Brand was built around a story

When Hartland-based House of Carrington LLC founders Andy and Tim Bell approached Milwaukee-based Hanson Dodge Creative to help them build their company brand, the brothers did not have a single swatch of fabric or sketch of clothing.

 

Andy, a veteran sales manager for New York-based Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., was getting back into the retail business after a two-year hiatus. His brother, Tim, recently sold his fire protection company and was entering a new industry by supporting Andy with a financial investment and his entrepreneurial experience.

Andy had noticed a hole in the men’s retail clothing marketplace.

He was itching to fill that void, searching for the right way to approach it, when he came across his wife’s great grandmother’s journal. The woman was an American living in Paris during the 1920s and early 30s, when high society was focused on literature and existentialism, and the economy was flourishing in the wake of World War I.

The independent journal entries created a choppy storyline, but the underlying theme resonated with Andy. Going to a pub, having dinner with friends, playing golf and tennis … People dressed for the occasion. That was what was missing in men’s clothing today, Andy discovered.

“If you go back and you look at historical photos, even from the 1950s backward, and you look at Lambeau Field even in the 60s, the guys in the crowd are all wearing coats and ties,” Andy said. “Now, it is jerseys and hats. I am not saying that is wrong. That is how much times have changed. A baseball game or football game used to be an event, and people dressed for it.”

Within the journal, a name was mentioned: Andrew Carrington. Not much description was offered beyond the name, but it would serve as the perfect nomenclature for the F. Scott Fitzgerald lifestyle Andy and Tim wanted to promote in their clothing line.

“Their style is luxury, classic, traditional, but fun. They make it hipper to be classic,” said Ken Hanson, owner of Hanson Dodge. “It is nice to see classical styles with personality and a company with a persona and a company with a personal point of view. That is what inspired us.”

Hanson Dodge and the Bell brothers collaborated to develop the House of Carrington brand over the second half of 2005. Over time, thoughts and images transformed into renderings of the estate that Andrew Carrington resided in, the House of Carrington. And with it, the characters were molded in looks, personality and experiences until the group had created a persona and somewhat of an ongoing soap opera, complete with scandal, intrigue, prosperity and romance.

The main characters are Andrew Carrington, his brother Liam and Andrew’s lover, Isabelle. The set is the House of Carrington in England with scenes in exotic locations such as Monte Carlo, Venice and Paris.

Hanson Dodge took inspiration from a Calvin Tomkins novel, “Living Well is the Best Revenge.”

“I think when you are dealing with consumer products, the more you can emotionally connect your brand to the consumer, the better off you will be,” Andy said. “If there is an aspirational quality to it, or if it is more than just a shirt or more than just a sweater, I think it is easier to create brand loyalty.”

Each character represents a clothing line under the umbrella brand of House of Carrington.

Reading through the “library” section at the company’s web site, www.houseofcarrington.com, where every collection’s story is posted, reeks of the Seinfeld take on Lexington, Ky.-based J. Peterman Co.

The House of Carrington company motto is, “Never a dull moment.”

“This is a business that takes itself entirely too seriously. I have seen that up close,” Andy said. “We feel like a little irreverence at times, tongue-in-cheek, but still make great clothes and try to translate that idea to people that there is something out there better than chino pants and a knit shirt.”

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