Monday, December 5, 2011
Deborah Meaden, the multi-millionaire busineswoman with a high profile in the UK due to her involvement in the popular TV show Dragon's Den, recently (2009) acquired west of england cloth merchants Fox Brothers with partner and long time friend Douglas Cordeaux, now Fox's Managing Director. Fox is a 250 year-old firm that is probably the world's best quality weaver of flannel cloth, and Meaden's investment brought much-needed capital to the company.
On television, Deborah Meaden has a stern presence which is exaggerated on the show. In person she is charming and a pleasure to chat with, particularly about Fox. She was born in Somerset and so has been aware of the company for most of her life. Fox once employed over 5000 people and had a huge presence in the area. What's more, Meaden's husband went to school in Wellington (home of Fox) with some of the Fox brothers so when Cordeaux approached her with the idea to buy the company, it felt like serendipity. She was also strongly attracted by the quality of Fox's products, which have stood the test of time and remain as relevant today as they were when the Mill first went into production.
One advantage that Meaden is acutely aware of is her high profile as a television personality in the UK; this has given her a great opportunity to talk about the Fox brand and build its profile faster than usual. To her credit, she has let the heritage, the quality and the brand have the voice.
In addition to the cloth itself, Fox have former Anderson & Sheppard tailor Brian Smith at the mill in Somerset and this gives customers the unique opportunity to see their commissions in production and have them made up as soon as they are woven. Meaden is also excited about ready to wear opportunities in the future, though they are more likely to be one off "iconic" pieces as opposed to an entire collection. One effort already underway is a limited edition collaborations brand The Merchant Fox. The web based store showcases a collection of luxury goods that combines Fox Brothers cloth with other best of British materials.
Meaden's attitude towards mens' dress has something in common with her views on investment. She prefers classic style "with a twist" but admits that risk taking is not always easy to pull off and some men may be better off playing it safe. So any entrepreneurs out there reading this should be sure to perfect their own twist before venturing out and looking for investment.