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Industry pays tribute to Joseph

The industry has celebrated the achievements of legendary retailer and brand creator Joseph Ettedgui, founder of the eponymous womens-wear firm, who died last week aged 74 following a battle with cancer.

The Joseph company was founded by Ettedgui in 1972 and changed the face of contemporary womenswear, becoming a byword for sophisticated women’s high street fashion.

Ettedgui is credited with championing young designers such as the late Alexander McQueen and with introducing European brands such as Prada, Marni and Azzedine Alaia to the UK market.

“He was really a very capable guy,” said House of Fraser chairman Don McCarthy. “In this country he was the first man to create a brand without being a designer.”

Joseph was recognised for selling comfortable chic womenswear and was a destination for everyday separates, knitwear and the signature low-cut, narrow-leg Joseph black trouser, which Ettedgui introduced in the 1990s.

“Joseph was a great retailer and entrepreneur,” said Jaeger owner Harold Tillman. “His stores have brought together contemporary designers with his own-name designs since the early 1970s. He will be sorely missed by his many friends and colleagues and the brand that he has left behind is sure to continue for generations.”

The son of a Moroccan shopkeeper, Ettedgui arrived in the UK in 1960 with his brother Maurice and set up a hairdressing salon in 1962. He sold clothes in the reception of the salon before opening his first fashion store in 1972, a Norman Foster-designed monochrome shop, on London’s Sloane Street.

Aurora Fashions chairman Derek Lovelock said: “He defined aspirational chic for a generation of women with his essential wardrobe of perfectly cut, minimal separates all showcased in cutting-edge design-concept stores that also inspired the way we design our homes. Joseph was a great talent spotter, always showcasing new brands and designers.”

New Look group design director Barbara Horspool added: “Joseph was such a sweet man. He was one of the first people to stock my own label Blanche after I left college in the 1980s. He was massively creative, but the collection had to sell.

“Long after I stopped my own label I started teaching and took a group of students to Paris Fashion Week. There was no guarantee we would get into a show and we were queuing at the door. Joseph walked past - I hadn’t seen him in years - and he took me by the arm and said: ‘Come with me.’ That was the kind of man he was. He was a nice guy with a twinkle in his eye.”

Dougie Hood, sales manager at Savile Row tailor William Hunt, said: “He looked at a woman and knew what she wanted. As a figure he was looked up to. He changed the world. When he opened Brompton Cross he slept in the shop so he could feel the vibe. You just don’t get that anymore.”

The Joseph business was sold to Japanese company Onward Kashiyama for £140m in 2005, netting Ettedgui, with his brother Franklin who was chief operating officer, more than £20m.

Joseph chief executive Sara Ferrero said: “He has been an invisible magic hand guiding me this past two years. He will always be in my thoughts.”

A retailing legend

  • 1962 Opens hairdressing salon on King’s Road
  • 1972 Opens first Joseph shop
  • 1980s Starts wholesaling own label
  • 1990s Designs the signature Joseph trouser
  • 1998 Buys leather goods brand Connolly
  • 1999 Sells majority stake in Joseph to a consortium of investors
  • 2005 Joseph business sold for £140m to Onward Kashiyama

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