dunhill is arguably the most luxurious distributor of fine men’s goods in the world today. To their credit, few brands have such a rich, storied history that spans multiple transitions for the company, with the final result being a reputation beyond reproach. While the brand is now associated with apparel and accessories, this has not always been the case. The dunhill tale began in 1893 in Great Britain, with Alfred Dunhill at the helm of his family’s saddlery business. He moved to shift the focus of the company to automotive accessories following the popularity of the emerging motorcar. The possibilities were endless as dunhill capitalized on a burgeoning marketplace; automobiles arrived sans accessories (only a chassis and body were part of the design), and Alfred and his company took the opportunity to become “Dunhill Motorities” – a one-stop shop for driving adornments.
Known as the driver’s destination for “everything but the motor”, the store sold anything from leather driving coats to helmets, goggles, car horns, dashboard clocks and luggage trunks. By spanning such a variety of goods, dunhill was able to revolutionize men’s fashions at the turn of the century. It’s a little known fact that Alfred Dunhill was actually the inventor (in 1907) of the articulation of the rear view mirror. This, in turn, led him to develop his own Patent Development Company to make sure that the brand retained credit for its many innovations to the automobile. Other accessories that the store sold included fishing rods and reels, cricket and golfing gear, and outfitting for the newly developed “aeroplane” pilots. What were some of the brand’s other creative inventions? In 1922, Alfred patented the interior light for handbags, to solve a beauty problem for his wife. Now, she could apply lipstick during the ballet without issue. In this way, dunhill was as practical as it was fashionable.
It was only a matter of time before other countries took notice of the sharpness of Alfred’s designs and his attention to detail, which was largely unrivalled at the time. The brand seized the favorable circumstances that they had created and expanded globally. The first brick and mortar storefront opened on Duke Street (which is now the Jermyn Street location) in 1907. Before long, in 1921, another location opened on Fifth Avenue in New York and three years later, in 1924, at 15 Rule de la Paix in central Paris. It wasn’t long before the brand expanded even further by sending the manager of the Paris store, Clement Court, to Tokyo in 1930 to sign an agreement to distribute Namiki pens. During the 1930s Dunhill also grew its timepiece department, with the first full collection being available in 1936; this included the Facet watch and the Key Watch.
The dunhill brand was quickly becoming a household name, even in America. Shops opened in Beverly Hills, San Francisco and Chicago from 1951-1961. The first Asia Pacific store opened in Hong Kong in 1966, and the first Japanese store came to be in 1969. When the 1970s arrived, dunhill was largely established globally and housed a collection of over 3,500 luxury goods and apparel with more than twenty stores worldwide. A far cry from its humble beginnings as a saddlery business, dunhill eventually became a part of the esteemed Richemont Group in 1998. Another location opened in Moscow in 2005, and today there are around 150 dunhill retail stores sprinkled throughout the globe.
Most brands stop at stores; not dunhill. The Homes of Alfred Dunhill, a clever and interesting way to connect the everyday customer with the brand’s patriarch, opened their doors throughout the last decade. With locations in London, Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong, the “homes” offer another level of elegance to the consumer that is based on the experience that has been cultivated by the brand since its inception. Bespoke tailoring services, barber’s shops, wine cellars, bars, restaurants, screening rooms and spas are just some of the way this luxury house caters to the dunhill man. To further ingratiate the brand’s influence on their target demographic, they host an annual golf outing entitled the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. It is played at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Camoustie and Kingbams in Scotland. The tournament hosts both famed athletes and actors that reflect the core values of the brand.
Another of the brand’s relatively recent initiatives took place in 2011 with The Voice Campaign. The digital excursion profiled British men who actualized the dunhill man. To quote the brand itself, “The Voice is not about celebrity or the world of fame. Voice is about real men of different ages and from different backgrounds, but each a man of distinction…Men who embody timeless values that are worth aspiring to…Through iconic black-and-white portraits and revealing interviews, Dunhill sets out to capture the characters behind the clothes…” This glimpse into what comprises the brand’s followers was not only educational and entertaining, but it also gave individuals and customers a real vision of what makes a dunhill man.
It is a true feat that such a historical brand that was born in the 1800s is still around today, with the same basic philosophy and style of design. With new innovations and inventions a frequent occurrence, the designers have never strayed far from the mantra of Alfred Dunhill: “It is not enough to expect a man to pay for the best, you must also give him what he has paid for.”
Photo credits: dunhill