Fashion guru George Davies opens up in Glasgow
© The Herald
Originally published: 29.10.2009
by Mark Smith
Fashion guru George Davies, dressed in a pinstriped suit and a Moroccan-patterned shirt, arrived in Glasgow yesterday in preparation for the opening of his latest venture GIVe – the first of several he has planned for Scotland.
Davies’ arrival on Glasgow’s Buchanan Street – where his new shop opens at 11am today – is noteworthy not only because here is the man who gave the world Next, George at Asda and helped revive the fortunes of Marks & Spencer with Per Una, but also because his launch comes smack in the middle of a consumer spending slump.
Into the high street maelstrom of store closures and debt comes George Davies, the King Midas of the fashion world, a squat Liverpudlian, whose eyes flash with creativity and obsession with detail, with what he claims is another revolutionary, new idea.
He said in an interview with The Herald: “Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’ll be 68 and I certainly didn’t need to do this. But when you work in this kind of industry – I mean the fashion industry – you still have the buzz.”
He opened his first GIVe on Regent Street in London on September 30. Today’s opening on Buchanan Street will mark the seventh in a month.
In total, he plans 20 across the UK – with possibly another three in Scotland in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness – at a cost of around £1m a shop, all of it “personally funded”, he said.
He calls his range “affordable luxury” – and he means it. “I began with affordable luxury,” he said. “I always believed there was an enormous gap between names like Dolce & Gabbana and whatever is at the bottom of ladder.
“It’s all about detail and quality. I love the product. I love the fabrics. I love the finish. You can’t fake this kind of thing. If you want to build a brand, which is what I’m doing here, integrity and honesty is so important. It just doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but it doesn’t have to be cheap rubbish either.
“I’ve studied women all my life and I believe I know what they want.”
Davies, who now lives in the Cotswolds where he also has a design studio, has always been influenced by Italy and he said about a third of his materials are sourced there. The rest originate in the Far East and England.
He said he laments the loss of textile manufacturing in Glasgow. But the revolution is also about the personal service he offers.
He said: “I believe a lot of retail businesses fail because when a downturn comes, the first thing they get rid of is sales staff. Sales assistants suffer the most in a downturn. And once they go, the business often ends up collapsing because the service goes out the window.
“The service that our customers get here, I don’t think you can find it anywhere else on the high street. I know what women want, and I know what they need when they come in with two children. We even have a tailor service on the premises for alternations. I don’t believe any other high street shop offers that.”
He added: “You know that you need 38 different sizes to cover every shape of women, and even that probably doesn’t cover it – so we alter the clothes to fit, right here in the shop.”
“We also have cork wedges in the dressing rooms – three different heel sizes to help. Most women wear high heels with nice clothes. They just don’t shop in them”
GIVe’s unique sizing system is I, II, III, IV, V and VI (in place of 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18), reflecting the Roman numerals in GIVe, where the IV represents George’s fourth venture. The “e” denotes Davies’ commitment to e-commerce and the new company’s website.
“The idea is that not every woman wants to give away her size,” he said.