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Meet the 2017 judges: Eric Musgrave, fashion industry consultant and writer

05 June 2017 by Celia Fernández-Carnicero

Photo credit: Laura Lewis

Eric Musgrave has joined the judging panel for this year’s Texprint awards. We spoke to him about his love for textiles and observations on the changing industry.

Walk round any fashion, footwear or textiles trade show and it won’t be long before you meet Eric Musgrave. The British consultant, author and commentator is an inveterate networker with one of the best contact books in the business. Over the years, he’s also been a stalwart champion of brands old and new, ready-to-wear and bespoke – and has a reputation as an eclectic, individualistic dresser.

Musgrave has been observing and analysing the industry for 37 years. Best known as a menswear specialist, he has enjoyed award-winning stints as editor of UK trade title Drapers. He also edited Fashion Weekly and For Him (later known as FHM), and held senior positions on International Textiles (in Amsterdam) and Sportswear International (in Milan). He wrote a best-selling book on men’s tailoring, Sharp Suits.

Sharp Suits

Musgrave grew up in Leeds and studied history at the University of Hull before moving to London. These days, he lives in the lush countryside of Kent with his prolific author wife Jane Eastoe, a former fashion editor.

What makes a brilliant textile designer?

Technical skills are crucial and, of course, having a vision. Balenciaga once said, “Everything starts with the fabric,” and I totally agree. In menswear, it’s very difficult for men to wear wildly different styles of garments, so the creativity comes in the choice of fabric. You can have dozens, even hundreds, of the same shirt in different fabrics.

I’ve got a personal interest in textiles, and I think that the textile designer is often overlooked. The first thing I want to do when I see a dress, for example, is to touch and feel the fabric rather than look at the silhouette. With men’s suits, again, the first thing I look at is the fabric. It’s very difficult to imagine how a suit is going to look like on a moving body just by seeing it on a hanger. But the fabric can give you a very good indication.

How important is the role of initiatives such as Texprint for young designers?

Fashion is perpetually an industry with too few jobs and too many applicants. An initiative like Texprint is very important to raise the profile of promising new talent with potential employers from brands, manufacturers, and retailers. For the young designers, it’s an important platform to remind them that creativity must be merged with commerciality – at some level – for success to follow in today’s market. The number of significant names supporting Texprint in some way, or visiting the Texprint awards or shows, is a testament to the position this initiative holds, not just in the UK but in the main international markets.

How has menswear and bespoke tailoring changed since you started?

Now it’s smaller. There are fewer bespoke tailors… I believe that bespoke tailoring is the true luxury. I think now fewer people are willing to invest in a bespoke suit because it’s expensive, but also because there is a lack of appreciation of all the work that goes into it and the skills involved. That being said, I don’t think bespoke tailoring will ever disappear, especially now that the handmade and craft have become fashionable and more desirable.

Where do you see the future of textiles?

The important thing for me is that any textile producer should know who they are and what they do. Countries like China have the technology to produce in a mass-production level, but they can’t replicate the creativity, the taste of the traditional European manufacturers.

Online fast fashion retailers all survive by having a lot of new designs all the time – that’s very hard to do for small businesses that want to focus on craftsmanship and deliver products with high standards of quality.

Do you have a piece of advice for emerging designers?

Stay true to what you believe in, but be aware that you have to fit into the commercial reality. Be patient and work first for an established company – to learn and make all the mistakes that you have to make before starting your own business. And never forget that you are part of a fantastic creative global industry.

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