Leather goods, wines, spirits, stationery and hats: there would appear to be little that binds these disparate goods together when shopping in London’s most rarefied precincts.
Look a little closer, though, and you’ll notice a discreet unifier that is the ultimate badge of honour for a company. The Royal Warrant is a coat of arms which means that the Royal Household themselves are regular users of a product. Unsurprisingly, it’s an accolade that is taken very seriously indeed, as Russell Tanguay from the Royal Warrant Holders’ Association explains.
“I think most people recognise the Royal Arms on products as meaning that the product is used by the Royal Household, if not by the individual grantor – be that The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh or The Prince of Wales. However most people probably don’t realise that the Royal Warrant itself is a document giving the company permission to display the Royal Arms on its products or packaging, stationery, premises, vehicles and marketing communications. This permission is only granted to companies that have a strong trading relationship with the Royal Household, and one that is on-going. It signifies that the product or service is of sufficient quality that the Grantor is content for their Royal Arms to be displayed.”
Issued by the Royal Family since the 15th century, there are currently around 850 companies who have the right to display the venerated coat of arms, ranging from the jewellers Asprey to the stationers Autoscan and the leather goods makers Barrow and Gale.
Getting a warrant is far from easy. “Companies wishing to apply for a Royal Warrant need to demonstrate to the Association that they have been trading with the Royal Household for at least five years out of the past seven and that one of those years is within the 12 months before making the application – thus demonstrating that the relationship is current. It’s a process that doesn’t guarantee a warrant as the outcome. There are always applications that are not successful – often more than half!”
Mark Gordon, Managing Director of Benson and Clegg, a bespoke tailoring and menswear brand founded in 1937, explained to LUXOS how their own acquisition of a Royal Warrant came about.
“Mr David Clegg, the owner at the time, was dining at his club in St James with one of the managers of Turnbull & Asser, the shirt-makers, who was tasked with producing a new blazer for the Prince of Wales’ household. He mentioned that he was looking for a high quality, English-made blazer button to go on the garment and naturally Mr Clegg was quick to offer his services, as Benson & Clegg were one of the very few people offering that quality of product. Our details were passed to St James’s Palace and the rest, as they say, is history.”
So how can such a traditional marker remain relevant? “Well, I think the Warrant must still be relevant in 2016 judging by the number of enquiries we have from companies wanting to apply for a Royal Warrant and also from current Warrant holders checking how they can display the Royal Arms!” says Tanguay.
It’s a sentiment echoed by luxury outerwear specialists Barbour, whose Managing Director, Steve Buck, said, “We draw inspiration from our rich heritage to create a wardrobe of clothes that are fresh and contemporary alongside classics that remain iconic and will not alienate traditional customers. Our balance of classic quality and new style has generated interest amongst younger fashionistas,” he adds.
For a glimpse inside the Royal shopping basket, or as an indicator of whether anything from hats to shoes or gin is of a certain quality, this is one coat of arms whose relevance has possibly never been greater. As Russell Tanguay proudly states, “holding a Royal Warrant is a great privilege and one that should be treasured. The Royal Warrant is solely within the gift of the Royal Household and has evolved over the centuries just like the Monarchy.”