How Harold Tilman turned a £5,000 loan into £200m – MoneyWeek

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In1964,aged19,hegotatraineeshipwithex-militaryclotheswholesaler,Lincroft,whichsold“veryconservativesuitstotallyunconnectedwithanythinginthefashionworld”。

ButLincrofthadonebigadvantage。

Anestablishedbusiness,ithaddistributionchannelstoshopsacrossLondon,meaningthatifTilmancameupwithhisowndesigns,he’dhaveclientsreadytobuythem。

Soon“Iwasallowedtoputmyownsmallcollectionofclothestogether”。

SupplyingCarnabyStreetwithhipstertrousersandBeatles-stylejackets,withinayearhewasoutsellingtherestofthebusiness。

Tilman’semployers,seeinghisobviousability,soldhimthebusinesswhentheyretiredin1967for£5,000,asumheborrowedfromthebank。

Awarethatsmartcasualwearwascomingintovogue,hemovedintothree-piecesuitsandtightjacketswithconcavedshoulders。

Itwasagooddecision。

FashionableshopswereopeningintheKing’sRoadandonCarnabyStreet,andatthesametimesuitswerebecomingmoretrendy。

Tilman,withhisbackgroundintailoring,andafatherwhosefactorieswereequippedtomaketailoredsuits,hadadistinctadvantage。

Hisbusinessbegantotakeoff。

Indeedhewassosuccessfulthatin1969hetookitpublicandimmediatelybeganmakingacquisitions。

HesnappedupthefamousSavilleRowtailor,KilgourStanley,andchangedthenameofhisownfirmtoLincroftKilgour。

NextheboughtamanufacturingbusinessinIreland,thenawoollenmill,thenasuitmanufacturerinLeeds。

Suddenlyhewasrunning“atextileconglomerate”which,hesays,wasalwayshisaim。

Andashegrew,theCitybegantakingnotice。

CanonStreetmerchantbank,who’dfinancedhimearlyon,decidedtobuyhimout。

Theofferwas£1。

6m–about£65mtoday–sounsurprisinglyTilman“washappytosell”。

Butat30,hewastooyoungtoretire。

“IwenttoNewYorkandsetupanotherbusinessgettinginvolvedinAmericaintheearlydayswhenitwasn’treallyintofashion。

Theywerelightyearsbehindus–butIalwaysmaintainedthatthey’dcatchup。



ReturningtotheUKin1977,heboughtandsoldseveralbusinessesduringthe1980s。

ButitwashispurchaseofJaeger,thefailingwomen’sclothesbrand,in2003thatbroughthimbackintothepubliceye。

JaegerhadaspecialappealforTilman。

Whenhewasasmallchild,hisparents“usedtowalkmebyRegentStreettolookatit”,hesays。

“ItwastheBritishRalphLauren。



Thegroupwaslosing£11mayear,butlastyear,afterTilmanputinanewdesignteamandchangedthelayoutandlocationoftheshops,itmadeoperatingprofitsof£5m。

It’sanimpressiveturnaroundtocapasuccessfulcareer,butevennow,at62andworthareported£200m,Tilmanshowsnosignofstopping。

“EverynowandthenIcatchaglimpseofmyselfinthemirrorandthink,isthatme?

BecauseIfeelalotyoungerthanIlook。



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