What happens when you task four artisanal Scottish brands with creating a product inspired by a brewing process? This is what Project Ampersand has found out. Spearheaded by Innis & Gunn, a Scottish craft brand, it brings together four brands to produce a one-off, bespoke item inspired by their unique approach to creating barrel-aged beer.
These four companies – Instrmnt, Revo and Coco as well as Kestin Hare – are united through their design quality, their home in Scotland, and their willingness to collaborate with others to create brilliant new things.
Kestin Hare is a namesake menswear brand from Edinburgh which combines Hare’s 17 years of fashion experience with details from workwear, military, sports and outdoor wear to make functional yet premium clothes. Hare strongly believes in championing UK manufacturing – 70% of every collection is produced in British factories – and his clothes are sold in more than 90 stores worldwide.
“Given the momentum behind Kestin’s brand and his ongoing commitment to excellence, high quality and UK manufacture, we thought the Project Ampersand platform would provide a great opportunity to work together on physically creating something rather than just supporting each other,” says Dougal Sharp, founder and master brewer of Innis & Gunn.
Hare’s contribution to Project Ampersand is the Arobois shirt jacket, a heavyweight and durable jacket made with 100% herringbone cotton dyed in two colours – raw oak and toasted oak.
The inspiration for the piece comes from the bleu de travail (workwear) jackets worn at Arobois – the oak-ageing facility in south-west France that provides the barrel pieces for Innis & Gunn’s innovative “barrel into beer” maturation process. Arobois breaks up barrels – bourbon ones in the case of the Original beer – and toasts the pieces, before they are circulated through the beer.
“The design is functional and a little unconventional due to the salvaged materials taken from Arobois, and used as the trims on the product and packaging,” Hare tells me. “We took the fragrant toasted American oak barrel pieces used in the barrel-aged beer process at Arobois, and made handmade buttons to finish the jacket, so every button is completely unique.”
Speaking to Hare, it’s clear how much thought is put into every garment. And with only 15 Arobois jackets being made, it feels like extra consideration went into this piece: the bag it comes in is made from the muslin bags used to store the barrel pieces, and the barrel pieces themselves are even incorporated in the form of packaging toggles.
“I was inspired by the multi-sensory experience, the natural oak ageing processes, the toasting of the chips, the brewing process plus the standard-issue classic bleu de travail workwear jackets,” says Hare.
For Sharp, the jacket is unmistakably and unashamedly Kestin Hare: “It’s beautiful. We think he’s done a great job of finding inspiration in an unexpected place – the French workwear that the craftsmen in Arobois wear on a daily basis – and interpreting this in a way that stays true to who he is, while doffing his cap to the world of beer and barrel-ageing.
“As with all the products and brands we’ve worked with, the jacket represents for us an important combination of originality, quality and accessibility.”
With the Arobois jacket heavily influenced by a French style, and both Innis & Gunn and Kestin Hare having a thoroughly international outreach, how exactly do the brands embed their proud Scottish roots into their creative output?
“I always use Scotland for my inspiration,” says Hare. “For example our autumn/winter 19 collection, titled In High Places, draws inspiration from British mountaineers in the 1970s. This era was described as ‘the golden age of mountaineering’ with a key group of die-hard Scottish climbers – like Dougal Haston – achieving celebrity status due to their pioneering and inspiring efforts.
“I design and produce products that stand the test of time; with emotion, weaving in references from my Scottish heritage, and making them modern and relevant for today.”
“Scotland is a small country with a strong sense of self, an egalitarian and gregarious spirit and – we believe – a warmth and humility that is lived through both place and people,” adds Sharp. “It’s these characteristics that to us embody a truly Scottish brand.”
Although both Hare and Sharp are proud of their Scottish background and include it in everything they do with their respective brands, they still maintain that to truly nurture their creativity, they’re always looking outwards.
“Although Innis & Gunn are proudly Scottish, we’ve always embraced an international and progressive outlook,” says Sharp. “It’s been crucial to broadening our successes beyond Scotland and into key markets such as Canada, Sweden, the US and France.”
“Scotland is known as a global brand for creativity, but more often than not those references can be quite traditional and cliched,” adds Hare. “We are challenging the preconceptions of Scottish design by referring to our heritage, but reinterpreting it in a modern way.”
For more information on Project Ampersand, visit www.innisandgunn.com/ampersand