A petrol station and a farm shop with a few uninterested sheep for an audience — it’s hardly the natural setting for a glamorous fashion designer and wife of a multi-millionaire.
Appearances can be deceptive, however. This is the Cotswolds, a particularly upscale corner of Gloucestershire — my taxi driver points out the Beckhams’ house — and it is here that I’ve arranged to meet one half of another glossy British power couple, Jade Holland Cooper.
The 35-year-old fashion designer is married to Julian Dunkerton, 57, who founded streetwear label Superdry and was worth £182 million in 2020. And, yes, she looks every penny as she steps out of her shiny black Bentley to greet me. She’s model-thin, with white manicured nails, false eyelashes and a deeper-than-deep mahogany tan offset by extremely white teeth.
She has a sparkly Cartier watch flashing on her wrist (a present from Julian) and more diamond rings than a Tiffany’s window.
Julian Dunkerton and Jade Holland Cooper at home at Dowdeswell Court. Jade founded the label Holland Cooper in her 20s, before she met Julian, and has been building it for 14 years
But Jade Holland Cooper is no typical trophy wife. As an entrepreneur, she’s giving her husband a good run for his money.
Her company, Holland Cooper, the quintessentially English ‘countryside chic’ brand favoured by the Duchess of Cambridge, is anything but a vanity project to keep her busy between spa appointments. She founded the label in her 20s, before she met Julian, and has been building it for 14 years.
Now Holland Cooper is having something of a moment. The pandemic helped — as people spent months holed up in cities, plotting or dreaming of a move to the country and a slice of the good life, the brand went stratospheric.
It had a £4million turnover in 2021, and according to Holland Cooper, ‘it’s doubling every year in both turnover and profit’. Not bad for someone who quit agricultural college to sell tweed miniskirts at Badminton Horse Trials.
Don’t be blinded by the diamonds, though; in person Jade is down-toearth and no nonsense. She’s cracking jokes about thermal vests and gushing about her 18-month-old daughter, Saphaia, who’s at home with the nanny.
The Dunkertons are a big presence in the Cotswolds. Jade and Julian met in one of Julian’s hotels in the area six years ago, and married, in a lavish ceremony here, in 2018.
Jade met the Superdry founder at one of his hotels six years ago, and the pair (pictured) married in 2018
Around the corner from Jade’s flagship boutique where we meet is a shop and bar for Dunkertons Cider, Julian’s family’s cider brand. Julian and Jade also own the 131 hotel in nearby Cheltenham. No wonder some people refer to this patch of country as ‘Dunker-town’.
She laughs it off. ‘We have invested in this area. We want to be an asset and give something back,’ she says.
She certainly seems to be dressing half of it. There are often queues outside her boutique with women of all ages and sizes driving for hours to get their hands on the tweed blazers with cinched-in waists, over-theknee boots and skin-tight ‘jodphur jeans’ that are putting the sex in the shires. ‘In winter it was mental, we weren’t prepared,’ she says.
At Cheltenham Races you couldn’t move for the label’s distinctive chunky HC logo and big gold buttons. Forget muddy wellies and fleeces that smell of wet dog, these are clothes for the stylish new country set who want to look chic, whether they’re at a horse fair or Soho Farmhouse. It’s not quite catwalk prices, but it’s a furlong above the High Street, and comes with some impressive endorsements.
When the Duchess of Cambridge wore a £179 Fairisle knit sweater to present a CBeebies bedtime story earlier this year, it sold out.
Kate also wore the Knightsbridge Coat to the Six Nations in February this year, a white shirt on a Zoom call with nurses in January 2021, and a tartan coat and a black twill blazer on her tour of Scotland last year. Zara Tindall, Amanda Holden and Kirsty Gallacher are also fans.
‘A lot of the time I’m designing for me,’ says Jade, who is dressed top-to-toe in her own label today, from the logo-ed loafers on her feet to the chunky sunglasses pushed back on her head.
‘Ninety per cent of my life is working and I’m a mum,’ she adds. ‘I do live in the country, but I have an element of my life in the city. I’m wanting clothes that work hard and I don’t have to think about.’
Julian does my Instagram photos — he’s brilliant at it
It says a lot about her customer base that the brand has an equestrian range and skiing collection. While the £949 trench coat may be beyond most women’s budgets, a few more could afford to splurge on a £65 HC belt or a £139 HC bracelet.
Yet, inevitably, there are still those who simply write Jade off as ‘Mrs Superdry’. ‘It’s very annoying,’ she bristles. ‘But it makes me work harder. Yes, I don’t have to do anything, but I do, and I work incredibly hard. I’ve become almost obsessive about delivering and achieving.’
Surely, though, there must be days when she’s tempted to just slack off and go shopping or for lunch like the other wives of multi-millionaire moguls? ‘No, or I’d be doing it,’ she fires back. I get the sense she’s asked this a lot.
‘Some days I think, “I can’t do this” and it’s not just this business — we have multiple companies and I have a big house to run.’
You can say that again. Home is the Grade II-listed Dowdeswell Court, built in the 1830s and bought by Julian before he met Jade. Set in 250 acres, it’s worth £50million, and has eight bedrooms, several living rooms, a photography studio, a spa, a gym, a sauna, and the largest private outdoor pool in the country, which Jade swims in ‘once a week’.
However, she puts her enviable figure down to a diet of ‘coffee and work… I’m not a gym person’.
She’s proud that most of Holland Cooper’s merchandise is made in Britain and is particularly keen to talk about her new Jubilee range of elegant tweed trenches similar to the £849 purple and green tartan Marlborough coat Kate wore on her Scottish tour with William. ‘All the tailoring is done in the UK and all the wool is sourced from mills in Scotland,’ Jade says.
The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured) is a big fan of Holland Cooper. Kate is pictured here wearing one of the brand’s coats
She enthuses about the process, where every piece is ‘hand-chalked, hand-designed’ at a factory in East London. The scarves and hats are made by the heritage British millinery company Christys’.
She says her favourite thing is watching customers ‘transform’ in the boutique. ‘I love seeing women who’ve had children and lost their identity,’ she says. ‘They spend a few hours in here and say: “I’ve got myself back again.” You can get immersed in babyland and lose yourself, but it’s really important you don’t do that because you’re still who you were before.’
Jade says having Saphaia in November 2020 hasn’t changed her style. ‘It’s not like I was teetering around in little dresses and high heels,’ she says. ‘At home, I’m in wellies and jeans and I was always like that before.’
But it has changed her approach to work. ‘I wasn’t prepared for how special that relationship is,’ she says. ‘You think: “It won’t affect me — I’ll keep going!” And then you have this little person who you don’t want to be away from.
‘My office is local to the house, and I often bring Saphaia with me and she comes on shoots. We have a great nanny, which is essential, but I’m far more disciplined with my time. I do every bath and bedtime and I try not to log back on after she’s gone to bed.’
The Duchess of Cambridge is pictured here wearing a Holland Cooper blazer on a trip to Fife Scotland
Instagram is another matter, however, Jade is very savvy about social media, and is regularly pictured twirling in her clothes in front of the family’s private jet for her 107,000 followers. ‘I reply to every message,’ she says. ‘It keeps me connected to the customer.’
I ask her if Julian is a good ‘Instagram husband’, given that he famously doesn’t own an iPhone. ‘He actually does do the photos and he’s brilliant at it, despite his Nokia,’ she laughs.
Unlike many influencers, however, Jade is the real deal. She actually does spend her life swanning around a gorgeous country pile looking immaculate: ‘For me, if I sloth around and don’t make any effort it doesn’t do me any favours,’ she says.
‘I have a responsibility to represent the business and who I am. We’re about empowering women and for me [looking like this] makes me feel like I can go out and do that. I don’t feel under huge pressure to do it, but I do think it’s important for me as a woman to maintain myself.’
I get the sense she must be a pretty formidable but inspiring boss, one who cares about every detail. ‘There’s nothing I don’t know,’ she agrees. ‘I don’t care what I have to do to get a job done, whether it’s Hoovering the stock room or picking things up off the shop floor. I’ll do whatever it takes to get it looking right. I’m not detached on a golden throne.’
Clearly this ‘golden throne’ — or ivory tower — is a sensitive subject for her. ‘There’s nothing moreirritating than when someone says: “You’ve been lucky”,” she goes on. ‘You create your own luck. I’ve earned my stripes.’
Does she ever feel she missed out, starting a business in her early 20s while her friends were out partying? ‘It was hard to begin with,’ she admits. ‘But I don’t feel like I missed out. Parties are always there.’
I don’t HAVE to do anything, but I do — Hoovering the stockroom, picking things up off the floor…I’m not detached on a golden throne
Perhaps to make up for lost time, she now loves hosting them. Her recent 1920s-themed 35th birthday party sounded like a riot. Guests included the Marchioness of Bath, Emma Weymouth, Made In Chelsea’s Ollie Locke — an old friend from her Royal Agricultural College days — and Idris and Sabrina Elba.
‘Idris and Julian have been friends for years, and then Sabrina came on the scene… they’re an awesome couple,’ she says.
Jade was also a guest at Lady Kitty Spencer’s lavish, star-studded wedding near Rome last year — ‘gorgeous . . . I know her through Idris and Sabrina’.
She says they have a close friendship group of people they’ve known for years. ‘True friendship is being there when it’s not all glitz and glamour. Everyone has down days. Your friends are there to help pick you up, and vice versa.’
She prides herself on understanding the financial side of running a fashion brand. ‘If you want to create a commercial company which can support itself, you can’t shy away from the bottom line,’ she says. ‘From day one I had to be on top of that. If I didn’t make enough money, I couldn’t pay our staff and that discipline never leaves you.’
Jade says she gets her work ethic from her parents — her father Oliver is a farmer in Suffolk, and her mother, Miranda, a former fashion designer turned landscape designer. ‘I could see how hard they were working,’ she says. ‘They were very entrepreneurial. My mother always said to me: “Have your financial independence, never be hamstrung to anyone for money.” ’
Mum is outside the boutique today, looking fabulous in a leather biker jacket and high-heeled boots and full of stories about getting Jade on the sewing machine aged four. She’s visiting from Suffolk with Jade’s dad.
Jade in her own label, including Jubilee scarf and trench. Jade’s mother Miranda is a former fashion designer turned interior landscape designer
With two stepbrothers, Jade knew she wouldn’t inherit Daddy’s farm, and once said: ‘I worked out at a very young age, ten I think, that I was never going to inherit. So: self-reliance.’
How hard will it be for Jade to instil a work ethic in her daughter? ‘It’s something Julian and I talk about a lot,’ she says. ‘I’m desperate for Saphaia to understand that money is great, but if you haven’t earned it and you don’t understand it, it becomes very boring.
‘Material objects alone don’t bring you happiness — it’s the fulfilment that the whole journey brings. I want her to understand how long it takes to work to achieve the things she might be seeing as normal.’
Despite the 22-year age gap, Jade says she and Julian are in sync on most things: ‘The minute we first started talking to each other, it was that light-bulb moment of “this person understands me”,’ she says. ‘We’re genuinely excited about the same things. We share an amazing synergy in our thought processes, and to find another human who is like that is quite rare.’
They do seem well matched: both started their fashion brands selling clothes on market stalls, and are incredibly driven.
‘I think Julian loves the fact I love working as much as he does. In previous relationships, it could be a problem. [Ex-boyfriends] would say: “How much money is enough?” or “Why are you doing that on a Sunday?” ‘
Jade and Julian (pictured) brainstorm ideas over breakfast and give each other advice. She says their favourite thing to splash the cash on is travel
That desire to succeed and deliver more is almost like an addiction and I think Julian has the same thing,’ she admits.
Jade and Julian even worked on their honeymoon in the Maldives. ‘Yes,’ she laughs. ‘There’s never a day we don’t think about work.’
As you’d imagine from the King and Queen of British Fashion, they brainstorm ideas over breakfast and give each other advice. She says their favourite thing to splash the cash on is travel — ‘we try to get away for mini-breaks’ — and says they’re real foodies. They often go out to eat in their own restaurant, though, which must be a bit of a busman’s holiday? ‘Yes, you can’t really switch off,’ she admits.
As you’d expect, she has big plans for the future. ‘We want to become the British lifestyle brand,’ she says. ‘I always looked up to Ralph Lauren and the ability to dress grandparents, babies and everyone in between.’
She has already moved into childrenswear and accessories for dogs. ‘We’re thinking global expansion. We have a big market overseas . . .homeware, a beauty line, the whole lifestyle.’
I can picture it, I tell her. ‘I always knew I’d be able to do it,’ she agrees. ‘Anything is possible — it just depends how badly you want it.’