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Obituary: Mates founder Irvine Sellar

Irvine Sellar, the founder of fashion retailer Mates and developer behind London landmark The Shard, has died at the age of 82 following a short illness.

Sellar began his career in fashion at an early age. His father made a living selling gloves and, after leaving school in the mid-1950s, Sellar took over the running of the family-owned shop in St Albans.

He then opened a shop on Wardour Street, followed by one on Carnaby Street – and it was here, at the height of the Swinging Sixties, that he made his name as a fashion retailer.

Over the ensuing years, the business evolved into the national fashion chain Mates at Irvine Sellars.

Mates was one of the first UK retailers to sell both men’s and women’s clothing in the same store, after Sellar noticed that girls were increasingly accompanying their boyfriends on shopping trips.

It had 90 stores across the UK by the time he sold it to a South African group in 1981 and moved out of fashion.

A career in property followed, but it was not smooth sailing. In 1991, his company Ford Sellar Morris went into administration.

However, within a year he was back to looking for investment properties. He is best known for developing The Shard in London Bridge, despite facing deep scepticism from the industry at the time the plans were unveiled. Construction of the 1,016 ft-tall building finally got underway in 2008, and The Shard was opened in July 2012.

The Sellar Property Group, which he established 25 years ago, will be taken over by his son, James.

Manny Silverman, former managing director of Moss Bros, told Drapers Sellar was “one of a rare breed”: “He’d grown up in the retail industry selling clothes, or anything that was going,” he explained. 

“The great thing about him, no matter how big he got, how great his reputation – if he thought you had something serious or sensible to say, he would see you. And by having that almost open door policy, a lot of opportunities came his way.”

Consultant Marshall Lester added: “I was making faded denim jeans at the time he ran Mates, and he was a customer. He was a very shrewd guy. Mates was one of those important boutique retailers at the time: if you wanted to do volume business, you wanted him in your portfolio of customers.”

 

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