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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At the Scoop womenswear show

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

I rarely write about womenswear on this blog, but as I have returned to Drapers as editorial director after a seven-year hiatus, fashion with a female slant may make more frequent appearances. The womenswear buying season kicked off in London with the Scoop show, which is the brainchild of Karen Radley, whose family firm had a glorious history, including backing Ossie Clark way back when.DSC01732

The original venue for the event is the Saatchi Gallery on the Kings’ Road, but it has now expanded also into the Phillips Gallery in Victoria. A nice touch is that the Saatchi artworks are left in situ and the exhibitors’ rails and tables are arranged around them. So Megan Hogan, Danielle Barbiero and Rachel Beck from US lifestyle brand Eileen Fisher shared part of their space with a rather large paper sculpture made of paper.


A stand I always head to is that of Marion Foale, one of the great names of British fashion. She started her first business in 1962 with Sally Tuffin. Foale and Tuffin was part of the Sixties’ flowering of British fashion talent. Today Marion, who is seen here with her sales agent Karen Inch, specialises in the most exquisite knitwear, hand-knitted by a secret army of women mainly living in the Midlands. One of her menswear pieces is on my autumn shopping list. It’s a real pleasure for me to meet such clever and nice people as Marion. 



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Dining with Isaia and Harrods

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

I had a fine evening in the company of old friends from Harrods and new friends from Isaia, the celebrated Italian tailoring firm. Harrods is the exclusive UK stockist of the beautiful Isaia clothes, which are created in the famous tailoring town of Casalnuovo, just outside Naples. London was as hot as Naples on the day we met, but our private dining room in C London (formerly known as Cipriani’s) in Mayfair was deliciously cool. Showing us all how to look cool in the heat were Marigay McKee, chief merchant of Harrods, and Gianluca Isaia, the CEO of the brand.


The super roses on the table were bought and arranged that very day, I was impressed to learn, by Enzo Magaraci, Isaia’s director of sales for Europe and Asia. He is seen here (left) with Jason Broderick, head of menswear at Harrods (and the most stylish ex-professional ballet dancer I know).


Francesco Trabaldo-Togna, Harrods’ buyer of men’s tailoring from the likes of Brioni, Tom Ford and Ralph Lauren, comes from an Italian family with considerable interests in cloth production and tailoring.


Embracing the Italian theme of the evening, I wore my Ermenegildo Zegna made-to-measure suit, but retained some British interest in my Hilditch & Key shirt. It was far too hot for a tie! I was delighted to present the charming Gianluca with a copy of the first edition of my book Sharp Suits


…which has on page 79 this archive photograph of Enrico, Gianluca’s father, who is the architect of the modern success of Isaia, in the original shop in the late 50s or early 60s.

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21st Century Kilts in Jocks & Nerds

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Readers with good memories will recall my meeting last autumn with Howie Nicholsby, the man behind 21st Century Kilts in Edinburgh. I am pleased to report that the fine magazine Jocks & Nerds has featured young Mr N in its Summer 2013 issue, which is out now. The fine portrait is by Donald Milne; the words are by me.

Howie Nicholsby JOCKS& NERDS ISSUE 7 2013

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RIP Bobby “Blue” Bland

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

I was amazed on the morning of Monday, June 24 to hear of the death of one of my heroes, the American blues, r ‘n’ b and soul singer Bobby “Blue” Bland. I wasn’t surprised that the great man had died – he was 83 – but what was not expected was that the news was delivered to me on a bulletin on Radio 4’s Today programme.

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This was belated recognition for a performer who I’d always regarded as one for the insider, the r ‘n’ b buff. Despite a career lasting more than 60 years – a pal of mine was due to see Bobby perform in Las Vegas earlier this year, but ill-health caused him to cancel the gig – Bobby was something of a lost treasure. I hope his death brings his amazing body of work to a new audience.

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Although he started making records in the early 1950s, his first major US hit was in 1957 with Further Up The Road, which made No 1 on the R ‘n’ B charts. but Bobby was not really a hits machine. He last appeared high on the singles listings in 1974 with I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me), a single I’m delighted to own.

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What links these hits, and all his great recordings, is the way his voice is used as an instrument that complements the brilliant musicians that he recorded with.

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My favourite period for Bobby is the mid-1950s until the late 1960s, when he recorded for the Houston-based Duke label. His work on MCA in the 1970s is almost as essential and even his mature output for the Malaco label in the 1980s and beyond produced some great readings of new soul tunes and very familiar titles like In The Ghetto.

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Bobby was hugely influential on black performers and white “soul boys” artists like Van Morrison and Rod Stewart. Van starts his astonishing live double LP It’s Too Late To Stop Now with a version of Bobby’s Ain’t Nothing You Can Do and Bobby’s seminal His California Album from 1973 clearly influenced Rod’s Atlantic Crossing album two years later. Check out their respective versions of It’s Not The Spotlight on the links here.

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I saw Bobby “Blue” Bland only once, about 15 or more years ago, when, he guested on a Van Morrison bill at the Royal Albert Hall. As he was already in his late 60s, the raw power of years before was gone, but I saw a man with huge stage presence, charisma, massive musicality and still a great voice. On the news of his death, I checked how many of Bobby Bland’s recordings I have on iTunes; it’s way over 150. If you don’t know the man’s work, treat yourself to a voyage of discovery.

Try this for starters. The title itself sums up this immense talent: Ask Me ‘Bout Nothing (But The Blues)


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Fashion Rules at Kensington Palace

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

The brilliance of garments created for three leading modern Royal females – The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales – is showcased by Fashion Rules, a small but delightful exhibition at Kensington Palace. I can recommend it to anyone interested in British couture and majestic style.

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Thanks to the generosity of chief sponsor Estée Lauder Companies, Historic Royal Palaces staged a very jolly launch party, which was blessed with lovely summer evening weather. I said hello to Elizabeth Emanuel, who with her former husband David (who was also at the event), created Diana’s wedding dress for the big day on 29 July 1981. Liz now has a new couture company called Art of Being.

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The theatre was represented by, among others, Jeremy “Mr Selfridge” Piven and Minnie Driver, who floated about in an enchanting Missoni dress.

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Among the chums I met up with were bespoke tailor Kathryn Sargent and the husband-and-wife team of Philip Start and Brix Smith-Start, who run the fab Start London stores in Shoreditch…

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…eminent fashion commentator Colin McDowell and Rosie West, wife of former First Sea Lord, Admiral Alan West…

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…and Amanda Scott, who is head of buying for women’s accessories and beauty at John Lewis.

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It was a well-dressed event, as you’d expect. I particularly liked the Toile de Jouy dresses worn by a ukelele-playing trio that entertained us as we glugged the champers and scoffed the canapés.

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On our departure, images of the three Royal subjects were projected onto the side of Kensington Palace.

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Fashion Rules runs until summer 2015 and admission is included in the entrance ticket to Kensington Palace.

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At the Fashion Monitor Journalism Awards

Thursday, July 4th, 2013


I was very pleased to be asked to be a judge for the inaugural Journalism Awards organised by Fashion Monitor and Beauty Monitor, two essential reference works for those related industries. The venue for the awards ceremony this week was The Brewery at the Barbican in central London ,where the company was good and the evening very jolly. My compliments go to Hannah White, publisher of Fashion Monitor, and her team for making this happen.


My old pal and fellow judge Ian McGarrigle, now a partner at the PR firm Pelham Bell Pottinger, is seen with another old friend, Terry Mansfield CBE, late of National Magazines, who was the excellent chairman of the judges.


A lifetime achievement award deservedly went to Hilary Alexander OBE, who is best-known for her years on The Daily Telegraph. The young woman in the black and white dress is MTV’s Laura Whitmore, who did a fine job as the show’s presenter.


Vanessa Friedman, fashion editor of the Financial Times, who I am pleased to say has commissioned me for many a menswear piece in recent years, was awarded an accolade for her own written work for the FT’s How To Spend It magazine. As Vanessa is trekking round the European fashion show circuit at present, her award was collected by the FT’s David Hayes.


I was especially pleased to see Imran Amed, founder of the excellent The Business of Fashion online publication, collect the award for the best trade/B2B fashion journalist of the year and also the ultimate prize for overall fashion journalist of the year. He’s here with Laura Whitmore and Carol Bagnald of award sponsor HSBC. BoF, as it’s known to its friends and many admirers, is a daily must-read and puts most other fashion journalism – B2B or consumer – to shame. Well done, Imran!


As well as old friends, such events are splendid occasions to make new friends, in my case Lisa Tse, the charming founder of, among other  things, the women’s-only club The Sorority. I was delighted that Lisa approves of my Black Watch tux from Chester Barrie.

Fashion Monitor Journalism Awards 2013


And finally a big thank you to my lovely friend Frances Card for suggesting me as a judge for the awards. 


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