Getting to Know Realm & Empire: Interview with Richard Robinson

Do you remember the post, from few weeks ago, of the wonderful event held at the HMS Belfast? Since then, Realm & Empire has become my new favourite Brit-brand, established in 2011 and taking fully inspiration from the deep historic roots and rich British heritage, this unique menswear brand has shown its brilliant talent on making great quality material, with a classic old school – All English – twist. 

I’ve been captivated so deeply by the brand, that I had to come up with something special, so the Realm & Empire team and I came up with this exclusive interview to their Brand creative director Richard Robinson, which has given us a delight insight of how they like they run their business and create such incredible collections, as well as some news on what’s going to happen in the future of Realm & Empire.
In the meanwhile, you can enjoy the interview and a cheeky preview of the R&E total look photoshoot which is coming up in just a few days, so stay tuned!
photography: from Realm&Empire FW13 lookbook / personal shoot: by Tina Miguel
Q: How did the journey for “Realm & Empire” begin? How did it all start?
A: For some time now the menswear market has been swamped by brands making suspect ‘heritage’ claims . We wanted to be the antithesis of this. We had a clear vision for a menswear label that was not only British-inspired but had genuine historical links and was respectful of the history it represented. 
A visit to The National Archives led to a chance meeting with IWM and a private tour of the Churchill War Rooms. Here we found an amazing resource of authentic archive material that could provide the creative inspiration for Realm & Empire. 
Q: The name “Realm & Empire” definitely grabbed my attention. I get the vision and inspiration of it, but how did you choose the name of the brand?
A: The choice of words was very deliberate.
We wanted to allude to Britain’s illustrious past and the ‘real’ history that is behind each and every piece in our collection.
We also wanted to paint a picture of ‘Britishness’ with military undertones to reference the association with IWM. The process might have involved a pint of mild.
Q: I’ve heard the brand’s main focus used to be mainly on print t-shirts, but browsing through the AW13 Collection, I can positively say that that’s not the case anymore. The outerwear was just superb. So, how is the brand developing?
A: The expansion of the collection has been fuelled by the IWM archives. At first we only scratched the surface and our early graphic-based collections were of the time. Now however we are digging deeper and have a better understanding of how we can best use this amazing resource. We are more focussed on functional details and iconic silhouettes.
The original garments we are referencing were designed to perform and withstand the harshest of conditions. For AW13 we took the Peacoat and the Sniper Parka and recreated those styles in contemporary fabrics. The reaction has been incredible.  
Q: Can you talk us through the SS14 collection? I had a peek at the latest look-book and it just looks great. I would love to know more about it.
A: SS14 marks another big step forward for R&E. We have taken inspiration from the legacy of Lawrence of Arabia during WWI and the desert campaign of WWII.  We also feature a capsule print series from Sir Cecil Beaton’s photography archive.
The colour palette is driven by the desert backdrop – strong sandy tones with washed out whites and greens, lifted by spice pops of cayenne, saffron and tarragon. Our signature print is a desert floral, taken in true Realm & Empire style from a wallpaper clipping found in a trench circa 1917.  
Key styles for the season are utility over shirts, floral print tees and shorts, and some great photographic and archive inspired prints on tees and lightweight sweats.    
Q: The Fall/Winter ’13 campaign was shot on HMS Belfast and our team had the pleasure of seeing the collection and a private tour on the war ship. How did you come up with the idea of shooting the campaign on such an incredible location, full of British History? Whose idea was it?
A: We had one eye on HMS Belfast throughout the design and development process for AW13, as many pieces in the collection are naval inspired.
The ship is actually a museum, bought by the IWM Trust in the early 70’s. Well worth a visit. We were able to use this incredible setting for our shoot because of our relationship with IWM.  
Q: What’s the future for “Realm & Empire”?  Any collaborations we should look out for?
A:  Our core collaboration will always be with the IWM and its garment archive. Beyond this we are focusing on developing product that uses British fabrics and manufacturers, or that is inspired by great British personalities, traditions or culture.
Product development for AW14 for example is influenced by the artists and social movements at the time of WWI, which sees its centenary next year.
This includes a fascination with the contrast in style and standing between the ‘ranks’. Many officers dressed head to toe in the finest tailoring whilst the regular soldier stood on the front line in weather beaten, thread bare standard issue. A great story to tell through the collection.  
Q: Last but not least, where do you guys take your inspiration from? What/who inspires “Realm & Empire”?
A: Inspiration comes from our unique collaboration with IWM, combined with our passion for well-made, accessible and relevant product.
Some of the most revered menswear designers have taken their inspiration from military garments – Massimo Osti, Nigel Cabourn. At Realm & Empire we share that passion. We are proud and privileged to have access to the IWM archives. No other menswear brand has this.