A century-old Scotch whisky distillery and a contemporary menswear label may not seem to have much in common, but a shared passion for craftsmanship and innovation has brought Speyside whisky brand BenRiach and Edinburgh-based designer Kestin Hare together for a unique collaboration. Hare’s spring/summer 2019 collection includes a series of garments inspired by tones and textures found at BenRiach’s distillery, which will appeal to whisky fans as well as the style-minded.
Hare, whose studio is based in the Leith area of the Scottish capital, developed the capsule range alongside his summer in Speyside collection, which launched at Paris Fashion Week in June and will be available in February next year. The designer was inspired by childhood fishing trips to Speyside, and wanted to capture the essence of summers spent in the fly fisherman’s uniform of utilitarian waxed cotton. The resulting garments are typical of Kestin Hare’s pared-back style, which combines a focus on quality fabrics and detailing with a narrative-led design approach.
At the same time as he was researching the collection, Hare was approached by BenRiach, a distillery founded in 1898 and now owned by US wine and spirits giant Brown-Forman Corporation, about a collaboration that would highlight its creative approach to whisky distilling. “It seemed like a perfect fit,” says Hare while toasting the completed collection with a glass of BenRiach’s 10-year-old Curiositas peated single malt during a launch event and tasting at his Leith store. “We’re both small brands who work in an experimental way and we both believe in the importance of craftsmanship and provenance.”
The designer was inspired by the whisky, architecture and landscape of Speyside during his visits to the distillery, and in particular by the eclectic cask types used by BenRiach to produce the range and depth of flavors found in its whiskies. “I learned lots about how the whisky takes on different colors and characteristics from the various old wine, sherry and bourbon casks it is matured in,” Hare recalls. “This led us to look at dyeing some of the garments to match the different colors of the whiskies.”
Hare had already decided to team up with Scottish mill Halley Stevenson to explore the traditional technique of garment dyeing for the new collection, using machinery that had been dormant for decades since the days when the mill produced Levi’s jeans. Working with skilled technicians, his team was able to dye a new style of shop coat in two shades that perfectly match the hues of the 10-year-old Curiositas and a four-cask matured 21-year-old non-peated whisky.
Other items in the collection feature a digital print taken from a cask stored in one of the distillery’s huge warehouses. The patina of the aged wood is translated into a subtle abstract pattern resembling camouflage that works equally well when applied to a parka, pants, shorts or a jacket. The development process culminated in a photoshoot of the completed collection at the distillery. The images by photographer Laura Meek depict Scottish model Jamie Walker in the warehouse and stillhouse, with the clothing perfectly complementing the tones and textures of the casks and copper pot stills.
The collaboration between Hare and BenRiach will extend to the much anticipated moment in February when the clothes are finally available in stores around the world, from Paris to Tokyo, San Francisco and Stockholm. Visitors to Kestin Hare’s dedicated retail spaces in Edinburgh and London will be able to sample the whisky at the same time as trying on the garments, which the designer feels is an ideal way to give a new audience an insight into two of Scotland’s key industries. “We’re trying to tell an important story about the parallels between the craftsmanship involved in creating both whisky and clothing,” Hare concludes. “We hope this collection will make that story feel relevant to a younger generation, as well as our international customers.” Cheers to that.
Images courtesy of Laura Meek