A director of one of the country’s leading premium shirtmakers is due to appear at the Old Bailey in November on charges of defrauding HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
Charles Boyd-Bowman, a former director of his family’s firm, Rayner & Sturges, is facing allegations over what Drapers understands to be unpaid VAT of £270,000 relating to the period from July 1, 2008 to December 31, 2011.
Charges were brought in February and Boyd-Bowman is due to appear in court on November 12. He has not yet made a plea, although it is thought the six-figure bill has been paid. If found guilty, Boyd-Bowman could face a custodial sentence.
The fashion industry has come under new scrutiny from HMRC, which launched taskforces aimed at tackling alleged “tax cheats in the rag trade” last November to recoup up to £9m in unpaid revenue.
The case has arisen as Boyd-Bowman’s father and fellow Rayner & Sturges director Robert, one of the best-known exponents of the ‘Made in England’ movement, winds down his business interests.
This month he sold the Rayner & Sturges factory in Chard, Somerset, to upmarket British men’s accessories brand Drake’s, which has acquired the Rayner & Sturges order book, the equipment, the factory lease and Cleeve of London, the luxury shirt brand that has been produced there since the late 1950s.
Earlier this year, Robert Boyd-Bowman sold another Rayner & Sturges factory near Chatham, Kent, to Mustard Ties, which supplies neckwear to brands such as Jack Wills, John Lewis, Paul Smith, Cordings, Crombie and Acne.
The Boyd-Bowmans’ menswear shop in Spitalfields, east London, which traded as Alexander Boyd and included a bespoke shirt and tailoring service, closed this week.
Robert Boyd-Bowman’s group of limited companies included Rayner & Sturges, Alexander Boyd Bespoke, Alexander Boyd Textiles, Charles Craufurd Holdings, Charles Mortimer and Cleeve Shirtmakers.
Charles Boyd-Bowman, an accountant, was a director of all of these firms apart from Cleeve Shirtmakers, but resigned from all of them between August 2012 and January this year. Robert Boyd-Bowman declined to comment on the HMRC allegations this week, but told Drapers he was not unhappy to pass on his manufacturing businesses to new owners.
“I’m 70 years old and it’s time to let someone younger have a go,” he said. “I’m sure they will do a good job and I wish them well.”
Since July 2010 Drake’s, which was started in 1977 by Michael Drake and two partners, has been owned by Mark Cho, a Hong Kong-based entrepreneur, with managing director Michael Hill as a shareholder. Cho owns The Armoury, one of the best menswear stores in Hong Kong.
Drake’s operates its own tie factory in London but since Cho’s investment it has expanded its range from accessories and has opened its first shop just off Savile Row.
Around 35 people, headed by factory manager Robert Barker, are employed in Chard. The factory makes shirts for brands such as Ede & Ravenscroft, Crombie and Dunhill with cut, make and trim (CMT) prices starting at about £28.
Drake’s plans to build up annual production from its current 25,000 shirts. “We will continue to manufacture private label, both fully factored and CMT, as well as continuing to make bespoke shirts,” Hill said.
“Once we have cleaned things up and got the factory working our way, we will be looking for new customers.”
Drake’s intends to use the factory for its own shirts, but these will feature the Cleeve name.