For a real insight into the workings of Purdey, we’re speaking to the people at the heart of the enterprise. Here, designer Abigail Little tells us about the ins and outs of creating innovative sporting and technical-wear, while retaining the heritage feel that Purdey is best known for.
What first drew you to Purdey?
I grew up around a lot of shooting and field sports – I do shoot, I’m not very good, but I give it a go! I prefer to go and look after my dogs or load for my dad. I studied Performance Sportswear design at university and specialised in mens’ country wear. When I graduated I started to look for a job and I emailed Purdey at just the right moment, as they were very interested in what I had studied. They actually created a job role for me as a Buying, Production and Design Assistant. I’ve now been here for nearly four years.
How has your role evolved from the first day to now?
Drastically. I started working across all clothing sectors and it soon became clear where my skills lay, having studied design. I progressed to assisting one of the designers on the team, before stepping up into the designer role myself. I’m currently the only designer who works on Sporting and Technical wear, alongside four ready-to-wear designers. We work very closely together, bouncing ideas off each other. We also work closely with our product teams, which helps to generate more concise ideas.
How do you balance the heritage of the brand with forward-thinking technical innovation?
I am always researching technical innovations, as well as exploring the Purdey archive to discover how traditions out in the field have evolved. It's sometimes difficult to merge the contemporary world and sporting history together as the formalities have been established for so many years but I find it an enjoyable challenge. We have started incorporating technical elements, such as using two and three layer fabrics, and we have progressed onto using membranes on our traditional Sporting Tweeds, which are made in Scotland. The use of contemporary fabrications for our classic styles is evolving fast.
The performance technical range that we released last season was the first full collection for Purdey. We had never invested in so many technical pieces at once. Previously, the focus had been on traditional tweeds, made in the UK. Now, we’re creating fully waterproof technical-wear with a luxury sportswear feel – with pieces that can be used in all surroundings, whether you’re shooting or walking the dog or wanting to keep warm and dry while watching a rugby match.
Next, we’re bringing sporting and technical together, creating brand new multilayer “membraned” fabrics to make pieces more lightweight and easier to wear in the field; benefits include the fact that they dry off quickly, for example. Throughout, we’re making sure we keep it looking and feeling like Purdey.
Adding further versatility into the mix, we are also creating pieces like the three-in-one jacket, which incorporates an internal gilet. These designs give you the option of wearing Purdey across all seasons, in different ways and contexts.
Describe a typical day?
Every day is different. We generally receive a lot of deliveries in the morning, so we open up the packages and either hang samples up or look at new fabrics and trims that have arrived. This helps to inform the plan for the day. I’ll then go through emails with a coffee, while catching up with my product developer on any new information. As a team we will have various meetings, so it can be quite a structured day. Sometimes we have full days that are dedicated to sample and production fittings, sketching, and catching up with suppliers or fabric mills.
The sporting range is designed slightly differently as we have styles that are part of the Purdey DNA. We have certain styles which we know we will be running for a few years and others that will be refabricated each season. At the beginning of a new collection, we receive the direction of the business and any new ideas that it would like us to explore. We do in-depth research in those areas, building on previous season’s styles that we think we could evolve or continue, with new colour palettes or changes in fabrications; and identifying where there’s potential for growth. Our tweed trip to Scotland each year is the starting point for the sporting collection.
We then move into travelling to fabric and yarn shows, going through the sections and samples that come in, starting to select textures and colours that go well together. We’ll break it down further into categories – outerwear, knits, shirting, trousers – and create outfits and identify hero styles.
What's the highlight?
For me, it’s when the pieces start to arrive and you see your styles come to life exactly as you have imagined for so many months. Styling and photoshoots begin and, when you can see the styles on the models, it’s a really satisfying and enjoyable moment.
And the most challenging aspect?
Everything at some point! I would say our summer collections are some of the most challenging as we are inherently more of a winter brand. So, it’s a challenge to innovate the styles to suit the season – changing the tweeds to summer weights, or creating new pieces or full capsule collections entirely.
Where do you see sporting and technical going next?
I’m excited to see the traction with the technical collection and where we’re taking that next with the membraned fabrics. It is at the early stages – we’re waiting for the first samples to come in. It’s something that has never been done at Purdey before, so it will be interesting to develop and refine the story this year.
And finally, what’s your favourite thing about Purdey?
Knowing how long Purdey has been standing for, the story behind the company and the heritage and prestige it holds in the wider world – it gives me a proud feeling to work here. To understand the story behind the products and how they have developed, and then to see them worn by well-known public figures is exciting.
Browse the technical collections for men and women.