Hamilton & Hare, the upscale menswear business based on London’s Chiltern Street, is gearing up to celebrate its 10th anniversary next year. Despite its discreet nature, the brand has managed to garner attention from affluent and discerning global shoppers through the power of word of mouth. Olivia Francis, the brilliant mind behind Hamilton & Hare, founded the brand with a simple yet profound idea – men’s underwear was in dire need of improvement. Determined to make a change, she embarked on a journey to create a successful brand.

Step 1: The lightbulb moment
Olivia Francis, who had an advertising background and a keen interest in brand resonance, noticed that men’s underwear was often neglected and underappreciated when compared to the advancements in women’s lingerie. With the rise of men’s grooming and menswear, Francis saw an opportunity to fill this gap in the market and create a brand specifically focused on men’s underwear.

Step 2: Get some backing
Venturing into a new industry can be financially challenging, but Francis took a leap of faith and left her advertising career to pursue her vision. Luckily, one of the founding partners at M&C Saatchi, where Francis previously worked, became one of her first investors, providing the necessary capital to kickstart Hamilton & Hare.

Step 3: Develop the products and find the USP
Believing that quality should be at the forefront, Francis set out to create a high-quality product that went beyond being just another fashion brand. Through extensive research, she discovered that the design of the boxer short had not seen any significant updates since the 1920s. To address this, Francis collaborated with a Savile Row tailor to modernize and improve the functionality of the boxer short, introducing tailored details that made it suitable for modern-day wear.

Step 4: Get the manufacturing right
Manufacturing can often present challenges for new brands, but Francis was determined to ensure the highest quality for her products. She opted to work with small-scale suppliers to maintain transparency in the manufacturing process. While her initial intention was to produce everything in the UK, she found that Portugal offered skilled workers and the necessary machinery to bring her vision to life. Furthermore, Portugal’s robust textile manufacturing infrastructure, supported by the government’s investments, made it an ideal choice.

Step 5: Reach your customers
One of the biggest obstacles for small brands is reaching their target customers, as men’s underwear is not a highly visible or frequently discussed product. However, once customers tried Hamilton & Hare’s products, they quickly recognized the superior quality and became loyal supporters. To this day, word-of-mouth remains a significant driver of the brand’s success.

Step 6: Diversify
While men’s underwear remains a core component of Hamilton & Hare’s sales, the brand has expanded its product range to include daywear, nightwear, holiday clothing, loungewear, and gifts. Throughout these expansions, Hamilton & Hare continues to prioritize creating simple yet exquisitely designed wardrobe staples using only the finest fabrics.

Step 7: Don’t panic
Like many businesses, Hamilton & Hare faced challenges during the pandemic. However, thanks to its robust online presence and focus on loungewear, the brand managed to weather the storm. Navigating supply chain issues and the complexities of Brexit added additional hurdles, but Hamilton & Hare remained resilient and maintained a strong EU business.

Step 8: Think big but be realistic
Despite being a relatively small business, Hamilton & Hare has successfully attracted international customers. Not only does the brand entice American tourists to its London store, but it also sells through Mr Porter in the US. With plans to open more stores, Francis stresses the importance of selecting the right locations. Furthermore, Hamilton & Hare aims to continue building its product range for its loyal customer base, all while maintaining a cautious and deliberate approach to growth.

Ultimately, the success of Hamilton & Hare can be attributed to its unwavering commitment to creating exceptional products, understanding the needs of its target customers, and building a brand rooted in quality and authenticity. As the brand approaches its 10th anniversary, there is no doubt that its future is bright and filled with promise.

Useful links:
Hamilton & Hare Official Website
Mr Porter