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Industry pays tribute to former Drapers editor Gerry Saunders

Gerry Saunders, the former editor and publisher of Drapers who died on July 3 aged 83 after a short illness, will be remembered as a well-respected industry leader and “inspirational” editor.

Saunders began his career at the then Drapers Record in 1958 as chief reporter, and remained at the magazine until 2001 in roles including editor and publisher. He was hugely influential in the formation of the British Fashion Council (BFC)in 1983 and was awarded an MBE for services to the industry in 1989.

His industry peers described Saunders as a dedicated journalist, with many remembering his first-class reporting skills.

Peter Slaymaker, former group managing director of department store Allders, said Saunders “was always after a story”. He added: “Scandal of any nature was always especially well received. Gerry was a great people’s person; he had the knack of persuasion and there were many occasions when I did not realise what I had committed to until I got back to the office and found a fax waiting for me confirming what I had apparently agreed to.”

Brian Bradford, a former Drapers colleague, said Saunders had remained a constant mentor since they first met more than 50 years ago.

“I was 15, not long out of school and taking up my first job as editorial assistant at Drapers Record. Gerry was the impressive chief reporter – white raincoat, green trilby and NUJ press card. From that time on, Gerry was a constant and influential thread that ran through the whole of my working career. I have many memories of press trips, afternoons in [Soho pub] The French House after trade lunches and late sessions at [afternoon drinking club] Muriel’s, with Gerry always keen to buy his round and always with a new joke to tell.”

Juliet Warkentin, chief creative officer at etailer StylistPick, who worked with Saunders when he was publishing director of Drapers and she was editor from 1992, said his charm was his “modus operandi”.

“Gerry knew everyone and – although he wouldn’t give his contacts away – he would often drop a few hints about stories with a twinkle in his eye and a ‘…you might say that, but I couldn’t possibly…’ before he waltzed off on another errand.”

David Harvey, who worked with Saunders at Drapers for more than 20 years, recalled his great sense of humour.

“His occasional put-downs were smart. Once, after returning from an obviously very good Christmas lunch, he saw me busily typing and concluded that I could not be that good a textile correspondent as I hadn’t been at the [textile company] Trevira lunch.”

Cyril Kern, the first chairman of the BFC, also paid tribute to Saunders and his contribution to the industry. He described him as “like a one-man United Nations” who was “a major contributor leading to the foundation of the British Fashion Council”.

Saunders left Drapers in 2001 to join industry charity Retail Trust as chairman.

Slaymaker added that Saunders would always be remembered as a “gentleman of the old school whose word was his bond and who could always be called on for support and advice”.

Saunders’ funeral will be held at Golders Green Crematorium in north London on July 17 at 12pm. Donations and flowers can be sent to the Retail Trust.

He is survived by his wife Anne and his children Kitty and Helen.

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