The story of Holliday & Brown is a story that is unfortunately rather common these days, starting out with a few artisans producing high-quality items and ending in one of those multi-national fashion conglomerates.
The story of Holliday & Brown began in 1919, when a young Aubrey Brown opened a small shop to sell silk ties in the Burlington Arcade in London’s Mayfair district. Aubrey and his brother Basil also shortly thereafter started a factory that produced the silk ties that were being displayed and sold in the newly opened shop. The Brown brothers quickly gained a reputation for producing first-rate ties with rather unusual designs and colour combinations and they soon became the most popular tie makers in London.
In 1926 Aubrey partnered with a close friend to establish “Holliday & Brown Ltd” that continued to produce and sell ties. Brown was as a fairly innovative businessman and he, among other things, pioneered the practice of touring the US to display his ties and thereby created a vastly greater market for their ties. Ties from Holliday & Brown quickly became known both for their superb quality andy unique designs and the ties quickly became one of the most coveted accessories in London.
The decades following the Second World War saw a period of rapid economic growth with low unemployment rates and inflation and this period has often been viewed as a ‘golden age’ for the British manufacturing industry. For Holliday & Brown their early success continued through this period as they became an international symbol of style. in the 1960s, following their world wide success, the company store relocated from the Burlington Arcade to the Savile Row. The success did last through the 1970s and the early 1980s but like many other British manufacturing firms they hit hard times in the late 1980s and daly 1990s.
In 2000 Holliday & Brown was bought by Italian luxury and fashion brand Mantero, thus severing the ties with Britain after nearly 80 year. The Holliday & Brown brand itself was of minor interest to Mantero, and the real gem in the purchase was the extensive archive of more than 100 volumes containing old silk patterns, drawings, samples and designs that had been created over the course of near a century. Mantero had it’s sights set on the archive with the hope of re-issue prints for their own lines of ties, scarves and handkerchiefs. However, Matero also tried revive the Holliday & Brown brand itself. Early on they issued a number of new lines of ties, the most well-known was perhaps those done in collaboration with an other Italian luxury brand - Prada. There was also a brief, but unsuccessful, attempt to brach out to other items beside ties, including tailored clothing, but this collection rapidly failed.
Today the brand appears to be on life support, with a few departments stores in the US and Japan carrying the brand in their stores. However, vintage Holliday & Brown ties are relatively easy to find in second hand stores and on online sites such as eBay. Surprisingly enough the ties can often be had for rather modest sums, despite the fact that the quality is really top-notch, on par with modern British tie makers such as Drake’s. If you browse online fora focused on tailored clothing, you will find a few enthusiasts singing the paris of Holliday & Brown (yours truly included of course) but largely it is a brand that has fallen by the ‘sartorial wayside’.
Personally Holliday & Brown will always hold a special place in my sartorial heart. I can trace my interest in tailored clothing back to a 50oz. silk H&B tie that effectively served as my ‘gateway drug’ into tailored clothing (I still own it, it’s the fire engine red with teal medallions in the top two photos). I found myself invited to an event that required suit and tie and was in desperate need of updating both tie and shirt. I stopped by an old haberdashery in the city where I live (that alas no longer remains) and asked to be fitted for a shirt and a tie that would work with my navy blue suit, a 10 year old piece that at the time was the only suit I owned. When I was about to pay I was stunned by the fact that the tie was more expensive that the shirt, something that was almost unfathomable to me then (I know better now :-) ). I was too embarrassed to say anything so I just paid and took the shirt and tie home. As it turns out, that was a real stroke of genius as I quickly realised what a difference it makes to tie and wear a real, high-quality tie. Then and there I was hooked and the rest, as they say, is history….