Eric Musgrave

Since 1980, menswear & fashion retail commentator, opinionated thought-leader,
event host & all-round top bloke. Contact me to discuss working together.

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The launch of MENSWEAR

Friday, September 28th, 2012

 

Thursday September 27 was the official launch of MENSWEAR, a collection of 200 vintage photo postcards of well-dressed males. Artist Tom Phillips compiled the book from his amazing collection of 50,000 postcards and I was privileged to write the foreword. Bodleian Library Publishing has now published six books featuring postcards from Tom’s hoard.

The launch was made possible by Huntsman of Savile Row, which opened its doors to the 80 or so guests, and prestigious cloth merchant Harrisons of Edinburgh, which supplied the essential and much-enjoyed liquid refreshments. My thanks go to Poppy Charles and Patrick Murphy of Huntsman and to Mark and James Dunsford of Harrisons for their generous support. I am grateful also to Dr Samuel Fanous, Deborah Susman and Su Wheeler at Bodleian Library Publishing for supporting my idea of a launch on Savile Row. It was a splendid occasion and a worthy launch for a brilliant book.

           

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MENSWEAR vintage postcards book

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Anyone interested in men’s fashion will love MENSWEAR, a collection of 200 vintage picture postcards compiled by celebrated British artist Tom Phillips RA (see www.tomphillips.co.uk). I had the happy task of writing the foreword for the book, which is published by Bodleian Library Publishing with a cover price of £15 (ISBN: 978-1-85124-378-5)

This is my favourite image from the entire book – a dapper chappy indeed.

The book is laid out with, usually, four postcards shown across a spread. It is an extraordinary collection that illustartes just how much care regular men once took with their outfits.

 

The book was launched at a very agreeable evening on September 27 at Huntsman of Savile Row, with drinks supplied by cloth merchant Harrisons of Edinburgh. I appreciate the generosity of both sponsors.

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Celebrating 50 years of Fred Perry

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

To celebrate 50 years of the Fred Perry label, distinguished film maker Don Letts has put together six short features looking at British sub-culture since the early 1950s. At the preview in Islington, I caught up with my old favourite Mod girl Claudia Elliott, DJ Dave Edwards, Alan Hodgkiss of the Scotts casualwear chain and Fred Perry sales supremo Richard Walshe. Here’s to the next five decades of the celebrated laurel wreath. 

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Tartans for Oor Wullie and The Broons

Friday, September 21st, 2012

One of Scotland’s best Highland Dress specialists is The House of Edgar, which is part of Perth-based Macnaughton Holdings, a group that traces its roots back to 1783. Some of the more recent additions to its tartan patterns book are the checks registered to Oor Wullie and The Broons, characters from long-running strip cartoons in The Sunday Post. That legendary Scottish paper is published by Dundee-based D C Thomson, which gave me my start in journalism way back in 1977-78 on its “family newspaper” The Weekly News.

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At Johnstons of Elgin

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Having seen the Johnstons knitting plant in Hawick, I was very pleased to visit the company’s weaving mill, head office and visitor centre in Elgin. I can strongly recommend a tour of the mill to understand the amazing amount of work that goes in to Johnstons products in cashmere and other fine yarns. The company was founded in 1797 and despite disasters like fires and floods since then, this excellent company has gathered a fantastic archive, volumes of which can be seen in the photo. I am with Kirsty Cunningham and Jenny Stewart from the marketing department, who were very generous hosts.

 

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At The Carloway Mill

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

The smallest of the three mills on Lewis has been re-branded. The former Harris Tweed Textiles, or HTT, is now styling itself The Carloway Mill, taking its name from a nearby village. It is a little gem of a production unit.

  

Textile industry veteran Malcolm Campbell is acting as a consultant to the business as well as developing his own tweed line under The Callanish brand. From clothing to accessories, to luggage and furniture, Harris Tweed is a versatile cloth and modern finishing techniques means it does not have to be the heavy, hairy cloth that too many people think of when they think of Harris Tweed.

  

One development form Malcolm Campbell is the revival of the Murray of Atholl tartan, which effectively launched ther Harris Tweed industry in the mid-19th century. His brand takes its name from the Druidic standing stones at Callanish on the Isle of Lewis. 

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Weaving is not a hobby, it’s an obsession

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Norman Mackenzie left Lewis to become a successful dentist in Glasgow. When he retired back to the island he acquired a classic singe-width loom made by George Hattersley & Sons of Keighley. The Hattersley Domestic Loom was the machine on which the Harris Tweed industry was built.

Norman had done a bit of weaving as a teenager before he went to university. Now aged 72, he admits that weaving has become an obsession.  Norman’s loom is about 60 years old and he does most of the running repairs himself.

 

He works in a small building in his garden. In one room that’s heated by a peat fire, he prepares the warps for the cloth using the old method of arranging it on a wide rack. He has a stack of wool yarns to create the patterns he likes.

  

The peat is stacked outside the shed. Here Norman talks with photographer Gerardo Jaconelli who accompanied me on the trip around Scotland.

 

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The weaver’s life

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Traditionally Harris Tweed was woven on narrow- or single-width looms, but modern clothing production systems (and indeed bespoke tailors) require a a double-width bolt of cloth, which measures 150cm across. The two active mills on Lewis spin and dye the yarn and prepare the warps (the long threads that run north-to-south on a bolt of cloth). These are then delivered to the 100 or so weavers around the islands with the yarns for the weft (which run from left to right).  Angus Macarthur, better known as Tixie, has his loom in a shed about a dozen paces from his house. You can’t see it in this photo, but he powers the loom with pedals. He passes the working day watching an impressive flatscreen TV that hangs on the wall we are facing. Tixie doesn’t hang about; depending on the complexity of the pattern, he can weave a 70-metre length of cloth in a working day. The woven cloth is then sent back to the mill for finishing. I was very amused to learn that Tixie has never worn Harris Tweed! (To save you counting, I can tell you that there are 1392 threads in this piece of cloth.)

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At Harris Tweed Hebrides

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

The mill of Harris Tweed Hebrides produces about 85% of all current Harris Tweed output. It offers a staggering 8,000 or so designs. Head designer Ken Kennedy probably carries most of these patterns around in his head.

As well as apparel cloth, Harris Tweed is now increasing being used for interior fabrics. It is such a beautiful resource!

On the day I was there, many of the rolls of cloth stamped with the Orb awaiting shipping were destined for Japan, where I spotted this window in 2010.

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Guardians of the Orb

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Getting to Stornoway on Lewis early in the day required me to leave my Glasgow hotel at 05.20. Thank goodness then for the delicious breakfast that awaited me at the head office of The Harris Tweed Authority in the Town Hall. My host was Lorna Macaulay from the HTA (seen here on the right) and it was a delight to meet also Margaret Macleod (here on the left), head of regional development at Highlands and Islands Enterprise.  www.harristweed.org is the site to give you all the information about the cloth, the production of which is governed by Act of Parliament. Every bolt of Harris Tweed is authenticated with the iconic Orb Certification Mark, which indicates that the cloth is made “from 100% virgin wool, dyed, spun and hand-woven by the islanders at the own homes and finished in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland”. The photos behind us and the one of the collie here will appear in an imminent book on Harris Tweed by Ian lawson (see www.ianlawson.com)

The Blackface rams here belong to George Graham, who is official stamper to the Harris Tweed Authority and so authenticates every genuine piece of cloth.

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