Wednesday 8 September 2021 12:47 pm

Aquascutum and Gieves & Hawkes face being dragged down by Chinese parent's debt struggles

Struggles in China are pushing some of the most established British fashion brands into a dicey position, with Gieves & Hawkes facing a winding-up order and Aquascutum pulling out of the UK entirely.

Chinese outfit Shandong Ruyi, which owns the two firms, has come under increasing pressure over its staggering $4 billion debt following an acquisition that hoped to turn it into a global fashion powerhouse.

The firm’s troubles were first reported in the UK by The Times.

The 170-year-old Aquascutum has not reopened its historic Jermyn Street since lockdowns were imposed and it is only possible to buy its trenchcoats online in China. This is due to being denied further funding from its parent company. 

Aquascutum was founded in 1851 by John Emary, a Mayfair tailor whose raincoats kept soldiers dry in the Crimean War. The trenchcoats have been worn by a number of influential figures such as Cary Grant, Margaret Thatcher and Humphrey Bogart.

Shangdong Ruyi has suffered heavy losses and stricter regulatory scrutiny from the Chinese government. Last year it defaulted on a bond, while its most recent half-year sales fell 20.4 per cent to £29 million.

One senior source told The Times said that Shandong Ruyi had “bought the business and then done nothing with it”. Another described the complex structure of its ownership as an “utter nightmare”.

It is thought that a sale would likely involve another Chinese buyer, although there are hopes that it could attract interest from British companies including Marks & Spencer.

The Chinese brand also owns around 200 stores in the UK under the Gieves & Hawkes, Kent & Curwen and Cerruti brands under a separate entity has suspended trading in its shares and faces a closing order from Standard Leases, the bank.

The company traces its roots back to 1771, being one of the oldest continual bespoke tailoring companies in the world. It continues to own 1 Savile Row in central London.

A decision on an appeal will be heard in a court in Hong Kong this Friday, which will determine Gieves & Hawkes’s fate, though sources speculate the business is already being marketed by liquidators.

Despite this, Gieves & Hawkes is continuing to trade and has benefited from a recent rise in wedding sales as lockdown restrictions have eased.

Read more: Retail sales growth slowed in August amid recovery warnings

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