Please allow me to introduce myself…
I am delighted to be contributing to Carl Thompson’s blog. I have known Carl for many years, since we met at a Chester Barrie press day down in Savile Row. I was the senior creative for the brand and Carl was a keen supporter of my work and would always visit the presentations at London Collections: Men (as London Fashion Week was once known).
I have worked in the fashion industry for over twenty-five years. I have no formal training and started my career as a junior salesman in the shirt & tie department of Selfridges. I have always loved clothing and can’t remember an age where I wasn’t aware of what I was wearing. But I never considered that I could make a career from it. At 18, I very lazily applied for a job in a bank after a brief discussion with the school’s career advisor where my options were summarised as “bank or civil service”. So I started as a junior in a suburban High Street bank. I only lasted eighteen months before the lure of the West End called me to Oxford Street.
My first break was when Thomas Pink opened a concession in Selfridges, I was a fan of their shirts so I wrangled the manager’s job by the age of 22. My love of cloths blossomed as I became aware of all these great classic brands and a large portion of my salary was spent on custom made cloths and good shoes. From Pink’s I moved to Savile Row where I was a salesman/fitter. This is where I became obsessed with textiles. Our shop full of cloth books called “bunches” and I would go through all of them learning about different weights, textures and qualities. There is a lot of knowledge on Savile Row and some very generous characters who are willing to share it…usually over a pint. I then moved to Ede & Ravenscroft to head up their made-to-measure department. Ede & Ravenscroft are London’s oldest tailors with a heritage and stretches back to 1689. It was fun bringing it into the 20th century and convincing staff that we should fax orders rather than relying on the post! It was here that I really started to understand the rules of classic menswear and when and how to break them. I was very lucky to be promoted to buyer when the position became vacant despite having no buying experience. The retail director mentored me and translated my knowledge of tailoring into a commercial skill. I had the most wonderful decade with Ede & Ravenscroft; I travelled all over Europe, met the Queen and was even introduced to my future wife. But at the age of 39 I was eager to move onto bigger and better things.
I joined Chester Barrie with the responsibility to oversee every product from morning dress to casual outerwear. We took the brand to trade shows in Florence, New York and Hong Kong, as well as becoming a major fixture on the LCM calendar. This also coincided with the growth in social media. I love the way that it can connect people with a similar interest and how it can champion smaller brands and artisans. I loved sharing new ideas and receiving immediate feedback…usually good. I am no longer with Chester Barrie and have what is known as a “portfolio career” where I split my time between writing online content for magazines and brands, styling, lecturing at a college and starting my own label. I look forward to writing more for Carl and connecting with his followers. I will be writing about classic mens fashion as well as the fashion industry and sharing my experiences from both.
Photo Credit Anna Michell