A Q&A with founder Matt Henderson
Q. What are you launching at the upcoming tradeshows this season?
We’ll be at Home and Gift, Pure London and Moda. We’re introducing our new range of men’s and women’s shirts. We’re showcasing the launches to give people a chance to absorb the collection, so we’ll be launching our AW18 range of jewelled bike chain cufflinks at Home and Gift in Harrogate, then the mens and womens shirts as well as the cufflinks at Pure and Moda.
Q. Any show offers?
Yes, quite a few – it depends on the show, and you’ll have to come and see us. One thing common to all is that if a shop tags our products in their Instagram post within 2 months of the show, we’ll repost it on our Instagram account – we’ve got 23k fashion hungry followers and it’s a great way to help shops grow their accounts and advertise themselves to our followers!
Also bubbly. We’ll have bubbly at our stands!
Q. Tell me about the brand.
It’s a new brand was established in 2015 by me, Matthew Henderson, because I couldn’t find a smart shirt that was comfortable to cycle to work in. It is a modern interpretation/ reimagining of my grandfather’s menswear shop, which is located in Rashid Street, Baghdad.
The brand blends fine tailoring and ergonomics to create high quality men’s and women’s shirts and jewelled bike chain cufflinks.
That history is really important for me, not just because it’s my family history, but also because it helps me to make sure that the company lives up to those memories. So making sure the product line works for small shops, that the shirts and cufflinks are interesting, unique and saleable, and that the whole supply chain from mill to customer is something I can be proud of. It builds into the brand’s integrity, which I think is really important.
Q. What makes your men’s and women’s shirts different?
I designed the shirts to move how you move, to feel more comfortable all day.
Our days are so different now – how we travel, work and socialise afterwards, so I made the shirt work better.
People’s arms are usually bent, so I made the sleeve follow their arm’s natural curve, shaping it by adding an extra piece of material, so you can move more freely.
The back is longer to stop you coming untucked and there’s a curved yoke to give you a complete range of movement and a really smooth profile.
We do a lot of double cuffs, and this season have really exciting women’s ‘Lateen’ shaped double cuffs. It’s a really interesting curved cuff shaped like a lateen sail (you’ve seen them on Dhow ships on the Discovery Channel). They look clean and sharp with cufflinks and amazingly creative without and also go really well with our bike chain cufflinks!
Q. How did the bike chain cufflinks come about?
There’s a nod of approval that happens between cyclists on the roads in Newcastle. I wanted something that would get that nod whenever you’re wearing you’re a shirt and cufflinks to a business meeting, wedding or whatever.
Every cyclist has a love-hate relationship with their bike chain – grease, grime and cleaning. So I glammed up a piece of bike chain – they don’t immediately look like chains, just beautiful jewelled shapes, which adds to their charm.
It was a real labour to get from a greasy bike chain, getting help from scientists, gemologists, and jewellers along the way to get to the final finished pieces of jewellery. I’ve got bags of samples that just didn’t make the grade because of one reason or another. We produce them in the UK. I’m really proud that after all of our searching across continents the UK has come out top for quality.
I’m really into presentation, and needed the packaging to work for shops and mail order and the regular wooden or cardboard boxes just didn’t excite me. So we chose to present the cufflinks in bespoke wooden boxes, which we sear with a traditional fire-brand and then line with fabric, and finish with a traditional wax seal and ribbon. It’s a lot of work, but it looks amazing and it lasts forever.
Q. Who are your target audience?
We sell through retailers and direct to the public through our website. For retailers, I am really focussed on independents or small chains who differentiate themselves from the regular high street by stocking exciting, good quality items. We find they have the best windows and the best shop staff which is really important to our brand. I think some people forget that even the best online service cannot deliver the feeling of a perfectly satisfied purchase that happens when you’ve got expert sales staff looking after you. It’s like a good meal – you remember it forever and the loyalty that creates is hard to replicate through a website and courier.
Selling direct to the public, our market are young male and female professionals between 25 and about 45. We know our customers buy from independent shops and online, and mostly use larger chain stores only for basics. They expect their main purchases to add to their character and the story and detail of features is important – it gives them some personalisation – something to chat about and feel proud about.
We know a lot of our online cufflink sales are to women, and we know there is a mix of gift and buying for themselves – I think it’s great to see women wearing cufflinks.
Q. How do you keep customers interested in the company?
We choose to spread our releases across the year. Not having a fixed calendar feels more creative and fresh, so we’re able to be more flexible with products and test ideas out on a small scale. In the past 12 months we’ve brought in new colours and styles 5 times, just small additions that customers have fed back to us.
That dialogue is really important to us and really central to what we do – our Instagram account is our main channel of social media, and it works really well for us. We’re very visual and we get a lot of contact with customers through comments, messages and emails which has helped steer us towards some of the choices like the labradorite cufflinks you will see this season.
Q. Describe the latest collection.
This collection is all about a confident summer to uplift the wearer – more colours, more fits, and more flair. Bold colours from sorbet pinks, floral purples, and summer evening blues. We’ve really explored Oxford cloth with this shirt collection. Its drape and versatility, how it works with our style. I’m really pleased with the results.
As part of increasing our range, we’ve introduced a slim fit shirt for men, some stronger collar styles on both men’s and women’s shirts and some really vivacious-looking shaped double cuffs on our women’s shirts. We call the new women’s double cuffs ‘lateen’ after the lateen sail (you’ve seen them on dhow boats on the Discovery Channel). They look clean and sharp with cufflinks and amazingly creative without.
Our latest cufflinks are based on the same styles which have done really well so far – bike chains plated in gold, rose gold and silver. With this collection I wanted to explore some of the less common gemstones and give them some exposure. I love the features of some of the less well-known stones like the faceted opal, moonstone and labradorite we’ve sourced for this collection. They all have really playful features – blue glimmers, green fires inside…something not immediately obvious, but really enchanting once you see it. Those features fit in perfectly with the idea of ‘hidden in plain sight’ of the bike chain cufflinks.
Then we’ve got some great sparkly stones – smoky quartz for a super-modern look, and some created aquamarines and sapphires. The created sapphires are truly amazing. I used to live in Sri Lanka and these are really outstanding. Finally after much demand, we’ve also got a full birthstone set too.
Q. What’s next for Hasso?
Soon after the autumn shows, we’ll be preparing for our busy Christmas season, and launching the new collection of cufflinks online. Next year we’ll be launching some new men’s and women’s jewellery we are finalising. There’ll be more shirts too, I’ve begun to have some ideas about the materials and shapes.