Jaeger, once synonymous with stylish outerwear, is back on the high street


When Mail on Sunday editor Neil Craven wrote an article in March about how Marks & Spencer was reviving former fashion brand Jaeger, long-time reader Doreen Padder was so excited she called to tell him. He quickly put her in touch with Fiona Lambert, the designer tasked with rebuilding a brand that was once one of Britain’s most popular. Fiona wasted no time jumping on a train to Haywards Heath in West Sussex to spend a day with Doreen and her extensive Jaeger collection. “We were both a little overexcited,” says Fiona.

Doreen is 85 and still wears the classic label in style. As well as clothing, her Jaeger collection includes sketches and prototypes as her late husband Ray was the brand’s master tailor, overseeing her pattern room for 30 years during the company’s golden years – from the 1960s to the early 1960s. 90s. “He was detail-oriented,” Doreen recalls. “He was always rushing to help women with their coats so he could see the brand up close. His brain was constantly buzzing with ideas. He even had a work room in our attic so he could work on designs in his spare time.

A 1960s magazine advert from Jaeger’s golden years. Designer Fiona Lambert has been entrusted with the reconstruction of the brand

One of his most treasured pieces is a prototype of the burgundy velvet suit worn by Princess Diana in the 80s. she says. ‘So I just take care of them. They meant so much to Ray.

Doreen had, of course, noticed Jaeger’s disappearance from the main street and followed the story until news broke of his collapse. She was therefore delighted to learn that Fiona and a team of more than 30 people were to lead the Marks & Spencer rescue.

Fiona, too, is overflowing with enthusiasm at the prospect of delving into the brand’s archives. “Jaeger has always had this real resonance for me. Everyone I talk to knows this and has a piece in their wardrobe and a real fondness for it. Jaeger was really the backbone of the industry. Current designs (available in 26 M&S stores) draw inspiration from Jaeger’s golden age, from the pretty shift dresses Jean Muir created for the company in the 1950s to classic camels and fully reversible double-faced coats. “I even introduced a reversible bomber jacket for men,” says Fiona.

It’s easy to forget that Jaeger was on a mission to reform women’s and men’s clothing. Dr. Gustav Jaeger, a correspondent of Charles Darwin, developed a theory that human ill health was largely caused by wearing inappropriate clothing. Specifically, the bad fibers. In 1884, it was vegetable fibers such as cotton, linen and viscose that he disdained. Instead, he championed animal fibers – primarily wool. His first inventions are anti-passion jersey jumpsuits which he claims regulate body temperature and wick away sweat. They worked. To publicize this “system”, Jaeger sponsored Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition, and his underwear effectively kept the group warm and comfortable.

Doreen Padder, 85, (right) has an impressive collection of Jeager clothing, including sketches and prototypes.  Fiona (left) is delighted to delve into Doreen's collection

Doreen Padder, 85, (right) has an impressive collection of Jeager clothing, including sketches and prototypes. Fiona (left) is delighted to delve into Doreen’s collection

The business expanded into clothing quite quickly, and perhaps its greatest gift to women was the overcoat, which replaced the cape, coat, and shawl. In its quest for glamorous animal fibers, Jaeger boasted in its early advertising campaigns of shearing or combing not only merino sheep, but also cashmere and angora goats, camels, alpacas and vicunas. As recently as 1984, his public relations department borrowed a hairy Bactrian camel, which posed happily on the pavement outside the Regent Street brand store. Coats from the new collection are not so exotic. “But we used beautiful wool and cashmere, says Fiona, and our linings, in silk jacquard, are as beautiful as the outside of the coats.

Green, £275

Red, £325

The Jaeger coats that get our vote. Left: Green, £275 & Right: Red, £325

Verified, £399, all Jaeger, marksandspencer.com

Verified, £399, all Jaeger, marksandspencer.com

In fact, she is also taking inspiration from some of Doreen’s Jaeger silk scarves to design blouses and scarves for next season.

Doreen reports that when she goes to her coffee in the morning, there is a real buzz of anticipation as fellow devotees discuss what they will be buying from the new range. Yes, Fiona said with a smile that could almost be called smug. “We have the great resource of established Jaeger customers, new young customers who have stolen historic pieces from their mothers’ wardrobes, or whose vintage habit introduced them to the brand, and M&S customers who are considering the investment dressing concept in a time when money should be spent wisely.

Fiona’s daughter, Georgia, 29, has started “borrowing” special pieces. “She took my Jaeger leather jacket,” Fiona said with a shrug. “But that’s the thing with Jaeger. You could buy it and love it for years, but then you’ll be proud to pass it on. I think when our customers feel the quality of the fabric, look at the details, such as French seams, and try on pieces, they will recognize the incredible value.

Doreen, in her personal archive overlooking the South Downs, agrees. The closure of Jaeger was a major loss for British femininity, she says. “It’s wonderful that he’s back and in good hands. Ray would have been delighted.


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