that’s heavy and old fashioned. “They are more in line with how men dress today while accounting for the depth and heritage [of fabrics] that Dunhill clients are accustomed to,” he added.

In a further salute to British history, Holloway’s show will take place at the National Portrait Gallery’s Duveen wing, which was opened by King George V and Queen Mary in 1939.

“I really wanted to show the collection in a quintessentially British environment, and not in a stuffy old club on Pall Mall with all the unfortunate trappings of empire that nobody wants to look at, or be associated with,” the designer said.

The National Portrait Gallery, which opened in 1856, felt like the right fit for Holloway for other reasons, too. He believes the institution has been addressing “the problematic history that exists in the country” without losing its historical or aesthetic value.

dunhill Bespoke Leathe

Dunhill bespoke leather

Courtesy of Dunhill/Jeff Boudreau

He also believes the newly refurbished gallery is a “reflection of the society in which we live in today” as it shines a light on artists, writers and architects throughout history.

“Most of the artwork in these rooms celebrates creativity. The subject matter of the galleries is much more of a positive message than stuffy ‘lord so and so,’” Holloway explained. 

That said, he’s hoping the backdrop of paintings, gilded frames and padded silk walls doesn’t give anyone the wrong impression.

“I’m not trying to create some kind of period costume drama,” he said, adding the collection is “very much intended for a man of today.” 

dunhill Bespoke Tailoring

Dunhill bespoke tailoring

Courtesy of Dunhill/Jeff Boudreau

In the collection, he will be offering Dunhill’s three degrees of tailoring: ready-to-wear, made-to-measure and bespoke — as one singular vision on the runway.

Dunhill’s tailored clothing, he said, is a big business.

“We have a very strong and loyal clientele internationally with significant business in made to measure and bespoke in the U.S., Japan and China, and here at home too,” the designer said.

“We find that our tailoring sales are in double-digit growth. There is high demand for both ready-to-wear tailoring, made-to-measure orders and bespoke,” he added.

dunhill MTM Shirting

Dunhill made-to-measure shirting

Courtesy of Dunhill/Jeff Boudreau

A spokesperson for the brand said Dunhill is not feeling the impact of the global luxury slowdown, with “increasing sales year-on-year, both in the West and in Asia.”

As reported, the business restructured its operations in 2022 with a reinforced focus on “classic style, masculine elegance and a sense of Britishness.”

The brand recently closed its store next to the Royal Academy due to the landlord’s redevelopment of the building. As a result, Dunhill’s focus over the next 18 months will be on its member’s club and global flagship that sit right next to each other on Davies Street in Mayfair.

Bourdon House has had an interiors refresh, as well as an updated and developed “experience” that aims to draw customers into the Dunhill universe. There is an in-house tailoring team on hand for the brand’s rtw, bespoke and made-to-measure offerings. There is also a discreet VIP space, barber shop and Alfred’s Café.

Alfred Dunhill

Alfred Dunhill

Courtesy of Dunhill

Holloway said he’s ready to use Bourdon House as a laboratory to test his ideas and innovations, similar to founder Alfred Dunhill’s approach.

When he took the job, Holloway described the house’s founder as “a pioneer, an innovator and one of the most influential British tastemakers of the 20th century. His obsession with ingenuity and refinement established a house synonymous with purposeful luxury and quality — an enduring and powerful inspiration.”

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