Robin Philpott joined Farlows in 2015 as Group Managing Director with a brief to expand on all that is good in the Farlows brand – its history and pedigree, its people and their expertise, its product ranges and its loyal customer base.
With the experience of 25 years in premium and luxury retail and being a lifelong fisherman and country sports enthusiast Robin seized the challenge with both hands and is now overseeing an exciting transformation in one of Britain’s leading and best-loved sporting purveyors.
For brand’s who have supplied goods or services to the Households of HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh or HRH The Prince of Wales for at least 5 years may receive a Royal Warrant of Appointment as a mark of recognition.
‘Today there are around 800 Royal Warrant holders representing a huge cross-section of trade and industry, from individual craftspeople to global multi-nationals. They are united by a commitment to the highest standards of service, quality and excellence.’
(Royal Warrant Holders Association)
As Royal Warrant holders since 1982, I asked Robin to tell me what this has meant for Farlows history and heritage?
Farlows has a rich history, dating back to our establishment by Charles and John King Farlow back in the Victorian era, and for over 175 years we have provided the finest equipment, clothing, and advice to country sports enthusiasts across the world. Our long and distinguished history gives us an unrivalled depth of knowledge and breadth of experience and it lends authority, which is why we are still trusted to equip and prepare people for the field.
The award of a Royal Warrant by HRH The Prince of Wales in 1982 was a mark of recognition for Farlows’ supply of fishing tackle and waterproof clothing to the Royal Household and it has recently been renewed in recognition of our ongoing trading relationship. The grant of a Royal Warrant is an honour, it reflects Farlows’ philosophy and, we hope, recognises our commitment to the ethical sourcing of the finest British materials and craftsmen to create practical and stylish products for the modern country market.
How does Farlows work to champion British craftsmanship, and how important is it that we, as a nation, continue to develop these skills?
We work very closely with some of the finest artisan British producers, including one of the best tweed mills in the country in Hawick, Scotland, which produces the exclusive Farlows’ tweeds. The silks for our ties and pocket squares are made in one of the oldest silk mills in the world in Suffolk and our stick-maker, who creates stunning shooting and walking sticks with carved animal and bird heads, works out of a shed in Northern Ireland; it is a unique, small-scale British business.
More recently we have engaged with a leather workshop in the Midlands where they handcraft a range of small leather pieces, such as wallets, for us. This is a small business working out of a converted garage, employing apprentices to ensure that the craft is nurtured and has a future and we are delighted to encourage that.
We have also engaged with noted stained glass maker, Sophie D'Souza. Although Sophie primarily creates ecclesiastical stained glass and undertakes church commissions, Farlows recognised her unique talent and engaged with her to produce a range of stained glass panels depicting some of our iconic sporting species, such as the Atlantic salmon, brown trout, hare, pheasant and royal stag. Additionally, she created the Charles Farlow Trophy for us which is awarded annually to the captor of the largest salmon caught on the fly, and safely returned, to an English or Welsh river.
British craftsmanship gives our product ranges a very distinctive edge, while not compromising on quality, and that’s refreshing in a world of mass-consumerism. Farlows will always champion that.
Farlows is renowned for providing the best sporting equipment in the country and the near-encyclopedic knowledge and expertise of your staff members is famed – why is this so important to your clients?
When customers leave our store, they take away much more than the finest equipment and clothing, they also take with them some of our team’s knowledge, experience, and wisdom. It is something that can’t be measured or have a price placed on it but it is something our client's value - it is the true essence of Farlows, it is trust.
Our team has expertise in game fishing, both at home and abroad, and can advise anglers on the correct tackle and techniques for any destination in the world. Indeed, the chances are that one of the team will have fished the same beat, with the same ghillie, and can tie the killer fly the angler needs too! It’s the same with our clothing collection, the team has expertise in the field in every extreme of weather. They can advise on correct layering for salmon fishing in the Arctic, staying cool and protected from the sun on the Mexican flats and staying warm, dry and comfortable on a wet winter’s day on a grouse moor.
With such a rich history, how will the Farlows brand evolve as it moves into the future?
We are driven by a pursuit of excellence in the products we sell and the service we provide, coupled with a relentless desire to push boundaries and to innovate, we are always seeking to improve that, both in terms of the creation of our products and the training of our team, and that will continue to drive Farlows into the future. We plan to steadily develop the Farlows range of products and, in addition to the evolution of our acclaimed fieldwear and country clothing collections, we are beginning to explore some exquisite and technically advanced pieces for the angling market, including our own range of rods, made by hand in England.
Elegantly styled in the British fly fishing tradition by highly experienced craftsmen, these will be designed to afford improved casting efficiency, more delicate presentation and an aesthetic of handling that will make them the ultimate implement for fly fishing in the traditional realm of streams and rivers.
What does Britishness mean to you?
It depends how you define ‘Britishness’! I’m sure how we define it in today’s multi-cultural Britain is very different indeed to how Charles Farlow would have defined it back in 1840. Britishness is many things to many people.
It’s afternoon tea with scones and jam, cricket on the village green, a fat trout rising to a dry fly on an English chalkstream, being in the butts on a Scottish grouse moor, waiting for dusk beside a Welsh sea trout river.
It’s pleasingly eccentric but at the same time, it’s ordered and surprisingly efficient. It has its roots in tradition and experience but it is innovative and progressive, seeking to be better – these are all elements of Britishness that are woven into the character of Farlows and which I hope are evident in our people and in our products.
Farlow's flagship Pall Mall store, London