DAKS is a heritage British luxury fashion house, founded in 1894 by Simeon Simpson. The S Simpson brand became famous for its high quality ready-to-wear tailoring and later the patented self-supporting trouser design known as the DAKS trouser in the 1930s - the first self-supporting trouser in the world when the use of braces and belts were more common. Also renowned for its quality tailoring and iconic house check, the brand continues to produce high quality clothing with three Royal Warrants, selling in over 30 countries in more than 2000 shops, with strong recognition in the Far East it has become the number one non-domestic label in Korea. The label currently shows its menswear collections in Milan and womenswear collections at London Fashion Week. Since 1991, the company was acquired and has become a subsidiary of Japan listed company SANKYO SEIKO CO., LTD.(TYO:8018)
In 1894 Simeon Simpson, aged 16, rented a room on Middlesex Street, East London, with the intention of setting up a business in bespoke tailoring, focused on high standard craftsmanship. Several innovations of technology at the time were being introduced with machinery capable of making buttonholes and electric powered saws to cut many layers of fabric at once – Simpson saw the potential for such equipment for producing garments in higher quantities while still upholding quality tailoring techniques, aiming to improve ready-to-wear standards as no male or female professionals considered ready-to-wear for suitable attire at the time. Simpson’s methods proved successful in speeding up the process and he set up several factories within London, which soon required expansion in its early years through popularity of the label.
Alexander Simpson, his second son, joined the business aged
15 in 1917, and by 1929 had planned
and opened a larger factory in Stoke Newington where production could be
centralised, this again had to be enlarged a few years later.
20th century – DAKS and Simpsons Piccadilly
With the continued growth of the company Alexander Simpson began to take more control of the business, and in 1935 DAKS gained further fame for the S Simpson brand as an innovation in the tailoring world of the first self-supporting trouser. He went about to invent a way to support his trousers that wouldn’t need braces as these interrupted his swing whilst playing golf and caused his shirt to become untucked. The DAKS trouser was invented – it had a channel within the waistband at the back wherein an elasticated strip was attached at the sides with tabs attached to one of two buttons for adjustment. On the inside of the waistband were sewn-on rubber pads that gripped the shirt and stopped it from becoming loose. This happened in a world where to buy a pair of trousers of high quality one would have to have a bespoke pair made by a tailor, and thus this new design allowed the ease of ready-to-wear trousers. Simpson was so sure of his new design that he had 100,000 pairs made before being introduced to the public at a high price of 30 shillings in a time when a whole bespoke suit would cost 50 shillings. The trousers were available in many colours and fabrics that weren’t generally associated with menswear. They became so popular that the trousers were incorporated into suits and soon after a DAKS womenswear line was released, using the patented waistband for skirting.
The inception of the DAKS name was aiming to be something short, snappy and eye catching and is an arrangement of initials from the two men involved in its development – ‘AS’ for Alexander Simpson and ‘DK’ for his business associate Dudley Beck (his surname’s last letter was used so as to make a better sounding name than using a B hence why the name is capitalised. The advertising agent involved for the promotion of these new trousers, Sir William Crawford of WS Crawford Ltd thought up the idea to market them as ‘Dad’s Slacks’ as it had connotations of reliability and comfort whilst also sounding similar to the name DAKS.
At the turn of the 21st century when the company was acquired by Japanese group Sankyo Seiko Co. Limited in 1991, the S Simpson name was dropped and DAKS became the new brand name.
The ease-of-wear of the trousers and how they allowed movement, as intended from Simpson’s invention, led to DAKS being popular in sporting wear – kitting tennis, golf, motor racing, and football players, and even for the British Olympic team in 1960. The quality of S Simpson tailoring was such that the company was commissioned by the British Government at the time of the Second World War to produce military uniforms for Officers in the Army, Navy, Royal Airforce and Women’s Services even despite the semi-destruction of the Stoke Newington factory due to bomb damage and loss of electricity – with about seven million garments made for military services being produced.
After the war when DAKS clothes were announced to start selling to the public again queues of people would form down Piccadilly, to which Simpson tailors would measure them in line and present suitable pairs of trousers to them when they got into the Simpsons of Piccadilly store.
Simeon Simpson’s son Alexander Simpson, who was then owner of the company, decided he wanted to find a ‘window’ for Simpson clothes in the heart of London. He founded Simpsons of Piccadilly when the Geological Museum had closed and the site to be auctioned. The new building was designed by architect Joseph Emberton as a new and revolutionary retail establishment, the shop front windows exhibited the first curved glass display in Great Britain and the largest in the world at the time, these were designed so that no reflection would be cast to obscure the displays inside. The outstanding feature of the shop’s interior was the travertine staircase that ran up through the centre of the store lit by a continuous window up the height of the building. The current lighting structure suspended through the staircase centre is the original from the 1930s as the building has since become a listed building.
The store opened in April 1936 by Sir Malcolm Campbell, the world famous motor-racing driver. and was famed for its visual merchandising and window displays by László Moholy-Nagy, a former director from the Bauhaus school. Opening the store was a highlight of Alexander Simpson’s vision, he died the following year of leukaemia aged just 34.
Simpsons continued to trade successfully in the Simpsons Piccadilly building for several decades more, helping officers and civilians during World War II, and in later years branched out to sell other clothing by designer labels such as Armani and Christian Dior. Since 1999 Simpsons stopped trading at the Piccadilly store and moved the renamed DAKS to a new flagship store and London offices to Old Bond Street, whilst moving to another new store on Jermyn Street which was recently refurbished in 2012 to focus on selling classic menswear. The original store was sold to bookseller Waterstone’s and now serves as their flagship store.
|The new flagship store on Old Bond Street|
To accompany the opening of the new flagship store on Old Bond Street in 2000 DAKS collaborated with Philip Treacy to commission a hat featuring the Double D logo, they also collaborated with Jimmy Choo to create a shoe collection featuring the house check. In 2005, Sankyo-Seiko (for ladies) and Kashiyama (for men's) was the DAKS ready-to-wear license holder in Japan with retail value of €190 million.Bruce Montgomery designed the Menswear since 1996 and showed the Menswear Luxury range on the Milan catwalk for five seasons until