Anatomy of a Brand: R.M. Williams

As one of Australia’s most iconic clothing labels R.M. Williams is positioning itself as a global brand with luxurious and uniquely Australian apparel.

After nine decades, R.M. Williams has become one of the most iconic Australian footwear brands in the world. It was founded in 1932 by Reginald Murray Williams, who recognised the need for hard-wearing products that could endure the harsh Australian bush. The brand, synonymous with style, quality and Australian heritage, has recently undergone a complete brand identity redesign. The clear and conscious move further cements the brand for a global audience. The new design has a contemporary and luxury feel but maintains its origins born in the Australian outback. The recently launched campaign is shot by Australian photographer Hugh Stewart and styled by Meg Gray (former Vogue Australia fashion editor). The campaign contrasts aerial landscape photography of the South Australian outback paired with fashion portraits with relaxed styling. The result is a modern and approachable, yet progressive, feel for the brand. R.M.-Williams-Anatomy-of-Brand-Adelaide-Review-3 The rebrand was led by Sydney-based design agency Special Group, who have also worked on global campaigns for Marcs and Qantas. The new typeface – inspired by the 1940s R.M. Williams catalogues – is used across all stores and packaging, and the newly developed website. The website also features videos from inside the workroom – showcasing the work involved in constructing the boots, repairs and signature saddlery. It’s clear that the new brand identity has a renewed focus on the R.M. Williams craft, and celebrates its heritage while aligning the brand with premium fashion houses (think Burberry or Ralph Lauren). Australia is fundamental to R.M. Williams’ heritage, and this is explored through the new short film A Life’s Work, directed by Christopher Riggert at Finch – the production company behind numerous campaigns, TV commercials and films, whose clients including Australian Tourism, Chef’s Table and Red Bull to name a few. The film is currently running on TV in regional Australia and online, and takes inspiration from the life of founder R.M. Williams, bringing the brand’s core values to life.

R.M. Williams’ growth has been progressing since 2010, where, in a fascinating and impressive move, a share of R.M. Williams was sold to L Capital Asia – a private equity fund sponsored by the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy group. Further cementing the global expansion plans for the move to the luxury market, the company has recently received further investment from Australian actor Hugh Jackman, as well as former cricketer Glen McGrath who joined the board of directors for R.M. Williams in late 2015. For a company that is now solely owned by the Singapore-based equity fund, it’s positive that approximately 80 percent of R.M. Williams overall production is still made in Australia. Over the past 10 years, R.M. Williams has worked with offshore manufacturers when the product quality or skill in making the item was strong. However, iconic lines including handcrafted boots, belts and jackets will continue to be made in Adelaide. R.M.-Williams-Anatomy-of-Brand-Adelaide-Review-2 With the brand’s expansion to a global market and evolving target audience, remarkably all product lines offered include an Australia-made option so customers can choose to dress head-to-toe in Australia-made R.M. Williams. Today, the classic elastic-sided “RM” boots are still made from a single piece of leather in the Adelaide factory (that employs over 300 staff) and remains one of their most iconic and sought-after designs. Aside from being worn by the likes of Kate Middleton, Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig – the $495 starting price tag for a pair of classic RMs is certainly worth the investment in premium Australian fashion (and fear not, the original R.M. Williams logo remains on the boot tugs).

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