The latter is worth shouting about. The make-up artist has worked with the brand to give its bestselling rubberised rucksacks a fine-art update, featuring "tourist paraphernalia of the Nineties, with lists of capital cities covering the front of the backpack, alien invasion and musical notes" hand-painted onto leather in four different designs. With only a limited number made (50 of each), they are arguably contemporary pieces of art. Once they're gone, that's it (a tactic being adopted more frequently by brands in order to re-establish the unwritten rules of luxury and ensure desirability is kept alive).
It's the first collaboration of many that will give the brand's Original Backpack a modern spin and it's a clever continuation of its evolution from reliable heritage stalwart into a bestselling player in the ready-to-wear, accessories and footwear categories. We caught up with creative director Alasdhair Willis, the man credited for the brand's recent reinvention, to find out how and why collaborations like that with Ffrench are important, how he keeps Hunter moving forward, and what we can expect over the next 12 months.
Why is it important to Hunter to collaborate with artists like Isamaya?
"What is important to us is that there is a natural fit with the Hunter brand. It’s about finding the right combination of the artist’s vision and how it brings something new to the Hunter world. Over the last couple of years we have collaborated with visual artists such as Mat Maitland and Hattie Stewart for example; artists that brought a unique perspective to our brand. That is not to say though that this is limited to artists, we continue to explore opportunities to collaborate with people from other disciplines and different worlds. Whether that be for Hunter Original of Hunter Field, from kids' product to future collaborations on our backpacks - as a brand we appeal to a very broad customer base providing very exciting opportunities to therefore explore collaborations.
When we decided to collaborate with Isamaya, we wanted to show our Hunter Original rubberised leather backpacks in a different context. This collection is a celebration of a new true Hunter icon, which continues to be an incredibly strong seller but also offered the perfect platform for Isamaya’s designs to come to life, very different to what we are used to seeing from her as a make-up artist.
The price point is very reasonable for what are essentially limited-edition pieces of art (£255 for a mini and £325 for a large) – is being accessible a conscious strategy?
"It was key to us to deliver something new to our existing customers but also stay within a price range that is fair and right for us as a brand. Equally, we feel that we are able to engage with a new audience for the Hunter brand. This provides an opportunity for new customers to discover the world of Hunter beyond the Original boot."
You’ve grown the brand from wellington boots to a respected fashion brand – what’s your mantra for keeping things moving forward?
"We are always evolving; pioneering and innovation is at the heart of the brand. We however also don’t want to detour too far away from our original starting point which is the Original Wellington Boot and the design lead for every collection. We reference back, always enabling that there is no disconnect between where we come from and where we are heading, but making sure it’s always relevant now. It’s a process of constant evolution rather than starting fully afresh. It’s therefore really exciting to see how people have bought into new product categories so quickly and for us so successfully like for example the pool slides, rubberised backpacks, hunting coat and vinyl smock."
What can we expect from the brand in the next year?
"Q4 which is our strongest trading moment of the year, will see a large scale activation to launch our new Core #RainStartsPlay campaign. This will include an out-of-home campaign in NYC and also in London. The US is now our biggest market so it’s been a key priority to drive awareness of the full Hunter product offering there. Furthermore, we are set to open our third global standalone store in Toronto in October of this year. The city’s diversity and vibrancy makes it one of North America's most exciting places, which is why we decided to open Hunter’s first North America store there. For Autumn/Winter 2017 we have also further extended our Refined product offering introducing outerwear and accessories, building upon the success of the Refined boot which was first introduced in Autumn/Winter 2015 and is a best seller. We then look to next year and start looking at opportunities to be present at festivals across the globe."
The Hunter x Isamaya Ffrench collaboration will be available at Dover Street Market London from September 15th.