Turnbull & Asser has the privilege of dressing James Bond and Prince Charles.
You’re probably already familiar with its shirts and fabric even if you may not recognise the name. Founded in 1885, Turnbull & Asser has been a mainstay in British tailoring for a little over 130 years’ now, but it is more commonly known as the shirt of choice of several iterations of James Bond, including Sean Connery and Daniel Craig.
But its storied past isn’t just limited to affairs on the silver screen, the brand has been dressing Prince Charles since his youth and was honoured with the first Royal Warrant given by His Royal Highness in 1980.
Here, we speak with Dean Gomilsek-Cole, head designer at Turnbull & Asser, about the history of the brand and what makes it special.
Billionaire: How much of your job is maintaining a brand versus pushing boundaries?
Dean Gomilsek-Cole: I’m actually the first designer Turnbull & Asser has had in 130 years. So, to be honest, there was quite a bit of pressure that went with my appointment. I think one of the things is that the heritage and the history of Turnbull & Asser is apparent to lots of people but it has lain dormant for quite a while. I needed to make it relevant to a 21st century audience. What I’ve found within the stories of the brand’s heritage is that there was always a thirst for innovation and a little bit of eccentricity. So I’ve been able to harness that idea of always creating products that cause a bit of a stir, that were of interest, that were talking points. I’ve just taken that philosophy forward.
With Turnbull & Asser’s ties to movies and the James Bond franchise, do you design with that in mind and put that into your design processes?
Obviously, working with the Bond films is a big part of our history and that’s actually part of our Legends collection, which we keep as a story in the background. However, we do have a really great relationship with cinema in general — we are often the go-to brand when people are trying to recreate a certain time period with their shirts and tailoring. Actually, how I’ve worked with Turnbull & Asser is, each season, I will kind of write a film script. And the collection becomes how we dress the characters within it. I think that cinematic influence is always present in every collection. I think that has come through the influence of the underlying Bond synergy with the brand.
What are the definitive characteristics of a Turnbull & Asser product?
It’s probably the quality. They are so many processes that could be mass produced, but we continue to use hand techniques in our sewing when we’re making our shirts. There are lots of ways to make things quicker but we prefer to take our time with a product. Originality is also key. Especially for people with high disposable incomes who are more discerning.
One of the things I am very proud of is we can produce some very limited-edition pieces that become collectibles. You can only get some of our neck ties in four pieces. Our fabrics are all unique because I design them in house and they are only available from us. With some of our shirts, there might only be 60 shirts in the whole world made in that fabric. If you start working on the bespoke side of things, they are all limited to one piece because we make shirts to a customer’s exact specifications. There are lots of luxury brands out there, but, unfortunately, they are now so big that they become mass-produced brands. Whereas, we are one of the few brands that are a luxury brand but we have that USP of being limited. It is very rare that a customer would be wearing our products and see another person wearing the same pieces. That gives our customers confidence.