Menswear sales and product expert James Mickleburgh died aged 53 on Monday 22 January, after a year-long battle with cancer.
Mickleburgh spent 30 years in the industry in sales, marketing and product management roles. Born in Leicestershire in 1964, he initially intended to go into the Royal Navy at age 18, but stayed in menswear retail after taking an assistant job at Marlow-based menswear shop Hewetts.
He then took up a role at Harrods in Knightsbridge for 18 months, where he became its youngest assistant buyer.
After being headhunted for various roles at shops including Andrew Gardner in Wendover, where he cut his teeth developing product ranges, in the early 1990s he opened three shops for his own label, Samjames, on London’s Jermyn Street, as well as in Amersham and Marlow.
In the years that followed, he became a consultant for outerwear manufacturer Haythornthwaite & Sons, which trades as Grenfell, where he helped shape its product.
For three years from 2007, Mickleburgh worked at suit manufacturer Bagir as its commercial director, overseeing its private label business. House of Fraser was among his key accounts.
At Bagir he met designer Nav Juty. Two and a half years later the pair went on to run a UK and Europe office for China-based suit maker Dayang Group. Mickleburgh worked there until 2016, during which time he established 114 accounts in the UK and Ireland.
Juty, now a senior menswear designer at supplier Berwin & Berwin, said: “James was the perfect example of an English gent: polite, snappily dressed, and always wearing a tie and a check of some sort, be it in the handkerchief, waistcoat or jacket – [and] with notebook in hand.
“He was always buzzing with ideas and passionate about product, which is why we got on so well, and how we became very close. He was one in a billion and I will miss him very much.”
While at Bagir, Mickleburgh also became a franchisee for menswear designer Simon Carter, rolling out franchise stores for the tailoring label in Great Missenden in 2011 and Wendover in 2012.
Carter knew Mickleburgh for 25 years and remembered him fondly: “He was one of a kind – always upbeat, jovial and positive. It was a really endearing quality. He was a perfect gentleman. In a way, he was a man out of his time, full of old-world courtesy and charm. I will really miss him – it’s been a terrible shock.”
Mickleburgh most recently worked as commercial director UK and Ireland at French outerwear and tailoring supplier HMD, working with clients such as Hackett. He also opened a shop with his wife, Fah, in Somerset last year, which featured his own label, called Oliver James London.
He is survived by his wife and three children.
The funeral will be held on 8 February. A church service will begin at parish church St Peter and St Paul, Great Missenden, at 3.15pm, followed by a cremation at 4.15pm at Hampden Chapel at the Chilterns Crematorium in Amersham.