Name: Sam Carlisle
Where’s home? I live between London and a cottage on a farm in Suffolk
Profession: Founder of and work full time for Augustus Hare
Company Name: Augustus Hare
What did you study at university? I studied theology at Edinburgh
Was it an obvious path in terms of what you would do after you left university?
Not at all really – for my last year I spent most of my time wondering what I would do when I graduated. However, as I had started Augustus Hare before going to university as a small project, and had run it concurrently with my studies for 4 years, I had often imagined what it would be like if I devoted myself to it full time. Obviously this is a risk, but I remember thinking, “I don’t have a wife, children or a mortgage. With so few anchors at this stage how much of a risk is it really?”
Exactly what is Augustus Hare?
Augustus Hare is a luxury mens accessories company. We produce things like ties, scarves, pocket squares, cufflinks and more. Almost all of our products are made by hand in the UK.
How did the Augustus Hare come into fruition?
It started because I knew someone who worked in a silk mill in Suffolk, near to my parents house. I knew that if I could get enough money to make 100 ties in interesting patterns I would be able to sell 50 to a local shop and 50 to family and friends – who are always keen to support young people in ventures like this. I managed to do that and my ties were spotted by a store in Paris. It was at that point that I looked at trying to expand the business beyond a one off project.
What were the difficulties in primarily starting Augustus Hare?
The biggest challenge when I started to expand was to find manufacturers who could produce ties and other products to the quality and price I needed, in small enough volumes. I made quite a few errors, starting to work with people believing I could change their processes to suit me. It never worked. Luckily after this much time in the industry I now have a network large enough to find out who the best people are to make any new product range.
Who did you seek advice from and who really helped you in the early stages?
My parents were an enormous support to start with, ceaselessly giving advice. My relationship with the silk mill was also crucial. They were always happy to help and suggest who could advise on a particular issue. A good relationship with your key supplier is absolutely crucial.
Did you ever think that you could not succeed?
No – I think because I wasn’t, and still aren’t, scared of failure in this regard.
How do you market Augustus Hare?
Initially we decided that we would be a wholesale business. Therefore our marketing came in the form of showing at Pitti Uomo (mens fashion week in Florence) and New York Mens Fashion Week, as well as working with agents in other countries. This was an effective way to market to shops who we wanted to stock our products. In the last four years though wholesale has changed dramatically, with shops now renting space for concessions rather than buying products. As a result we have had to focus much more on social media campaigns and email marketing direct to the end consumer.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
Our design ethos, that elegance can be bold and colourful, is unusual in the world of formal menswear. Equally, the story of how our products are made sets us apart from larger brands that rely on mass production.
What do you wish you had known then that you know now?
I wish I could have predicted the demise of wholesale – I could have focused more effectively and sooner at developing online sales channels.
What’s a typical day for you working on Augustus Hare?
Being a small business it is pretty varied and very seasonal. Weeks can be spent on the sole activity of designing the next season, to planning look books and advertising campaigns, to then travelling and selling our new collection abroad.
Have you discovered any personality traits about yourself?
Not so much of a personality trait, but I’ve discovered that I love working with individuals who have devoted a lot of their life to honing a craft. Our engraver for bespoke cufflinks, or the people who hand screen print our pocket squares, are all immensely dedicated to their skill and that is an inspiring focus to be around.
Have you had any complete disasters along the way?
I once left my bag containing my entire collection of samples and my laptop at a restaurant in New York, a couple of days before the meeting with Barney’s that I’d flown over especially for. Luckily I found it, but not before spending a hellish 24hrs wondering around the city re-tracing my steps!
What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up Augustus Hare?
From a business perspective it has to be when I responded to an email asking for a quote for 50 ties, and got a reply with an order for 1600. Its unexpected orders like that which give you a real adrenaline rush. Personally however, I have loved developing our business in Japan, which is currently our biggest market. It is an incredible country to work with, as the business culture is wildly different and always surprising.
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the fashion industry?
For mens fashion, that it is not as scary as the stereotype suggests. Indeed, most of the people I know have been in the industry for many decades and are a wonderful bunch of people. So don’t be discouraged by the misconception that fashion is a dog-eat-dog world.
From an entrepreneurial perspective, I would never set up another business by myself again – I would always find a business partner to share the stress and encourage creativity.
What do you think the next steps are for you this year?
We’re working at continually expanding our online operation. We have also started offering bespoke products to clubs and societies, which we think could be a big market for us.
What’s the dream?
To expand into a number of different accessories and work with as many incredible craftsmen as possible – it is working with them and telling their stories which is the most fulfilling part of my job.
Just for fun…
Favourite Drink: Caipirinha – although a bit cliche this was the first cocktail I drank and it reminds me of skiing trips with my father
Best Restaurant: At the moment I like Pidgin in East London
Can’t live without:The ability to escape to wild places: marshes, mountains and rivers
Please see August Hare’s various pages:
Augustus Hare Website click here
Augustus Hare Facebook click here
Augustus Hare Instagram click here