Kate Middleton’s favourite handbag designer Aspinal of London looks to shut all UK stores – so why couldn’t a brand that trades on Britishness find success at home?
- Aspinal of London is looking at plans to shut all 10 city centre stores in the UK
- Brand is loved by Kate Middleton, Zara Tindall and the Duchess of Cornwall
- But it has been ‘profoundly’ impacted by lack of footfall due to Covid-19
- Label has had more success overseas and is popular in China and the UAE
British accessories label Aspinal of London is looking at closing 10 stores across the UK as it becomes the latest retail business to be hit by the impact of Covid-19.
The brand is a favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge, Pippa Middleton and the Duchess of Cornwall, but their royal endorsement hasn’t been enough to tempt British shoppers into stores in recent months.
The business has ‘been impacted profoundly by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumer confidence and footfall,’ according to KPMG, which is advising the brand, according to the Evening Standard.
British accessories label Aspinal of London is looking at closing 10 stores across the UK as it becomes the latest retail business to be hit by the impact of Covid-19. Pictured, the Duchess of Cambridge carries the £595 Midi Mayfair bag by Aspinal of London on an engagement in 2018
The Duchess of Cornwall carries the Aspinal of London Portobello bag, now discontinued, in 2016. Right, Zara Tindall with Aspinal’s Midi Mayfair bag at Cheltenham Racecourse in January
The business has ‘been impacted profoundly by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumer confidence and footfall,’ according to KPMG, which is advising the brand. Aspinal of London is looking at closing 10 city centre stores across the UK. Pictured, a shop in London
Aspinal, which specialises in high-end leather goods like the handbags loved by Kate Middleton, was founded in 2001 by businessman Iain Burton, who co-founded now-defunct independent music label Fanfare Records with Simon Cowell.
Aspinal now employs more than 300 staff. It is unclear how many jobs would be at risk if the stores were to close.
The brand would keep its Selfridges and Harrods concessions open and its online store would also remain operational.
Despite the struggles it is facing at home, Aspinal remains popular overseas, particularly in China and the UAE, where it has a total of four stores. None of these are expected to close in the near future.
Part of the reason for its success abroad is that Aspinal has marketed itself as a quintessentially British brand that appeals to foreign shoppers who want to add a touch of refined ‘Britishness’ to their wardrobes, noted the Daily Telegraph’s Acting Fashion Editor Melissa Twigg.
The Duchess of Cambridge with the Aspinal Midi Mayfair bag in black in November 2018 in Leicester (left) and with the lilac version of the handbag in London in March 2019 (right)
The Duchess of Cambridge’s sister Pippa Middleton is also a fan of the brand. Pictured, Pippa wears an Aspinal cross-body bag for a day at Wimbledon in 2017
Among their most important clients are Chinese students studying in the UK, who have the disposable incomes to afford the pricey accessories and have also popularised the label at home.
Twigg noted: ‘It is often difficult to know why brands appeal more to customers from certain countries than others
‘But in the case of Aspinal of London, which is peddling a very particular sort of Britishness right down to its name, there is a romanticism to it internationally that hasn’t quite hit the mark for audiences at home. But with a booming market in Asia and a loyal fan in Kensington Palace, perhaps that doesn’t matter.’
The Duchess of Cambridge most recently wore her Aspinal bag in Bradford in January (left). Right, Kate Middleton chose the Aspinal bag for a visit to the Royal Opera House in 2019
The Duchess of Cambridge first carried Aspinal’s £595 Midi Mayfair bag in 2013, and has since carried the bag on several occasions in both Black and Lilac colourways.
Her sister Pippa Middleton is also a fan and owns several Aspinal bags, including the Portobello, which has now been discontinued.
The Duchess of Cornwall and Zara Tindall also count Aspinal handbags in their personal collections. Other high-profile fans of Aspinal include First Lady Ivanka Trump.
Like many mid-range labels, Aspinal has faced greater c
ompetition in recent years from high street retailers producing more affordable accessories.
Aspinal has launched a series of high profile partnerships in recent years with actress Michelle Dockery, model David Gandy and designer Giles Deacon, but it has not been enough to save the company, at least in Britain.
A very British brand: History of Aspinal of London
Aspinal of London was founded in 2001 by businessman Iain Burton, who co-founded now-defunct independent music label Fanfare Records with Simon Cowell.
At the time Burton was working alongside museums including the National Gallery, the Louvre and the Vatican as the supplier of audio-guides through his company, Antenna Audio, which he established post-Fanfare Records.
This working partnership evolved into Aspinal becoming the supplier of bespoke leather accessories and stationery to museum gift shops.
Chairman Iain Burton enlisted the expert assistance of Creative Director and Head Designer, Mariya Dykalo, who had previously worked at some of the world’s most high profile museums, including the Louvre, the Vatican and the National History Museum.
Their collective vision and joint experience elevated Aspinal from online retailer to Selfridges in London after just five years.
Aspinal prides itself on being quintessentially British and everything about the brand communicates this.
‘Aspinal’ is an Old English name originating from the countryside, referring to a copse of trees adjacent to a well. Meanwhile the logo is a coat arms, a heraldic symbol.
Aspinal has had a series of high profile partnerships. It joined forces with British supermodel David Gandy in 2018 to launch a collaboration capsule which takes inspiration from the Spitfires flown by RAF fighter pilots in WWII, pictured
The label was first seen on the arm of the Duchess of Cambridge in 2013 and has since been used by the Duchess of Cornwall, Zara Tindall and Pippa Middleton.
Aspinal has had a series of high profile partnerships. In 2016 it collaborated with British actress Michelle Dockery in 2016, launching the Dockery bag.
Aspinal joined forces with British supermodel David Gandy in 2018 to launch a collaboration capsule which takes inspiration from the Spitfires flown by RAF fighter pilots in WWII. That same year designer Giles Deacon collaborated with Aspinal.
Aspinal’s first stand-alone store in Dubai opened in 2018. The following year, in November 2019, Aspinal of London opened its first China store in Shanghai.
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