Return of the mac – as a fashion icon

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Conceived almost 200 years ago by a Glasgow chemist with an interest in rubber and turned into a fashion icon by stars such as Audrey Hepburn and Steve McQueen, the Mackintosh became the venerable British brand that lost its way. Next week, it seals a remarkable comeback with its first stand-alone store.

Combining decades of heritage and a new-found popularity among wearers more concerned with style than practicality, the brand once favoured by flashers and private detectives will move in a more luxurious direction with a shop in Mount Street in London's Mayfair, where it will rub well-protected shoulders with high-end stores such as Balenciaga, Caroline Herrera and Marc Jacobs.

While the new store is undeniably luxurious, the company has its roots in practicality. It was founded in 1823, by Glasgow-based chemist and inventor Charles Macintosh, who developed a solution of India rubber dissolved in the coal by-product naphtha, painted it on to cloth, sandwiched another layer on top and created the first rainproof fabric.

Macintosh patented his invention in 1824, after which factories began to produce the new "Mackintosh" – now spelt with a "k" – fabric. The first clothing item was a riding coat with internal leg straps to keep the coat from flapping.

The company's range of men's and women's raincoats, that range from slim,single-breasted styles to double-breasted, belted trenches, is now made by craftspeople who have served a three-year apprenticeship. It's still made in the UK in factories in Cumbernauld in Scotland and Nelson, Lancashire.

Those factories came close to closing in the Nineties, when the company suffered financial difficulties. The company was bought out by its Japanese distributor Tagi Tsusho in 2007.

Mackintosh isn't the first outerwear brand to become a fashion name. Burbery, whose coats have been modelled recently by the Harry Potter actress, Emma Watson, has become a global brand while other classic British coat-makers currently enjoying a moment in the fashion spotlight include Gloverall, Barbour, Aquascutum and Lavenham, which makes quilted, country-style jackets.

Mackintosh's high fashion credentials are bolstered by the fact that it makes outerwear for luxury brands such as Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Gucci, YSL and the Japanese designer Junya Watanabe.

Like Burberry and Paul Smith, Mackintosh's Britishness has given it a cult status in Japan. The new shop will feature a limited edition range by the cult French label Kitsune as well as a display of archive styles. As with other traditional brands – including Hunter wellies – Mackintosh will have to tread the fine line between tradition and innovation to keep consumers interested.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Project Coordinator

    Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

    Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

    £350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

    Embedded Linux Engineer

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

    Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

    £50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell