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Richard Quinn and Royal Salute's Mathieu Deslandes on the importance of cross-industry collaboration

Tom Shearsmith
29 April 2022

British Scotch whisky distiller Royal Salute has released two limited edition blends in partnership with fashion designer Richard Quinn, celebrating the union between the fashion industry and the whisky industry.

The two blends marked the first release of Royal Salute's Couture Collection; a new line of collectable whiskies celebrating cutting-edge creativity in fashion. First unveiled as part of London Fashion Week 2021, the Richard Quinn Edition is inspired by the designer’s unique style of reinterpreting classic flower patterns with a modern and edgy twist.

The collaboration between Royal Salute and Richard Quinn is rooted in a shared desire to push their craft beyond expectation. Pushing the boundaries of whisky blending is at the heart of Royal Salute, whilst Richard's bold, elegant and emotive style has seen him receive critical acclaim, notably from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, honouring his work with the prestigious Award for British Design in 2018. spoke to Richard Quinn and Royal Salute's Marketing Director, Mathieu Deslandes, to understand the reason behind the partnership, why diversity in fashion is so important and what the future holds for Richard Quinn following his nomination for the BFC and Vogue Designer Fashion Fund.

Mathieu, I want to first understand - How is Royal Salute navigating this new market and using collaborations like the one with Richard to adapt and appeal to a wider demographic?

I think at the core, we aim to bring enchantment and wonder to the industry. I think we've done this very well with the Richard Quinn edition. We felt like we needed to adapt and tap in to the creativity that we see in the world. Consumers buy into luxury - from fashion and accessories to luxury experiences, they expect this kind of level of creativity. So we felt that it was important for us in terms of evolution to the brand to connect to this new luxury consumers.

I think what was important was to first find a collaborator who respected tradition and was very grounded in the British culture, which we found with Richard. Royal Salute and Richard Quinn are the perfect match - his creativity, audacity and fashion style was exactly what we wanted.

So how did we end up with two Richard Quinn editions?

We decided that we were not going to do a one year collaboration but two year collaboration because we felt there was so much more to do with him, quite simply. By having a long term partnership or collaboration we have been able to learn from each other and are more confident in pushing boundaries.

With the second edition we decided we wanted to push what we'd done previously even further. We wanted something which was more crafted and less available - we essentially was trying to echo a bit of the fashion world where you have some products which are more couture. This edition features a new iteration of the ‘Petal and Thorns’ motif, with each product hand-painted and delicately finished with gold leaf detailing.

How do you see the fashion and whisky industries coming together in the future? Would you like to see from a like a lot more collaboration between the two?

I think when we decided to go into fashion, it was not just for one year, it was a long term vision. We acknowledge that there's a lot of creativity coming from fashion industry currently and that there's a need for a whisky brand in the luxury space - we're connect and unify the two. We've had such a positive response from consumers about the Richard Quinn editions, so it shows the appetite for people to go in that space. And it shows that despite being a brand with a very strong heritage, we need to keep being creative and giving the consumer what they expect, or more.

This has been a super exciting a journey so far and it just highlights how much we are in the right to collaborate and innovate. I think it's great that Royal Salute can also support the creativity seen in the British fashion industry and I'm sure that I may be a talking to you again soon about a new edition in our Couture Collection. We will do more editions and show more creativity!

Richard, how does it feel to be nominated for the BFC and Vogue Designer Fashion Fund?

It feels great. I think as a brand we're at the stage now where this would help take us to the next level. It's also an award for businesses that are about to go into more internal structures and reach different markets and people, so it gives you some invaluable mentorship and they link you with people who've done that a lot of times before.

We left the New Gen space this year at London Fashion Week and so I think this step feels very natural.

What was your own reaction to seeing your presentation at London Fashion Week in February?

Yeah, I think it went really well. It was nice to kind of have a smaller audience of people that were visibly enjoying it in the moment. We'd been working on it for a good few months and for the show we'd worked with really cool people like drag queen Violet Chachski and other interesting people that us as a team are really big fans of.

It was nice to see everyone become a part of our world and each season we really take care to look at the kind of music and the context of our presentations and give people reals experience - especially now coming back to physical shows.

You mentioned the model and drag artist Violet Chachski - I wanted to ask about gender expression throughout your presentations. You really care for the the gender experimental and those who push boundaries, what drives you and the brand to be so inclusive?

I think these people are really the icons of our time and I think people will look back in years to come and really appreciate them. I think it's really nice to think that you can be a part of that kind of pop culture movement. So I think people like Tayce, Violet and Bimini are really shaping the way people think about so many different aspects of life now and to work with them is kind of like a dream 'cause you start to have like a dialogue with them and find out how they work, what their background is and what's important to them.

It's actually just really amazing to meet these people and what they do is such like a specific art and they've really constructed a really amazing image of themselves. To be able to contribute to that and help give them another platform to express themselves is kind of an honour.

Was there anything that in particular served as inspiration for this season?

As we were preparing for this season we discussed at length about what our house codes are and what they look like. We also spoke about what private clients had expressed a desire to see. For this season we really focused on shape and looked at the theme of 'ladies who lunch', taking it in a really dark, ominous direction - such as where you have really big brim hats that come down or have like little peep holes. I'd describe it as kind of like... 50s women during lunch on their way to the boutique.

There was also an NFT released as part of the second edition Richard Quinn from Royal Salute, how does it feels to see your work in a different format - not on the catwalk, not in a physical bottle, buy something digitally that people aren't touching?

It's actually really interesting. I think it's such a new movement and is an indicator for how people want to interact with things. It's cool to be part of that movement and really interesting to see the engagement. Films like Ready Player One and Avatar have kind of shown versions of what these NFT's would be, so it's really interesting to be a part of an actual, real one. And someone's bought it!

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