Fashion industry veteran Gavin Brown died of a heart attack on Monday, March 2. He was 65 and had suffered heart problems for several years.
A popular figure, he rose to prominence in the 1970s and 1980s as a supplier of leather and sheepskin garments through his London-based business Gavin Brown Leathers. He then joined forces with June Barker to create an influential fashion exhibition company, Barker Brown, which organised a range of London-based shows during an 11-year partnership.
In 1989 Barker Brown launched Clothes Show Live, a consumer event linked to the highly popular BBC television series fronted by Jeff Banks and Selina Scott. When publishing group Haymarket acquired CSL in 2000, Brown joined the company to lead and develop a portfolio of live events, including Autosport Live. He became managing director of Haymarket Exhibitions, a position he held until his death. Brown was instrumental in a number of milestones for Haymarket’s show portfolio, including the management buyout of BBC Haymarket Exhibitions two years ago.
June Barker recalled: “When I was first approached to bring Clothes Show to life with a live event, it was Gavin’s endless support and encouragement that enabled me to get the show off the ground, and in just six months. He had a unique quality that touched all who worked with him. He made you believe you could achieve the impossible, and with him on your side invariably you could. We had known each other for just over 40 years and ran Barker Brown together for 11 years. It was the happiest period of my working life. He was a dear, dear friend and I will miss him dreadfully.”
Broadcaster and journalist Caryn Franklin told Drapers: “I have worked with Gavin since 1986 when I was fashion editor at i-D Magazine and he and June Barker launched the menswear shows during London Fashion Week. He launched Clothes Show Live in 1989 and during the ensuing 26 years I got to know the man. He was always open, approachable, friendly and considerate. For someone with such responsibility and authority he was fun and hands-on, out among the crowds and taking in the vibe.
“We worked together on stage presenting awards every year and he would immediately declare to the audience that it was entirely his fault if I or anyone else made a blunder. He had a twinkle in his eye at all times. He had fun and created fun. He took an interest in people and he understood the importance of personal touch and would always personally thank huge teams of dancers, models, stylists and dressers. We all felt appreciated by him.
“The sadness of someone leaving so suddenly is that none of us got the chance to say how much we appreciated him. I know I speak for everyone at Clothes Show Live when I say he was very special and we will all miss him very much.”
Drapers editorial director Eric Musgrave added: “It was just back in December 2014 that I joined Caryn Franklin and various industry figures on a series of panels at the most recent Clothes Show Live at the NEC, encouraging teenagers to consider a career in the fashion business. I was only there because Gavin, who didn’t take no for an answer, insisted that Drapers should be involved in such important work. Although he had a lot of success with his other Haymarket shows, he was always fashion through and through.”
Kevin Costello, chief executive of Haymarket Media Group, recalled: “Gavin had a real love of the exhibition business and his roots in the fashion industry stayed with him all his working life. The legacies were his ever-stylish appearance and his keen trader’s eye for a deal.”
Brown’s first marriage to womenswear fashion agent Janet Thurston, with whom he had a daughter, Olivia, ended in divorce. With his second wife Debbie, a fashion stylist, he raised two more children, Freddie and Ali.
Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced by the family.