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Obituary: Leeds tailoring veteran Bobbie Caplin

Garment manufacturing stalwart Bobbie Caplin died from heart failure on 23 August, days after celebrating his 85th birthday.

bobbie's party maryse whyman and bobbie caplin aug 17

Bobbie Caplin (right) with sister Maryse Whyman, August 2017

Caplin headed up formalwear firm First Clothing, one of the last major clothing manufacturers in Leeds, before he retired from the business a decade ago.

He began his career aged 15, as an apprentice at his grandfather’s firm JA Corner, which later became First Clothing.

During his career he manufactured garments for brands including Burberry and Ralph Lauren.

Caplin was also active in the British Clothing Industry Association, now known as the UK Fashion and Textile (UKFT) Association.

Renowned for his charity work, Caplin was awarded an OBE in the New Year honour list in 2003 for his services, particularly in relation to Variety, a non-profit helping disadvantaged children.

He counted several influential people among his friends, including Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson and Sir Cliff Richard.

Former UKFT director general John Wilson said: “Bobbie was a great tailor. He was fast on his feet, even with small staff numbers. He kept going even as Leeds lost its manufacturing powerhouses – he survived it all.”

“As a person, he was great fun, and a great flirt with the ladies,” he added.

Simon Berwin, managing director at suiting business Berwin & Berwin, said Caplin was “one of life’s characters who travelled extensively”, adding that he was a “Leeds legend”.

Caplin’s niece Penny Whyman said: “He was very charismatic. He always had a smile on his face that lit up the room when he walked in.”

She added that he was fondly dubbed the “eldest playboy in Leeds”; he had never married, and was always “surrounded by women”, even in poor health at his 85th birthday celebrations.

He is survived by his sister, Maryse Whyman, brother David Caplin and three nieces.

The funeral, which was held on the same day as his death, took place at the UHC Cemetery, located at Gelderd Road in Leeds.

 

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