A Splash of Mayfair Colour
Celebrating 30 years of his eponymous leather business this year, Trevor Pickett ponders his first three decades and how his beloved part of London has evolved and changed around him
Article by Rupert Watkins Photography by Andy Barnham
Very early on when chatting to Trevor Pickett, founder and owner of his own illustrious leather brand Pickett London, the core idea behind his success and longevity becomes clear, “it’s about passion,” he remarks, “and always thinking, ‘where would I want to shop?’” Celebrating 30 retail years in 2018, his personal and extremely high-quality leather goods have become part of the very fabric of Mayfair and Knightsbridge. His shops – especially his Burlington Gardens headquarters – are a journey of discovery; intimate and carefully designed to lure and engage the curious and discerning.
Starting off in the Burlington Arcade after he bought out and renamed the leather shop where he had worked since he was 16, he soon expanded into a second shop on Sloane Street, “I’d always wanted to have a shop there,” he recalls. Trevor soon hit success with what he credits as his biggest single discovery; the pashmina.
Retail never stands still and luxury retail has seen great change over Trevor’s time. The very concept of luxury has been commoditised, undermined and cheapened, Trevor laments the lowering of standards, the obsession for the mere label above a respect and understanding for the imagination and craftsmanship that has gone into creating that particular item. Pickett has stood as a bulwark in defence of the highest of standards, Trevor’s leather goods are sourced and crafted in the UK and Trevor has nurtured long term relationships with trusted suppliers abroad who supply items such as his pashminas and kilm slippers.
Certainly, trends in leather goods on the decades are clearly visible looking through Pickett’s old 1980s and early 1990s catalogues and clippings. Trevor recounts old fashioned leather covered, wooden frame suitcase sets were big sellers when he started out, a far cry from the lighter, more supple leather or canvas weekend bags and suit covers he finds are sought after today. It was a different era, as Trevor points out Mayfair, its inhabitants and its subsequent feel have evolved hugely in 30 years; Pickett began as the final vestiges of aristocratic London were still around, the White House, Mallets, Partridges antiques and Agnews art dealers to name a few august Bond Street institutions were all still trading. Looking back, Trevor though certainly shows a hard-headed edge in his recollections, “the businesses that have failed around here have done so due to not changing at all. Change is always going to happen, but everything should evolve rather than suddenly transform. Change should come as and when it is needed rather than for the sake of it.”
More recently, Trevor has not been immune from a dynamic that has affected many luxury goods purveyors; a “U” shaped trend that is seeing customers moving to two polar extremes – either an utterly bespoke and personal item or a more accessible, introductory procurement to gain initial customer traction, enjoyment and loyalty. Gratifyingly, this trend has catered to Trevor’s long-standing bespoke expertise. Working with workshops across the country, ranging in size from two craftsmen up to approximately 20, the level of modification and bespoke design available through Pickett is staggering. As Trevor pertinently puts it, “there is a world beyond merely cut, make and trim.” The firm still has access to a range of skins, all ethically farmed – he notes over the past couple of decades skins such as rhino, whale and elephant have all stopped being used – though Pickett’s strength in many ways has always been in its supremely English calf and bridle leather.
Having been the youngest shop governor in Burlington Arcade’s history at 21, changing times saw Pickett in 2015 move out of the Arcade and round the corner into Burlington Gardens. “This was a step change – we became (as it were) as high street brand, having gained the history and gravitas to stand away the Arcade. This was a massive jump for us but a hugely exciting one, being on one end of Savile Row is now far more pertinent to our brand” Trevor explains. Certainly, there is a strong sense chatting with him, despite his love of Burlington Arcade clearly coming through, the move has allowed Pickett to re-shape its image afresh for the coming 30 years. Offering a bespoke leather counterpoint to the tailors of the Row the location seems both natural and correct.
Trevor’s shop is testament to his ethos that you must take the customer on a journey. Its quirky layout allows for hidden corners and is a fitting tableau for him to display much of his own taste – there is something of the Mayfair private home about the establishment that is both fun and relaxing. Along with Trevor’s higher media profile it is perhaps apt the shop backs onto the Albany, the Regency bachelors’ quarters that have been home to so many of the area’s other characters over the past couple of centuries.
For a self-confessed, “retailer not business man,” Trevor has always insisted in on dealing directly with the consumer – no Harrods or SAKS Fifth Avenue concessions for him. This invariably brings both advantages and concerns; Pickett has been able to control its offering and message to great success though certainly at times in recent years with the media exposure that has come his way, Trevor smiles, “we’ve had to ensure the brand very much remains Pickett London rather than Trevor Pickett.” Away from his own brand though, Trevor’s media coverage has given Mayfair – that fascinating but also maligned postcode – a very eloquent and colourful voice. In an era where many view central London as the preserve of the faceless international mega rich, having a worldly wise and knowledgeable exponent of its charms and history is critical to its long term prosperity.
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Celebrating 30 years, Trevor has turned to his marvellous archives and a number of one-off bags and cases have been produced harking back to the various eras of Pickett. Returning to one of his earliest palettes, one of his big colours for 2018 is burgundy, “I wanted to do a homage to it,” he remarks, “the future’s bright, the future’s burgundy…”
In an era where perhaps too many central London shops have lost their charm and individuality, Trevor’s emporiums remains small oasis of very English decadence and craftmanship. Here’s to his next 30 years…
Enquires: Pickett London, 10 – 12 Burlington Gardens, Mayfair, London W1S 3EY / 0207 4938939 / & 149 Sloane Street SW1X / 0207 8235638 / www.pickett.co.uk/