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Obituary: 'patron saint of British fashion' Alfred Radley

Founder of fashion brand Radley, Alfred Radley, has died after a short illness at the age of 94.

Radley has been described as the patron saint of British fashion because he nurtured and developed some of the most famous names in British design, from Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell to Terence Nolder and Betty Jackson.

Born in London’s East End in 1924, Radley’s father died when he was 18 months old, and he was partly brought up in the Jewish orphanage in Norwood.

During World War II, Radley served in the Merchant Navy, and two of his ships were hit by enemy fire. He saw action on the North Atlantic convoys and D Day, and he was on the first allied ship to dock in France. In addition, he served in the Far East and witnessed the Japanese emperor surrender on the USS Missouri.

At the end of the war he was assigned to ships bringing death camp survivors back to Europe, and on one trip he met and befriended Otto Frank, father of Anne Frank, on his return from Auschwitz via Odessa to Marseilles.

After the war he founded Radley. By 1965 the brand had its own fabric mills, as well as factories producing garments, gloves and handbags for high street stores ranging from Harrods to Marks & Spencer. In 1968 Radley acquired a controlling stake in a small boutique in the King’s Road called Quorum with its famous designers Ossie Clark, Alice Pollock, and Celia Birtwell.

Radley also promoted the careers of many other designers including: Betty Jackson, Sheilagh Brown, Sheridan Barnett, Wendy Dagworthy, Rosemary Bradford and Terence Nolder.

In 2002, long after he retired, he instigated an exhibition in celebration of Ossie Clark’s work at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Radley provided many of the garments that were on display from his personal collection and the centrepiece was his daughter, Diane Boucher’s wedding dress.

He is survived by his daughters, Boucher and Karen Radley, and his son, Howard Radley.

Readers' comments (1)

  • With the passing of such an iconic figure I believe it will be extremely difficult to find a successor to Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel.
    The man who revitalised Chanel and brought back 30’s glamour with a nod to modernity will be sadly missed.

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