The Regent Skipper is an Australian butterfly. Mainly black, it has distinctive red and yellow markings. Curiously, it behaves like a moth. Travel to Queensland and you probably stand a good chance of seeing one of these lepidopterans, but within the UK, you’re more likely to encounter it on a bag or clothing label from Regent, which features the Regent Skipper as its brand logo. The butterfly was a suitable eponym for Regent’s founder, Jason Regent, but its significance was not solely superficial; the butterfly reveals much about the verve of the Regent brand that Jason established in 2006. The Regent Skipper’s flashes of colour and its atypical behaviour – aping a moth, the tailor’s enemy – hint at Regent’s idiosyncrasies, individuality and humour.
The Regent story started in the most unlikely of places: a garage unit on an industrial estate in Salisbury, Wiltshire. But in just under five years, the business relocated twice and is now run from a three-storey building near the gates of Salisbury’s thirteenth-century cathedral. Regent’s rapid climb up the property ladder reflects its creative and commercial success. As so often seems to be the case with small businesses, the winning formula is a product of the different personalities who work at Regent.
Jason’s grandfather was butler to James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming. From an early age, Jason was therefore acquainted with the world of fine cigars, prestigious marques and impeccable tailoring. A family home in Henley-on-Thames provided close links with London, a connection that may explain the synergy between country and city, shabby and chic, that is reflected in the shop today, where Monkee Genes chinos and jeans are sold alongside wool pocket squares, mounted deer heads and leather IPad cases. Jason learnt his craft with Ede & Ravenscroft, but worked in high street fashion before setting up his eponymous company.
The encyclopaedic knowledge of diverse sartorial styles that Jason and his assistants possess help them to advise customers. Consultation, rather than coercion, characterises Regent’s approach to tailoring and customers are encouraged to book a personal style appointment with Jason for advice. Helping people achieve a look that complements their body shape is clearly a greater concern than having noticeably identifiable Regent suits, even if this sometimes involves a bit of sartorial re-education. The one style lesson Regent tries hard to impart is that individuality is key.
A lot of people come into the shop, especially for weddings, with the idea that everything has to match. We try and break that down a bit and say don’t worry. It’s about having pieces rather than a complete outfit. Everything’s timeless here so you if you buy a jacket you can use it in multiple ways
Again, it comes back to the personality of the people involved. The different styles that Jason and his assistants favour put Regent in something of a unique position among tailors because there is no single mould, rather lots of different possibilities and influences that all come together to make a customer’s garment. We aim to make a customer look their best, but this can sometimes contradict what they initially want
In this sense, there is no ‘Regent look’. Savile Row tailors are frequently identified by the silhouette of their suits, and Regent suits are generally slim – a sartorial nod to the 1960s – but design ideas come from many places, as the Photo Gallery shows. Jason will happily takes style cues from Hollywood – Gangster No 1, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, A Single Man – Instagram and Pinterest. His online photographic scrapbook features a diverse array of street-styled men and women dressed in khaki and tweed, single-breasted and double-breasted jackets. Bikers and skaters, Charlie Chaplain and American cowboys also feature.
Design inspirations vary because the creation of a Regent suit is about collaboration. The importance of collaboration is evident throughout Regent’s shop, which sells a wide range of non-clothing products, from individuals and local companies, including gin, cigars, sculpture, oak doorstops and oil paintings. As Jason meets companies whose products and philosophy appeal, he is quite prepared to find some shelf or floor space to sell their wares. The ‘Sir John Soanes atmosphere’ reflects the energy and creativity of the shop’s owners and their desire to develop fruitful partnerships that are creatively and commercially successful. One collaboration has been with Cheaney shoes. Regent design the shoes and, in consultation with Cheaney, choose the lasts and leathers that the Northamptonshire based cordwainer will use to make them.
It’s always been about the best products and the best materials from a good source. We’ve tried to associate with some of the best British brands from the start: Fox Umbrellas, Joseph Cheaney, John Smedley
It is the combination of different (and compatible) personalities, united by a passion for producing garments that make the most of British materials and expertise, that have turned a garage set-up into a fully-fledged business in under six years. This is an extraordinary accomplishment, but perhaps it is to be expected from a company named after a butterfly as intriguing as the Regent Skipper.