I’ve had more comebacks than Gary Glitter,” chuckles Miles Gray, before quickly adding: “Actually, perhaps that isn’t the best thing to say. Don’t whatever you do write ‘Gary Glitter’.”
Unfortunate analogy aside, Gray, this year’s recipient of the Drapers Lifetime Achievement Award, has a point. He could easily carry the nickname Comeback King.
His career has seen him work in a biscuit factory, sell horse bridles in Copenhagen, run around Africa with a case of jeans against a backdrop of civil wars, go boom and bust with his own brand Razzy, explode Pepe Jeans’ European sales, before arriving at Ben Sherman to reinvent the brand from a mainstream British shirt business into a fully fledged global lifestyle brand with genuine fashion credentials.
During his 12 years at Ben Sherman, sales grew from between £30m and £40m in the UK to more than £100m from a global set of stockists. Shirts went from being 100% of the business to a less risky 40% and his skilful repositioning of Ben Sherman eventually caught the attention - and cash - of US supply giant Oxford Industries, which worked with Gray to acquire the business from private equity house 3i for £80m in 2004.
In February 2010, aged 64, he retired from his role at Ben Sherman, having spent several months scouting for his replacement before settling on current chief executive Pan Philippou. But he has since made his umpteenth industry comeback, becoming chairman of and investing in ethical denim brand Monkee Genes and taking on an advisory role at Mavi Jeans.
This is the first time Drapers has given the Lifetime Achievement Award to a supplier, which is testament to Gray’s multiple achievements, passion for product and love of the fascinating people this industry attracts.