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Interview: Original Penguin’s Director of Design, Adam Weir
November 19, 2017
I love a classic look worn by Hollywood legends, but dear reader I’ll have to know you a bit better before confessing to wearing my Original Penguin Polo and pretending to be their famous fan – Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry. Let’s just say their range will ‘make my day’.
I also love a bit of ‘80s; it reminds me of when I was young. You didn’t have to explain what a Betamax was, summers were longer and Madonna was just about to set off on a career that would provide the soundtrack to my life. So, when I heard Original Penguin were adding to their range with the upcoming ‘80s-inspired collection I got Happy Feet . . . I’m sorry, I can’t resist a bad joke.
For some, the ‘80s were a time of big hair, big shoulders and big ‘taches, however look past Magnum PI and Dynasty (though you shouldn’t), and you’ll see that actually as inspiration for fashion, it was one of the most bright and bold eras.
From the New Romantics to the breakthrough of hip hop, to the Manchester sound, even just the music inspired a revolution away from the paisley flammable nightmares of the ‘70s, so it was with great excitement I opened up my email to have a look through the collections current and upcoming and leapt at the chance to interview Original Penguin’s Director of Design, Adam Weir. On with the questions . . .
Sportswear has undergone a huge resurgence in recent years, with Original Penguin being one of the iconic American sportswear labels, what do you think is behind it?
Men are looking for great clothes that look good and feel comfortable. Sportswear is now the socially-accepted norm for everyday life and not something confined to the golf course or tennis court.
Your logo famously comes from Abbot Pederson taking a trip to New York; can you tell readers the story and do you still have Pete The Penguin?
It’s a crazy true story about a drunk sales guy, a taxidermist and a flight attendant. Check out the great animation below– that explains it all. Pete disappeared soon after the company was formed and ever since then there has been recorded sightings of him all over the world.
Having built a reputation on the classic American look, how would you describe the brand’s look overall, and how has this style has been built within the latest collection?
We make timeless clothes that you can wear for almost any occasion and it’s that versatility that resonates with our customers. Trends come and go but style never goes out of fashion.
Original Penguin has been worn by some iconic figures in American history: Arnold Palmer, Richard Nixon, Frank Sinatra. What do you think it is about the brand that reaches out and touches people?
We are a really positive and fun brand and I think that appeals to everyone. We have a really loyal fan base that is really passionate about the brand and Pete himself.
You have a range of Oxford Shirts; is Oxford the most underrated style (I love them) and why should people embrace them more?
I love an oxford too. I think every man should have at least one in his wardrobe. Tucked-in with a trouser for dressier moments or let out with jeans for a more casual look. It’s probably the most versatile piece you can own.
Penguin biscuits have a joke on the back; what’s your best bad joke?
What do penguins wear on their heads? Ice caps.
How do you keep the brand fresh? Given the history of the brand, there must be a feeling of how do we honour that history?
I see it as both an honour and a privilege to be a part of shaping a brand with such a varied and rich history. It’s key that we continue to refresh and modernize our look whilst still paying homage to that history so that we remain relevant. We achieve this by updating fits, adjusting details and adding modern fabrics.
There are charities that let you sponsor a penguin, what would you call yours?
In honour of World Penguin Day, Original Penguin created Project #ShareConservation last year in order to raise awareness and funds for African Penguin Conservation. This year we expanded these efforts by working with world-renowned conservation organization International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to protect all wild animals around the world. However, in answer to your question, I would have to call him Pete.
Menswear is booming right now. It feels like a spark has finally been lit under male fashion; are you seeing changes in your customer?
I think our customer is becoming braver in his choices. Whether it’s an exciting new fabric, edgier silhouette or even a fun new colour, he is trying new things.
Was yours the first penguin to take to the skies? – they are famously a flightless bird.
Before arriving in NY, Pete was a world renowned hot air balloon enthusiast and could indeed be the first Penguin to take flight.
Penguins look like they have very formal style – they have an almost Tuxedo-like style; how would you make them more casual?
I think that wearing a clean pair of sneakers back to a tux is a really easy way to make the look more modern and young. You need to keep the tie though – it’s not 1987.
You can find the current Original Penguin Collection on their website with the ‘80s inspired Original Penguin looks joining the raft* early in the new year.
*Raft – Name for a group of penguins. Every day is a school day!
Read Ross Pollard’s interview with Roger Frampton, here.
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