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WORLD OF HUNTSMAN | Journal

Style for
SOLDIERS

Huntsman, together with luxury shirt-maker Emma Willis, wants to provide a helping hand to boost the confidence of British soldiers returning from war zones with life-changing injuries.

Huntsman, together with luxury shirt-maker Emma Willis, wants to provide a helping hand to boost the confidence of British soldiers returning from war zones with life-changing injuries.  To do that, the house has joined with Willis’s charity, Style for Soldiers, to provide bespoke and made-to-measure suits for a number of ex-servicemen with conflict injuries. The suits complement the bespoke shirts that Willis started designing for injured soldiers in 2007.

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In celebration of the charity, Willis took to London’s Le Caprice restaurant Tuesday night, to hold a glittering private dinner for the venture. It saw many VIP’s and press turn out to support the cause, along with patrons of the charity, among whom are David Gandy and Lisa Armstrong. Willis started the charity almost ten years ago, after listening to a radio programme about the difficulties wounded servicemen have in entering back into civilian life. In response to this, she decided to employ her shirt-making skills to bolster the self-esteem of injured soldiers, and began to visit Headley Court, a military rehabilitation centre in Surrey, to offer to fashion the soldiers their own bespoke shirts. They’re intended, she says, “to provide a smart uniform for interviews and new careers.” Added to this, Willis designed hand-carved, ebony walking sticks for the soldiers who needed them, and each year she holds a Style for Soldiers Christmas party, the largest reunion event for injured service personnel.

“As you’ll hear from the team at Huntsman, styling those soldiers in bespoke garments has been an extraordinary, uplifting experience for all, and I am grateful to Emma for her leadership that inspired us”

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Huntsman’s chairman, Pierre Lagrange, says that working with the charity was a natural move. “[Emma and I] were discussing how for soldiers who have lost a limb, to get back into society, is so difficult,” says Lagrange. “[Emma] was explaining to me she was dressing [a group of soldiers] in bespoke shirts…I immediately asked if she had someone to do the suits, so when she said no, I did not hesitate a second and I said, ‘Well I’ll do the suits.’” “As you’ll hear from the team at Huntsman, styling those soldiers in bespoke garments has been an extraordinary, uplifting experience for all, and I am grateful to Emma for her leadership that inspired us”

Huntsman’s general manager Carol Pierce and cutter Anette Akselberg worked together with the retired soldiers, to create a suit expertly fitted to their different body shapes.

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Among the ex-servicemen are 25-year-old Shaun Stocker, who lost both his legs and was partially blinded when he stepped on a landmine in Afghanistan. Stocker, who now works as a motivational speaker, asked Huntsman to make the suit that he will wear in June when he marries his fiancé Persia. Akselberg has cut the suit in grey herringbone wool, with a coat and waistcoat, in Huntsman’s classic, single button style.

Garth Banks, a soldier who was also injured in Afghanistan in 2010, and who now has two prosthetic legs, commissioned a suit with short trousers in what Akselberg describes as “a bright, French blue.” “Garth is very into his clothes…and this particular colour just suits him so much,” she says.

Both Pierce and Akselberg describe how inspirational all the soldiers have been to work with. “You feel quite humbled when you see these guys and all that they’ve been through,” says Pierce. “And yet they’re so appreciative of craftsmanship and teamwork, which is very much what they do anyway [in the army]. It was a very, very rewarding project.”

Akselberg recalls some of the many thank you letters that she and her team have received from the soldiers. “Ali Spearing wrote an email saying: “I will walk taller and stand prouder in such an exceptional outfit.”

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Akselberg recalls some of the many thank you letters that she and her team have received from the soldiers. “Ali Spearing wrote an email saying: “I will walk taller and stand prouder in such an exceptional outfit.”

“It sort of sums it all up, I think,” says Akselberg. “If you’re wearing something special… it does give you a sense of pride, and increases your confidence, doesn’t it? So with [the ex-servicemen] having such a big part in the whole design process, I think it’s even more so.”

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