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The British royals, young and old, are a discriminating bunch when it comes to everything from clothing and accessories to umbrellas and footwear. But even after these privileged patrons deem a brand worthy of their custom — which, in some cases, can be more valuable than a social-media star’s endorsement — a rigorous approval process is required before a vendor can be awarded the official warrant. Following are some of the House of Windsor’s most favoured favourites, some of which have been serving its members for multiple generations.
1. Henry Poole & Co
Since establishing the first tailor shop on Savile Row in 1846, Henry Poole & Co has clothed a regal roster that includes Emperor Napoleon III, Queen Victoria and a lengthy list of tsars and maharajas. The recipient of some 40 warrants, the firm might hold the record for royal recognition, according to managing director and seventh-generation owner Simon Cundey, whose ancestor Samuel took over from cousin Henry in 1876. The brand, which continues to fill the Windsor wardrobes, has held a warrant from Queen Elizabeth II since 1952.
Despite its impressive heritage, Poole’s atmosphere is comfortable rather than starchy or showy. About 1,200 suits are made there each year. “Our customers are not so much celebrities as CEOs and captains of industry," Cundey says. Nevertheless, a theatrical touch can be found in the ceremonial outfits the brand has produced for the royal family, such as the uniforms worn by the postilions riding in the procession at William and Kate’s wedding in 2011.
In contrast to its entrenched traditions, Poole is credited with some fashion firsts.
Henry Poole’s signature cut has a natural shoulder line and a waistline that actually is at the waist, not the hip. “It’s a classic, balanced look. But our principle is that the suit should always be discreet: secondary to the person."
2. J Barbour & Sons
Earlier this year, Margaret Barbour, chair of the Barbour clothing brand, revealed that in 2012 (Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee year) she offered the monarch a new Barbour jacket.
Surely, she thought, the queen’s old faithful must be a bit battered by now and in need of replacement. The queen, however, politely refused and instead requested that her Barbour Beaufort jacket be re-waxed. After all, this British perennial — just like a stately home — benefits from looking lived in.
Today Barbour sells a full range of products, from footwear to dog blankets, in 40 countries around the world.
A fifth-generation family-owned business, the brand is now better known for clothing the sporting gentry than rugged herring fishermen. Still, something about the classic waxed jacket conveys the very essence of the British countryside, making it a royal essential.
“We’re extremely proud to supply outerwear clothing to the royal household," says Steve Buck, Barbour’s managing director. “It reminds our staff that our workmanship and enduring quality are recognised by one of the highest authorities in the land."
3. Kinloch Anderson
Tartan is much more than just plaid cloth, as the people at the almost 150-year-old Highland outfitter Kinloch Anderson are pleased to inform you.
Said to be rooted in Scotland’s old clan system, tartan designs are fiercely guarded, and rogue wearers of, say, a military tartan will be severely frowned upon even today.
Kinloch Anderson is at once a modern, global firm (it even produces a whisky) and a family-held company with deep roots in its native Scotland.
The brand not only makes tartans and Highland uniforms for Scottish regiments, but also has been appointed to serve Prince Philip and Prince Charles, as well as Queen Elizabeth — whose Balmoral Tartan, by the way, should only be worn with her permission.
4. John Lobb
The noted London shoemaker John Lobb holds warrants from both Prince Charles and Prince Philip. “Our first boots were made by my great-great-grandfather," explains Nicholas Lobb, the fifth-generation scion and manager. “He moved to London from Cornwall and, luckily, in 1863 made shoes for the Prince of Wales."
The rest is cobbling history. The company’s biggest sellers include the Oxford Cap and the Double Monk. Lobb refuses to disclose which shoe the royals prefer, but Charles was fitted for his first pair of black Oxfords in 1971, and his shoes are still made using that original last.
5. Fulton Umbrellas
A recipient of one of the odder royal warrants, Fulton Umbrellas meets each season with a representative of the queen to deliver her needed umbrellas — indispensable appurtenances, given the moody British climate.
Fulton’s signature is the transparent PVC Birdcage umbrella, invented by Fulton in 1963 to shield Her Majesty from the rain while still enabling her to see and be seen.
“It was tremendously innovative at the time," says company CEO Nigel Fulton. “We worked with (fashion designer) Mary Quant and it gained lots of attention. The warrant is such an honour. We’re part of umbrella history."