Q&A with Kestin Hare

From his brilliant Berghaus blueprints to his love of fly fishing and learning from Nigel Cabourn, we sat down and spoke to man of the moment, Kestin Hare for our latest Q&A.

Hello Kestin, how are you?

Pretty good thanks considering. My kids are back at school now, sun is shining and I can focus on the business now so things are looking brighter.

For those who may not know could you give us the background into your career to date?

I knew I had to play to my strengths and went straight into studying for a degree in Fashion & Design, and then moved to London to work for and learn from the biggest brands and designers, first job at Reiss and then ended up as Head of Design for Nigel Cabourn. It was an intense period of training where I was taught my core values: vintage research, learning about the history of garments, where they were manufactured, the function of the materials, the fit, the details, and the ultimate importance of championing UK production.

When did you first decide you wanted to become a designer?

I’ve always been interested in fashion and design, coming from a creative family it’s in my blood. Growing up, nobody was better or more well put together than my grandad Bill who ran pubs in Leith, a proper gent. When I started clubbing I realised the power of brands, everybody was buying into branded T-shirts in the early 90s. What you wore defined you, gave you confidence. I was hooked.

What inspired you to start the brand?

I knew I wanted to eventually have my own brand, and to create collections which are more than just product. When the time was right, I relocated back to my hometown of Edinburgh and took the opportunity to build my own business and vision, to produce product that stands the test of time and tells a story, weaving in references from my Scottish heritage and making them relevant for today. It’s not just about the clothes for me, I want to make sure that we are creating jobs for people in the UK, preserving and promoting craft industries and ensuring that our environmental and social impact are constantly improving. My designs are technical and functional, but also a little unconventional, and that’s me.

How did you find working with Nigel Cabourn?

Working for Nige was an amazing and really formative experience. He trained me on the importance of vintage, on manufacturing in the UK, and about selecting the best and most durable fabrics. It was an intense period of learning, and I got to work on some amazing projects with him, the Ascent of Cabourn collection was a highlight for me.

You’re very popular with customers – why do you feel you form that connection?

My customers are amazing. I’m genuinely inspired by them and what they do, and like that they appreciate my designs. So it’s a mutual relationship in that respect. I always love finding out what they do for a living, I’ve got this great customer in Holland who I’ve just found out works for a big fishing gear company, and I’m massively into fishing. So it’s nice when you find out what you have in common.

What’s the product you’re most proud of to date and why?

I’ve got a new style coming out for AW21 called the Sunderland Smock. Everyone has done a version of this WW2 US Navy Gunner Smock, but it tends to be in cotton canvas. So I’ve done a technical take and cut it from a three layer Japanese technical cloth with taped seams. It’s fully waterproof and windproof and I can’t wait to get it on.

You’ve had an incredible year, with some huge collaborations. How did the Berghaus collab come about?

Thank you. Yes the Berghaus project was a real honour. Berghaus approached me to discuss how I could bring my vision to their designs. Berghaus has produced some of the most iconic outerwear styles over the past 50 years. So it came with a lot of pressure, because everyone has an opinion on what Berghaus was and should be. But we worked closely together to bring a new dimension to the brand and built the relationship based on trust, respect and an ambition to do more. I’m really proud of what we achieved together.

What’s your favourite piece from the Berghaus Blueprint range?

It’s like trying to pick a favourite child but the Mera Peak might be my favourite out of that collection. It’s got a big reputation, so we had to do it justice, but do it differently. Picking the fabric for this was a challenge, I wanted it to have structure. The cloth we sourced is so tough and durable, a really premium Italian Nylon, the handle is like nothing you’ve felt before. We used the 2003 edition as reference and made it in the UK, just like the original.

How has COVID effected your business?

Covid has been a headache and we have taken some big knocks, but we are small and agile and have come out fighting and grown our business both online and for wholesale. Everything has been done digitally, so we have now sold two collections completely virtually to store buyers, which is mad really that we have done so well. But we have invested heavily in our own digital platform, making the experience as seamless and on brand as possible for buyers. We have also invested online for DTC and seen a huge uplift in sales. Our customers appreciate the quality and creativity we produce. That being said we can’t wait to get our store back open and see customers again, and when we can start travelling to the shows it will be amazing. We miss seeing actual people, there’s no replacement for that energy.

What’s it like having your own flagship store?

Our store is really important to us, it’s an extension of our brand and somewhere where we like to meet our customers and make them feel at home. We are a family run business so it’s important to have home from home. We are based in Leith, the port of Edinburgh which has loads of great creative companies around us and great restaurants and bars. Our studio is based upstairs so we can make sure we are close to our customers and get real time feedback on what’s working and what they want.

What interests do you have outside of fashion?

I’ve got two daughters and most of my free time is spent hanging out with them on the weekends, family is my priority. But outside of that I’m big into fishing, ideally fly fishing, I’m really missing it and hoping to go as soon as I’m able to.

I also like making things, particularly with wood. I’ve taken on a big project of making my kids a big sleeping platform with walk in wardrobes underneath. All my free time at the moment is pushing that through, I’m almost there and the girls are so excited. Bedroom of dreams.

Who are your favourite designers and why?

So many designers have inspired me in different ways. Massimo Osti and his innovation with fabrics, Junya Watanabe for his cuts and concepts, Dries Van Noten for his pattern and print. I’m also massively inspired by vintage, the cloth and the fabrication and functionality was often so well thought out.

What advice can you give to anyone wanting to channel their creativity but unsure where to start?

Creating things is satisfying, I get a lot of pleasure out of it and it keeps me calm. Now if I can’t find something I like, I try and make it myself. With all the YouTube videos out there it’s pretty easy to teach yourself to do most things. Most people look at what I do and say I couldn’t do that, but it’s just about having that mindset. My advice would be to keep experimenting and learning and push yourself to try new things. I’d always recommend doing something that makes you happy.

What life lessons have you learnt from running your own label?

Where do I start. Everyday is a school day with your own business. Seizing opportunities is so important, luck is part of it, but working hard and knowing when to push yourself to take a risk is important. But then not beating yourself up if things go wrong, which they will from time to time. That’s how you learn and then refine and grow stronger. Also building a strong team around you, that have different strengths and that you like working with, so often it’s not the work that you do, it’s who you do it with. Also partnering with like-minded businesses, no point trying to do business if your expectations don’t align.

We’re also bang into football and music here at Casual Cultures – do you have interests in both?

Absolutely. I don’t get enough time to watch football. And music is a massive part of my life. I’ve always got something playing in the background. I’ve got a great vinyl collection at home too. I can’t wait till things are open again and we can go and watch live music again, I’ve really missed that.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

Ha, bit hard to plan anything at the moment… I’m partners in a show called Welcome Edition, and we will be showing in London in July for the first time. Usually we show in Paris, but since that’s not likely we are bringing it home. Everyone is really excited to see each other again.

Finally, can you summarise Kestin in only 3 words…

Quality, creativity, functionality

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