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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25 years of Textile View magazine

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Just over 25 years ago Textile View magazine made its first appearance with a cover that was somewhat different to the usual textile and fashion trend publications. This encapsulated the fresh approach that founder and editor-in-chief David Shah was determined to bring to this specialist field with his new quarterly title.

Textile View launch issue spring 88 001

Since spring 1988, the Amsterdam-based Textile View – which is usually called just View these days – has continued to present a provocative, stimulating and well-researched face to the world. All 100 previous covers have been gathered on a fold-out cover for issue 101, which celebrates the mag’s quarter-century.

View 101 25 years 003View 101 25 years 004

As well as the usual textile and fashion trends – with forecasts looking as far forward as autumn/winter 2014/2015 – Issue 101 includes a silver anniversary supplement.

View 101 25 years 001 View 101 25 years 005 View 101 25 years 002

David and his many associates and contributors – some of whom have been with him since 1988 – have lots of reasons to be very proud of their achievements. David had been my boss during my 18 months or so working on International Textiles magazine in Amsterdam. Having returned to London, I was very happy to assist in the creation of the debut issue of Textile View. This was not without its stresses, as I relayed in a piece in Issue 101 that runs alongside the item David himself wrote about me. Issue 101 is now proudly sitting alongside Issue 1 on my bookshelf.

     View 101 25 years 006 View 101 25 years 007

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The Ben Sherman book

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Eric Musgrave 004a

This photo shows me, my brother Simon and my Aunty Doris (nice slippers, Doris!) in the back garden of our house in Leeds in about 1969-1970. I am wearing Levi 501s and a Ben Sherman shirt.

Ben Sherman book 1 006

The influence of Ben Sherman, aka Arthur Benjamin Sugarman (above), on British style is examined in a handsome new book published by the modern company, which is now owned by Oxford Industries of Atlanta, Georgia. They wisely hired my former Emap colleague, Josh Sims, to write a history of a half-century of UK menswear, which is divided into eight “tribes” – Teddy Boy, Rocker, Mod, Northern Soul, Punk, Skinhead, Two Tone and Casual.

Ben Sherman book 1 001 Ben Sherman book 1 002

Josh’s text, as usual, is easy to read and interesting to read, but most of us buy books like this for the pictures. This volume does not disappoint. The front cover here shows second-generation Mods in 1979, while the back cover has earlier Mods getting ready for a night out in 1964. With such a well-trodden path as British sub-cultures, lots of the pix are familiar, but lots are not. I offer here three that I particularly like.

Ben Sherman book 1 005

This pic is captioned: “18-year-old Mod from Kent, England, 1965”. Nearly 50 years later, that parka and knitted tie could have been seen on a young blade this past winter, but the tab-collar shirt would have been harder to find. (Does Ben Sherman make them?)

Ben Sherman book 1 003

This pic from the Wigan Casino in 1978 reminds me about how skinny so many of us were in those days. It wasn’t just from dancing to Tainted Love.

Ben Sherman book 1 004

I was a bit old to get into the Casual movement of the mid-80s, but I find its clean lines and tidiness very appealing. This is the Old West Stand at Highbury. Note the almost complete absence of replica football shirts here. I like the fact that Ben Sherman is confident enough of the power of its own brand to allow the appearance of other labels like Lacoste in this book. Make a bit of space for it on your style bookshelf. You’ll enjoy it.

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Cosy in Armadillo Merino

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

The new favourite items in my wardrobe may not be the most elegant of garments, but, boy, do they do the job they are meant to do. Since the miserable weather descended on even my usually balmy bit of Kent in November, I have been getting a lot of wear out of a vest and socks that were delivered to me courtesy of Armadillo Merino.

Armadillo Merino 1

The oddly-named brand is the first product from the Ministry of Wool, a company set up by Andy Caughey, a New Zealander who was raised on a sheep farm and for a spell was MD of the venerable British knitwear firm of John Smedley. Like Smedley, Ministry of Wool, is based in Derbyshire, although the Armadillo Merino garments are manufactured in Italy. The USP of the collection is that merino wool is a fine fibre – in all senses of the word – to wear next to the body. The website is packed with info on the history of merino wool  and technical details on its performance characteristics.

The yarns used are spun from ZQ™ certified merino, which is – and I quote – “an annually renewable fibre renowned for its softness and fineness and grown high in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. The ZQ™ accreditation programme guarantees the consistent high quality of the merino wool (used). It also ensures environmental, social and economic sustainability, animal welfare and traceability” .

Armadillo Merino 2

As Andy explains it, “Armadillo Merino specialises in next-to-skin protective clothing that utilises the unique properties of merino wool. The garments are constructed for demanding environments using a range of merino performance fabrics that deliver superior protection, performance and comfort to wearers. We engage with professional risk takers throughout the world in occupations such as military, police, fire, ambulance, search & rescue, heavy industry and other outdoor professions.”

My major outdoor profession is walking the dog but I just love my “Python” top, which is, apparently, “the highest performing baselayer garment in the world. By spinning superfine merino fibre into a compact yarn, Armadillo Merino has achieved a new level of durability and strength in a fabric with an incredibly smooth feel. Python has an athletic fit, designed to look great worn solo or as a base layer”.

Given my figure, I’ll stick to using it as a base layer. I really like the cut, especially the clever angled seams, and I applaud the fact that the brand label is placed discreetly on the hem at the back as I am not a fan of logos on the chest. The top is soft, reliably warm and as soon as it’s on the pile of clean washing, it’s on my back again. The retail price is around £95, which might seem a lot for a vest, but is not bad if you consider the Python as a very versatile and high-performance piece of exceptional knitwear.

Armadillo Merino 3  Armadillo Merino 4

I have also become ridiculously attached (although not literally) to my Armadillo Merino “three-season boot socks“, which are an extraordinary piece of knitting and have kept the damp, cold winter air at bay for a few months now. They are perfect to wear with wellies, which I seem to be in 90% of the time at present. The socks sell on the Armadillo Merino website for £24.95. I can heartily recommend close investigation of both these excellent products.

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Christopher Ward Watches

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

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Just out for public delectation is the latest magazine from Christopher Ward Watches, edited by my good self.

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Produced to a very high standard, the twice-yearly publication is a platform from which this young British company sells its excellent Swiss-made watches, such as this highly sophisticated Single Pusher model. This is the fourth edition of the mag I have overseen and included in its pages are a wide range of features of general interest to the intelligent reader.

CW Spring 2013 Vanwall Grand Prix win i

In 1957 at Aintree (yes, on a track alongside the racecourse), the UK-based Vanwall motor racing team won the British Grand Prix from the all-powerful Ferraris in an extraordinary race that saw Tony Brooks (left in the picture) swap cars with his team mate Stirling Moss in the middle of the contest to allow Moss to cross the line first. Imagine that happening today! It was the first time that a British driver – or two in this case – had won a world championship race in a British racing car. Christopher Ward is produced a limited-edition chronometer to celebrate this memorable victory.

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London-based Kerry Taylor is one of the world’s leading experts on vintage fashion – and we are talking here about the top-level stuff, not what you find in the local Age Concern charity shop. On March 19 she is selling 10 dresses that were worn by Diana, Princess of Wales. Kerry is articulate, amusing and forthright. I really enjoyed interviewing her at her Bermondsey auction rooms.

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During World War II my mother Louisa, who was 92 in January, served in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), so I was particularly pleased and honoured to talk to a couple of her contemporaries about the secret system that protected the British Isles against air attack in 1939-45. Eileen Younghusband and Patricia Clark worked in Filter Centres, the secret rooms in which enemy (and friendly) aircraft activity was analysed and plotted at great speed by mainly WAAF personnel in their early twenties. A crucial link in the Dowding System, the air defence strategy devised by Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, the Filter Centres are one of the great unknown stories of the Second World War. The largely unsung heroines of the WAAF will be celebrated more fully when Bentley Priory, Fighter Command’s wartime HQ in Stanmore, north London, is opened as a museum in September this year.

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Kaffe Fassett on colour

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Lectures on the theory of colour are not usually my thing, but I was very pleased to attend a presentation by the eminent artist Kaffe Fassett at the City University, London. Born in California in 1937, Kaffe (it rhymes with safe) came to England in 1964 and built up an amazing reputation for working with colour, first as a knitter and then into all manner of other media, as is well documented on his website.

Kaffe Fassett 7 2 13 ii

Here Kaffe (left) limits himself to just three colours, while his partner and studio manager Brendon Mably goes for a few more. I am in a blue wool Viyella shirt, soft purple cashmere tie and pocket hank by Drake’s, red wool waistcoat by Gurteen, brown cord jacket by Polo Ralph Lauren and tailor-made Derby tweed trousers.

Kaffe Fassett 7 2 13

Kaffe’s lecture was to mark the award to him of its Turner Medal  by The Colour Group of Great Britain, a body that brings together people using colour in a wide range of industries and academia. The award (named after the British artist J M W Turner) was made to Kaffe “as one of the most adventurous users of colour and in recognition of his many years inspiring others all over the world in colourful creativity” My thanks go to Janet Best for inviting me along to the lecture, the presentation and a very jolly dinner thereafter.


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Rule Britannia? in View 2 magazine

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013


Readers of this blog will know of my enthusiasm for British textile, clothing and related manufacturers. There is a lot on nonsense spoken and written about the prospects for a revival of UK manufacturing. The realistic priority is to maintain what we have, not dream about creating 50,000 new jobs. The latest edition of the textile trends magazine, View 2, includes this feature by me on the state of play of British manufacturing. I appreciate publisher David Shah and editor Laura Keller for giving me a few pages on which to expound my theories. I’d be delighted to hear your views on the subject   View2 14 cover Feb 2013 View2 14 Rule Britannia 1 Feb 2013 (2) View2 14 Rule Britannia 2 Feb 2013 (4) View2 14 Rule Britannia 3 Feb 2013 (2)

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The Weavers’ Company textile awards

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Evidence of how industry can work with higher education for everyone’s benefit was displayed at the presentation of the annual textile awards by The Worshipful Company of Weavers , which is the oldest recorded Livery Company in the City of London, with records going back to 1130.

Weavers Company 001

The hall of the Saddlers’ Livery Company was the venue for the lunch – or the Court Breakfast, to use its correct title – at which academics, textile industry leaders and supporters, and weaving students came together to celebrate excellence and to reflect in the belief that UK textile weaving has a robust future.Weavers' Company 19 2 2013 i

The Weavers’ Livery Company supports courses at six colleges – Manchester, Loughborough, Derby, Huddersfield, Central St Martins and the Royal College of Art – and outstanding students were lauded at the ceremony. The students’ top accolade, the Stuart Hollander Award, went to Calum Clarke of Central St Martins. All this year’s scholarships were awarded to female students: Stephanie Rolph (Central St Martins); Jennifer Green (RCA); Josie Bineham (RCA); Lindsay Taylor (Huddersfield University); Rachael Wallis (Loughborough University); and Ellis Dillnutt (Derby University). They are seen here with (centre) Jolyon Tibbitts, Upper Bailiff of the Weavers, and (third from left) Linda Birkbeck, who presented the prizes.

Weavers' Company 19 2 2013 iii

This year’s Silver Medal winner for exceptional service to the textile industry went to Donald John Mackay, who has racked up 40 years of weaving Harris Tweed with his Luskentyre Harris Tweed Company on the Isle of Harris. The company comprises Donald John and his wife Maureen, who made the very long journey from the Outer Hebrides to the vicinity of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Weavers' Company 19 2 2013 v

Among the luminaries at the event were Stephen Rendle of Lovat Mill in Hawick, Linda Birkbeck, managing director of the amazing House of Bruar retail business in Perthshire, and James Sugden, director of Johnstons of Elgin and one of the prime movers in The Weavers’ Company.

Weavers' Company 19 2 2013 viii

I was lucky enough to sit between Jan Shenton, the programme leader for the woven textiles course at Loughborough and, pictured here with me, Sue Prichard, curator of contemporary textiles at the Victoria and Albert Museum. As it was a sunny but cool day, I wore my velvet suit and waistcoat from Favourbrook with a shirt from Hilditch & Key and the tie of my Livery Company, the Pattenmakers.

Weavers' Company 19 2 2013 vii

I was particularly taken by the seal of the Saddlers Company: Hold Fast. Sit Sure. is good advice for anyone in these challenging times. Well done to The Worshipful Company of weavers for organising another fine event.

Weavers' Company 19 2 2013 ii

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My loafers from J M Weston

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Back in October, those nice people from Limoges-based J M Weston invited me and some other journos to design our own shoes, as you may recall from this blog

J M Weston loafers

They have now arrived and I am very pleased with them. I don’t usually wear slip-ons apart from driving shoes and some sloppy summer beach shoes, so I am looking forward to trying out some from a company that has been making shoes since 1891.

J M Weston loafers

Loafers from J M Weston

I merely made the stitching orange and I made the inner sock black. Otherwise these are loafers from the main range of J M Weston.

J M Weston 60 Jermyn Street

I recommend a visit to the French shoemaker’s handsome shop at 60 Jermyn Street. The service, led by the charming manageress Marion Laffargue, is excellent.

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A delivery from Philadelphia

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

The internet makes it very easy to make new friends from far away. Last August I received an email from a young entrepreneur called Darrell Cleveland, who owns a men’s shop called Doc C Custom Clothier in Philadelphia. Darrell wanted to run in a magalog he produces for his store some excerpts from my book SHARP SUITS and one of my features on footwear. Once I had granted permission and emailed the stuff over, Darrell kindly offered me a pair of his custom-made shoes.

Doc C custom-made shoes Doc C custom-made shoes

These fine, pared-down, suede lace-ups are my choice. Darrell emailed over to me his look book to choose the style, upper leather, type of sole and so on. He also sent me instructions to measure my feet. Below are the plans I sent back to him.

Eric Musgrave left foot 001 Eric Musgrave right foot 001

I am very pleased with the result. The fit is not quite perfect – I’d prefer them a little tighter across the feet – but I like the make very much, they are a noticeably better fit than most off-the-shelf shoes I have, they are comfortable and I am pleased to have an interesting-looking pair in my wardrobe. The presentation in a handsome large box that is ideal for storage, complete with shoe bags and cedar shoe trees is exemplary. Since they arrived at the end of 2012 it has done almost nothing except rain and snow, so they have been worn only very occasionally, but I am looking forward to drier weather so I can step out in them more often. The heel plates that coem as standard should ensure that it will be a while until I have to take them to the cobbler. Thanks for getting in touch, Darrell. Maybe one of these days we will actually talk to each other, rather than just emailing.

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All about “luxury craft”

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Pauline Hudson-Evans and Mathew Dixon at fashion industry headhunters Hudson Walker have been kind enough to ask me to contribute to the opinion section of their website a few times. For my latest effort, I have shone a light on The New Craftsmen, that splendid initiative that brings together some of our finest artisans.

The New Craftsmen 001

As you may recall, I was very impressed when I visited their Mayfair pop-up in December. I am very excited at the news that The New Craftsmen may soon announce a permanent home in the vicinity of Mount Street / Carlos Place.

Highland Loop Nic Wood Rosalind Wyatt

My other Hudson Walker posts have been on Foster & Son, country of origin marking, and the future of Savile Row. The whole site is an interesting platform for discussion about issues affecting the premium and luxury sections of the fashion business. I recommend you to have a look.

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