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Obituary: Canali agent Keith Horsley

The man who created the reputation of Italian premium menswear brand Canali in the UK, Keith Horsley, died last week after a year-long fight against cancer. He was 63.

Horsley was active in the menswear industry for almost 40 years, from the early 1970s until 2007. He started his career in the sales office at Chester Barrie, rising to sales director by the age of 25, but he was made redundant when the company was acquired by Austin Reed.

He then moved to London and started working for Mike Williams, who was the UK agent for Italian premium line Ermenegildo Zegna. In 1979, he was headhunted by Eugenio Canali to start the Italian brand’s business in the UK and he worked with the Canali family until his retirement in November 2007.

His only child Tim followed him into the menswear industry, and is now based in the Netherlands. Father and son formed an agency together in 2002.

Friends paid tribute to one of the characters of the premium menswear sector. David Moss, owner of the Richard Gelding menswear business in central London, said: “Keith was Mr Canali for almost 30 years. He was the embodiment of the label and built it up into a wonderful brand. I was always very impressed by his patience. He had to deal with new buyers on a regular basis and show them an extensive and complicated range, but he was always a chirpy chappy.”

Tim Guy, formerly of Harrods and now owner of premium independent Andrew Gardner in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, added: “Keith was always a cheerful character. Every appointment I had with him was great fun. He had the neatest handwriting in the business, I’ll never forget it. He was a tremendous servant to Canali; he built that business and did a great job with it. I’m very sorry to hear he has passed.”

Louis Copeland, of the eponymous menswear business in Ireland, recalled: “I dealt with Keith for 20 years and he was one of the most knowledgeable agents I’ve worked with. He was a bit of a visionary and was able to put looks together with ease. In the showroom it was easier to pick the range than it was the sandwiches on offer at lunchtime. Keith was always fair to both his customers and his employers. He knew his job and he’ll be sadly missed.”

Horsley’s funeral on Tuesday, May 6, will be for family only.

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