‘I paid my­self only £21k over three years’ – Pa­trick Grant

De­signer Pa­trick Grant tells Angela Win­tle that de­spite his in­dus­try’s glamour he never had ‘two brass far­things to rub to­gether’

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Front page -

Pa­trick Grant, 46, per­haps best known as a judge on the BBC Two re­al­ity show The Great Bri­tish Sewing Bee, re­ju­ve­nated the for­tunes of the fail­ing Sav­ile Row tai­lor Nor­ton & Sons when he bought it in 2005. Af­ter launch­ing the ready-to-wear la­bel E Tautz & Sons in 2009, he was named Menswear De­signer of the Year at the Bri­tish Fash­ion Awards in 2010 and is be­hind the menswear line Hammond & Co at Deben­hams. He lives in Lon­don.

How did your child­hood in­flu­ence your work ethic and at­ti­tude to money?

The idea that you have to work hard to earn money and it isn’t to be treated frivolously is very much part of my fam­ily’s ethos.

My fa­ther was an ac­coun­tant and my mother the ad­min­is­tra­tor for the Grad­u­ate School of So­cial Science at the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh.

Al­though we weren’t hard up, they worked hard and sac­ri­ficed quite a bit to en­sure that my sis­ter and I went to re­ally good schools. This has rubbed off on me. I typ­i­cally work a 60-70 hour week. My record was 112 hours.

How did you break into the fash­ion in­dus­try?

By chance I read the busi­nesses for sale sec­tion in the Fi­nan­cial Times and no­ticed the fam­ily-owned tai­lor Nor­ton & Sons was up for sale. My only fash­ion ex­pe­ri­ence had been work­ing as a sales as­sis­tant at Gap as a stu­dent, but I was so in­trigued I ar­ranged to see them.

Like many Sav­ile Row tai­lor­ing houses, it had a rich his­tory. Founded in 1821, it was an amal­ga­ma­tion of mul­ti­ple old houses be­cause Nor­ton’s had taken over Hammond & Sons, E Tautz, Hoare & Sons and Tod­house Rey­nard & Co. Be­tween them they had held four Bri­tish royal war­rants (Ge­orge IV, Queen Vic­to­ria, Ed­ward VII and Ge­orge V), as well as those to Prus­sia, Aus­tria, Por­tu­gal, Italy, Spain and Bel­gium.

When I bought the busi­ness in 2005 it was strug­gling to pay the bills and had had to come to an ar­range­ment with its cred­i­tors.

It had one in-house tai­lor and a part-time cut­ter but very few cus­tomers, de­spite what they told me!

How did you raise the money to buy the firm?

I sold a house that I’d bought when I lived in Liver­pool, be­fore the city’s re­gen­er­a­tion, which had nearly tripled in value. I also took out a busi­ness loan through what is now the Gov­ern­ment’s En­ter­prise Fi­nance Guar­an­tee scheme, us­ing my home in Ox­ford as col­lat­eral, and per­suaded seven friends and my for­mer boss to in­vest.

It didn’t feel like a fi­nan­cial gam­ble. All I could see was po­ten­tial. Even though I prob­a­bly paid more than the busi­ness was worth, I was sur­prised that a house of that rep­u­ta­tion could be bought for a rel­a­tively small sum. It had been sell­ing guns, gun-clean­ing para­pher­na­lia and sport­ing hol­i­days and I took it back to its roots – ex­cep­tional qual­ity be­spoke tai­lor­ing.

Has there ever been a time when you strug­gled to pay the bills?

Yes: I paid my­self only £21,000 over the first three years. Through­out the whole of July 2006 the front door opened just once and I watched my bank sav­ings trickle away. Once I’d paid my em­ploy­ees, the rent, my tax and the bank, there was some­times noth­ing left for me. When you work in a lux­ury busi­ness you have to re­mem­ber that you are not your client and you don’t have their life­style. Some peo­ple who get into this in­dus­try fail to re­mem­ber that and that’s when things go wrong for them.

Our in­dus­try is full of smoke and mir­rors. I came up through the Bri­tish Fash­ion Coun­cil’s ranks in menswear with the likes of Jonathan Saun­ders and Christo­pher Kane. None of us had two brass far­things to rub to­gether, yet from the out­side it all looked ex­traor­di­nar­ily glam­orous. I’d go to events and drink cham­pagne that other peo­ple had paid for and then get the bus home.

When did your busi­ness pick up?

By 2009 Nor­ton’s cus­tomer base had in­creased to sev­eral hun­dred cus­tomers, tripling our rev­enue. This, in part, was thanks to two bits of enor­mous good luck.

In 2006 the BBC made a three-part doc­u­men­tary called Sav­ile Row in which we fea­tured heav­ily. It gar­nered a huge au­di­ence and had an in­stant and pos­i­tive ef­fect on our busi­ness.

Se­condly, Kim Jones, then a rel­a­tively un­known fash­ion de­signer, asked us to make some pieces for his col­lec­tion and we worked with him for a cou­ple of sea­sons. Through him we worked with other young Lon­don de­sign­ers and at­tracted Alexan­der Mcqueen and Chris­tian Louboutin as cus­tomers.

What was the big­gest fi­nan­cial turn­ing point for your busi­ness?

Af­ter re­launch­ing E Tautz & Sons, I won Menswear De­signer of the Year and Deben­hams ap­proached me about do­ing a rel­a­tively mod­est col­lec­tion of for­mal­wear. I felt this was an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing big­ger, so we launched Hammond & Co as a com­plete menswear line in 2012.

It has been an un­bri­dled suc­cess, even if I do say so my­self. The over­all sales be­tween all the busi­nesses are now somewhere in the re­gion of £30m.

To what ex­tent did ap­pear­ing on The Great Bri­tish Sewing Bee boost Hammond & Co – and what did you get paid?

It un­doubt­edly helped, but it’s hard to gauge. When I first did the show I was paid a cou­ple of hun­dred pounds a day, but it’s gone up since then. I did it be­cause I thought it would be good fun, and so it proved.

Do you have fur­ther ex­pan­sion plans?

In 2016 I started a so­cial en­ter­prise called Com­mu­nity Cloth­ing, which is, in essence, a man­u­fac­tur­ers’ co-op­er­a­tive, now work­ing with about 19 fac­to­ries in the UK. We make ex­cel­lent qual­ity, af­ford­able, ev­ery­day clothes dur­ing the quiet pe­ri­ods in our part­ner fac­to­ries, help­ing them fill their lines year-round, thereby rais­ing ef­fi­ciency and sus­tain­ing jobs. I would like to think this could get big­ger than Hammond & Co is now, for sure. But I also think there’s big po­ten­tial for Hammond & Co to ex­pand in Asia and Amer­ica, and we’re look­ing at this now, too.

What has been your riski­est in­vest­ment?

In 2015 I bought Cook­son & Clegg, a cloth­ing man­u­fac­turer in Black­burn. Es­tab­lished in 1860, it had been a sup­plier to the Bri­tish mil­i­tary since the mid-thir­ties, mak­ing leather fly­ing hel­mets and dis­patch jerkins. It had been a thriv­ing busi­ness, but in 2009 it lost its Army con­tract and things went down­hill fast.

When I took it over it lost about a third of a mil­lion pounds in the first year. We’ve al­ready cut losses and I’m con­fi­dent we’ll make the money back, but none of my de­ci­sions have ever been fi­nan­cially mo­ti­vated. I took that de­ci­sion on a mostly emo­tional ba­sis be­cause I knew the fac­tory, the peo­ple who worked there, its his­tory and ca­pa­bil­ity. I have a strong be­lief that mod­ern man­u­fac­tur­ing in the UK has a sus­tain­able fu­ture.

How would you sum up your fi­nan­cial phi­los­o­phy?

I’m not a ma­te­ri­al­is­tic per­son and have never wor­ried about money be­cause I’ve never had much. I read an ar­ti­cle re­cently about two old chaps who’d reached the age of 110. One was Scot­tish, and when asked about the se­cret to suc­cess he said: “Hav­ing a job you en­joy and a daily bowl of por­ridge.”

That could be my phi­los­o­phy. Don’t be want­ing for too much and en­joy your work.

Pa­trick Grant bought Nor­ton & Sons in 2005 and won Menswear De­signer of the Year af­ter launch­ing E Tautz, be­low and bot­tom left

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