Venerable fashion house Aquascutum in peril as administrator takes control

LONDON – Aquascutum, the venerable fashion brand that has been worn by prime ministers, British soldiers and Hollywood movie stars, has been placed into administration — a form of protection from creditors.

Administrator Geoff Rowley of FRP Advisory said Tuesday he hopes to find a buyer.

“We are conscious of the value of the Aquascutum brand and its long-standing heritage and because of this are keen to enter into early discussions with interested parties,” Rowley said.

The decision to put the brand into administration follows a change of ownership at Jaeger, another longtime British brand that had been united with Aquascutum under the ownership of entrepreneur Harold Tillman.

Tillman, who took control of Aquascutum in 2009, sold a 90 per cent stake in Jaeger to Better Capital on Monday to protect that brand from any fallout from Aquascutum’s problems. News reports said Better Capital paid about 19.5 million pounds ($31 million), which was said to be just slightly more than Jaeger’s accumulated debt.

Aquascutum has a factory, three stores, 16 concessions and 250 employees in Britain, and 11 international concessions.

“The senior management team have worked tirelessly to develop and build the Aquascutum brand,” the company said in a statement. “The challenging conditions in the U.K., however, have unfortunately meant that the team have been unable to successfully turn the business around which has ultimately resulted in its administration.”

The company, founded by tailor John Emary in 1851, initially made its name producing raincoats. Emary devised the name from the Latin words “aqua” (water) and “scutum” (shield).

British soldiers wore Aquascutum coats in the Crimean war of 1853-56, and the company added a warm lining to the coat issued to British soldiers inthe First World War. Aquascutum’s claim to inventing the trench coat is disputed, however, by Burberry.

Aquascutum says Humphrey Bogart and Peter Sellers wore its trench coat in films. It also claims King Edward VII, Sophia Loren, Greta Garbo, and Cary Grant among its customers and produced the British team uniforms for the 1994 Winter Olympics and the 1996 Summer Olympics.

British prime ministers Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher also wore Aquascutum coats.

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay wore clothing made from Aquascutum fabrics when they conquered Mount Everest in 1953.