As he unveils Made by Dave, his new clothing brand, the Strike It Lucky entertainer talks factory visits, farmers and Tom Ford.
Good question, as I have only ever been a buyer. It came about by circumstance. I bought my little Jack Russell three years ago from a farm in Dorset, I asked the farmer if he had named them. He said no, except the one that kept going to me. All the other farmers said looked like him. I asked, “what’s your name?” He replied, “Dave.”
I took Dave home (not the farmer) – as with all Jacks he kept nibbling at my ankles and jeans. A friend remarked, “they look cool – what make are they?” I gave a glib answer ‘Oh they’re made by Dave.” Same happened with a jacket he had re-designed with his teeth.
What’s the concept of the brand?
For me it’s revisited modernism, a posh line for a Bermondsey boy. I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s and wore all the brands when they were first on the market: Fred Perry, Ben Sherman. I went from a ‘no money’ budget to being able to afford whatever I wanted. I know what I like, so Made by Dave is created with the eye, crafted by the hand, worn by the few.
Why did you feel it was important to make the collection in Britain?
To be honest my first port of call three years ago when I started getting it together was Turkey. I went there and worked with a factory in Istanbul and put together a shirt range. They sent back the samples, the quality was good actually. But during a break in development to do some work I am actually known for, I reviewed the situation and thought to get started the minimum orders that are required overseas are far too high and if I could get everything made in Great Britain it would be much easier to control if and when any problems arose. No import duties, no shipping worries no ‘oh god they are not right so take me to the airport!’
Not all the materials are from Britain – that would have been too restrictive. Many of the materials are, but every shoe, sock, jean, trouser, shirt, belt, knit and jacket is made in Britain.
How did you source your manufacturers?
I just started by Googling ‘shirt manufacturers Great Britain’, ‘shoe makers GB’ and so on.
I cold called them saying, “hello my name is Michael Barrymore, I am putting together a new brand of clothes called Made By Dave. Can I come and see you?” I had reactions such as “erm, well you sound like him…” to, “I am…erm…ok!!’
When I got to the factories I found most of the owners had grown up with me on their telly in their front rooms. I was nervous explaining what I wanted but looking back I think they were even more so!
So my name definitely got me in all the doors, but when they saw my ideas and the branding, which by now I had developed, and that I was passionate and serious, they came on board.
I went round every factory floor and met every single machinist, cutter, pattern maker and CAD designer, talked to them all, had a lot of photos taken with them then got back to the bosses office. I was brutally honest. I said, “I am not re inventing the shirt or the jacket or shoes, but I know what I want and I am not frightened to ask what I don’t know.” I added, “I can’t do your minimums either, I need them to be halved at least to be able to make this work and somewhere near the same price you would do for the big boys. If you cannot then thank you so much for all your time and I’ll try somewhere else.”
Every single one came on board.
Who is the Made by Dave man?
Well it ain’t me, although some of the range I do wear. 28-45 at the 28 stage with a fair income. We are not Tom Ford prices and we ain’t cheap. [It’s] City guys weekend wear and terraces that don’t fight.
Who designs the collection?
I oversee all the range and add or take away. I can’t do CAD so it’s back to sketches and a long very experienced memory. We have a girl who I asked to do some designs for us called Dimple Mystry (I know, you would use her just for the name!) I really liked her take on ‘Made By Dave’ and a lot of our first season has her input. She is very young and I will be bringing in new talent as we grow. Lads can apply, and you can have an ordinary name!
How is the brand being backed financially?
Initially all the early money has come from me, I have met with the bank four times so far who has agreed to underwrite the making and sales.
I did a presentation to seed mentors about two months ago and they made an offer. I am still deciding as to whether to go with that offer, or go with some other individual investors that have made a bid. It was a nice feeling after the presentations that they really liked the brand and the way it had been set up, so much so as to offer backing.
Has the autumn 13 collection been sold into any wholesale accounts?
I know from experience just how important timing is and I have to say it is even harder in fashion than showbiz with the seasons being settled so far ahead.
That said we have sold into wholesale accounts and are as we speak. We landed a little behind for this autumn but with wholesale doing their top ups soon, we shall gain pace there. For me although we won’t make as much as our own retail, it is so important to wholesale to get the brand known. Our first Made by Dave shop opens in West London before the end of October.
What wholesale accounts are you targeting?
High-end independents such as Oi Polloi, Stuarts and American Pie plus Harvey Nicks, Selfridges, Harrods, John Lewis and House of Fraser.
Who do you see as the brand adjacencies to Made by Dave?
I wanted not to be influenced by anyone and let Made by Dave just do its own thing. I did that with my own career and it worked. But if I am pushed I would say Paul Smith, Ted Baker and Folk.
Where do you see Made by Dave in 5 years’ time?
Continued expansion of shops overseas and operating with our own factory. I also want the Made by Dave label to add women’s children’s, household, furniture and to maintain one of our statements: ‘If it Ain’t made in Great Britain, it ain’t Made by Dave.’ And for the technically minded here is another way of putting it: our business will develop its awareness and position through three core channels which are designed to control brand experience and distribution, whilst maintaining strong margin with solid growth.