Old school with a whimsical twist encapsulates the contemporary classic brand Pickett and its owner, Trevor Pickett. Trevor is a self-made force of design and retail, with an eye for detail and quality and a quintessentially English disposition towards eccentricity, enthusiasm and exuberance, which demarcates Pickett from other brands.
Trevor Pickett has taken a traditional luxury leather goods business, where he worked at the tender age of 17, into the 21st Century. Throughout his ownership, Trevor has always retained the business’ roots of British craftsmanship, combining tradition and authenticity with a little of the exotic, ‘editing’, as he calls it, to produce collections that embody classic style and design and materials to ensure evolution and longevity.
Having relocated to Burlington Gardens just over a year ago, Trevor has expanded his eclectic emporium, which unfolds in front of the customer, revealing, room-by-room, the perfect mix of classic and contemporary gifts and essentials in a cohesive collection that represents understated luxury. Provenance and integrity is brought together with traditional service and attention to detail.
We are lucky enough to learn a little more about how the journey from Benfleet to Belgravia has shaped Trevor Pickett and, in turn, his eponymous business into a subtle and quietly exclusive brand. Here, Trevor Pickett explains his passion for old school quality with a dash of the whimsical…
Firstly, for those readers who aren’t familiar with Pickett, please can you tell us about the company?
Pickett remains one of the last bastions of luxury English goods, representing an authentic artisanal offering for almost thirty years. Being quintessentially English with a sense of the whimsical and eccentric, the shop retains a unique experience which embodies so much of the brand’s success and individuality.
I started work in luxury retail at a leather company in the Burlington Arcade at the age of 17. After eight years, I was offered a management buyout so bought the business to create Pickett. With over three decades of experience in the retail industry, I – together with my brilliant team – have worked hard to develop the brand into one that is now known for exquisite gifts. At the same time that the Burlington Gardens negotiations were taking place, at the end of 2013, the small shop adjacent to the existing shop on Sloane Street became available. The additional space at Sloane Street meant that for the first time there was room to display men’s products properly. This, combined with the completion of the Cadogan Estate development across the road, means that for the first time the customer who shops on the King’s Road and Sloane Street now has the space to enjoy a complete Pickett experience.
Having moved from the Burlington Arcade in March 2015, and expanding the Sloane Street location, Pickett has entered a new era, one which, as a winding warren of rooms, its reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland and has a “reveal sensation” as you walk through it. There is an ability to showcase the products using the added space, in both stores, so the pieces have room to breathe. All the elements of our retail approach are focused on giving the customer an experience and we hope it’s memorable and original, remaining authentic in our service and quality of our product.
What does the Pickett brand represent?
Pickett represents understated luxury, where the price tag reflects the quality and care in creating the item, with consideration for materials and styling.
Pickett has traditionally been known as a small leather goods company. Is that still true today?
Pickett is known for being one of the last bastions of prominently British-made product for the discerning customer. In addition to being a destination for handmade leather goods, Pickett also offers delights beyond its product chiefly made in England. The brand is quirky, with pashminas, jewellery and Kilim slippers adding a dynamic of a “bustling souk in the Kazbar” and a feel of sophisticated worldly treasure that is inherently traditional.
Is there a typical Pickett customer?
The Pickett customer wants something that expresses their individual confidence – that is quietly exclusive and reflects their personality. They don’t need to hide behind excessive branding.
You have described yourself in the past as an ‘editor’ rather than a designer of products. What do you mean by this?
When working with classic products, a brand must be mindful of refreshing and rejuvenating the stock. There needs be a natural evolution. Product is not created on a whim. There must be an editing process, for longevity is essential for the company and the customer’s integrity.
What was the catalyst for establishing Pickett, back in 1988, and how did the opportunity come about?
My love for retail began quite possibly from the age of being able to walk! Working behind the counter at my parent’s bicycle shop in Essex was, undoubtedly, where I developed a passion for genuine British manufacture and the bespoke market. My father was adamant that his shop only sell British bikes with few components from abroad, which were very specialist. This emphasis on seeking out the best of British manufacture obviously had a profound effect going forward. Leaving comprehensive school at 16, I started at the Army and Navy stores management straining course. I had already begun to feel the pull of a more rarefied, glamorous world. A year after at A&N, I was offered a job in a leather shop in the Burlington Arcade, selling a very basic product, and became the manager at 18 years old. At the age of 25 I took over the business and Pickett the retail emporium was born!
What do you look for when curating new pieces for your stores, and is it instinct or experience that tells you what will work or not?
A cocktail of instinct and experience makes for good judgement on what a customer wants. Being at the rock face, and an integral part of the staff and customer experience, allows one to understand the customer’s needs. It influences the natural evolution of product –it’s not thrusted upon them. Instead the customer is taken on a journey, becoming an integral part in the decisions of the brand.
You proudly state that all of your leather goods are made in England, from start to finish, which is a real commitment to British manufacturing when many other companies have outsourced production to cheaper locations. Why is the provenance of your product so important to you?
There is a strong, edgy, rawness to UK product, with a finesse that cannot be replicated with a craftsperson of a different provenance. There is minimal influence from abroad, and only when there is no skill base or machinery to produce that element of the product. This must be kept to a manageable percentage, otherwise the product would not reflect the ethos of the company USP, also risking the product’s overall cohesive look. It is quite apparent when a company flies a Union Jack and bears an English name but the product looks cheap. A lower price means a higher margin but it deceives the customer. Discerning customers would not be duped with such duplicity.
Given that Pickett products are made by small artisanal workshops and individual craftsmen from all around the country; how do you ensure the quality and consistency of the range of Pickett goods?
Craftspeople have a commitment to what they produce. They work with a brand for years. We work closely with our suppliers and craftsmen and women, resourcing the finest leather that is meant to be individualised. The handle is cohesive as the product has a quality that is matched across the collections and gel in store to make an overall picture that is not repetitive. The offering gives the customer greater choice.
People shop at Pickett because they love the products. They are not interested in buying a “brand” but recognise our ever-lasting commitment to quality and design.
You offer a bespoke service which is quite unusual; what prompted you to start doing this and can you explain how it works?
The Bespoke Service is an integral part of the Pickett identity, with the Leather Library in Burlington Gardens. It allows the company to exhibit 30 years of a back catalogue of leathers that had never previously been on display. The service takes the client from the start of the process, selecting the leathers and discussing design, to the final product that is a unique piece individual to their commission. I am often asked what luxury is. It is having the ability to create something utterly and completely yours that embodies your style and spirit. It is not about money or opulence, it is individuality and self-confidence, which no one else can replicate. That is what we strive to give at Pickett, especially in a world where services like this are diminishing.
Pickett is quite old school, in that the name on the shopfront actually matches that of the person behind the counter. And customers can actually get the opportunity to know you-the person behind the name- which is quite rare in this era of anonymous global brands. Do you get a sense this is a touch anachronistic, or do you genuinely feel this is the way luxury retailing should be in Britain?
It is obvious when brands are created around a name of something it isn’t, similar to a pub in Clerkenwell or a jar of pasta tinted with rosemary in an inauthentic trattoria.
It is hugely important to me that I have a presence in all areas of the business. However, it can be quite energy–consuming to be “on the retail stage” when the curtain goes up at 9am and goes down at 6:30pm. It takes energy to create excitement in a mise-en-scene and, by the end of the day, exhaustion sets in.
After all is said and done, quality comes from authenticity, and pretending to be something other than you are eventually results in strain and a forced sense of reality, which again, to a discernible customer, is recognized.
If it’s fake, quality will suffer and a vital element of luxury service is missing.
Finally what plans do you have for the future?
With the excitement of the last year and our relocation to Burlington Gardens, customer profiling has become a greater priority. With the increase in foot traffic along Burlington Gardens, Pickett’s customer base has expanded, which has led for a greater need to revaluate and target our new audience. We want to capture the excitement of the brand and showcase our ever-evolving and fresh product offering.
In addition, we are now taking a more targeted approach, particularly online. With the launch of our new website – a project that has been easier said than done – we are looking forward to maximising our product offering for greater exposure. We are currently expanding our luggage range, reverting to how it was when we first started selling luggage (although back then prices ranged from £225 to £2000). Now, it’s less of a price difference as the way people travel has changed. Customers want lighter, less-constructed holdalls or carry-ons so our luggage collection now retails from £325 to £950. We also see this as a good introductory price for the aspiring younger customer base.
Thanks to Trevor Pickett for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. All images courtesy of Trevor Pickett.