Founded in 1935 by expatriate English tailor Simon Ackerman, and presently owned by Prominent Europe. The company provides ready-to-wear clothes, as well as made-to-measure tailoring.
At the turn of the 20th century, Englishman Simon Ackerman left England for New York City. Having built up a high-priced, quality tailoring business in and around New York, in 1935 he decided that he wanted to import quality British-made suits for the US market.
Returning to London in 1935 he founded Chester Barrie, opening a factory in Crewe in Cheshire - midpoint between cloth mills of Huddersfield and the Port of Liverpool. His aim was to create ready-to-wear tailoring, that was of the same quality and had the same attention to detail as the bespoke tailors of Savile Row but without the wait and high cost. Suits for export had the button holes un-finished, where by sending them back to the United States unfinished thus avoided the import duty.
The factory was opened in Chestnut Grove under the name Chester Barrie, based on combining:
- Chester, the city and county town of the location he choose for his factory
- Barrie, the surname of children's fiction writer J. M. Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan.
In 1937, the business opened a store on Savile Row. The following year Ackerman returned to the United States, placing his son Myron in charge of the British business.
The business's growth continued until late 1939 and the start of World War II when the factory's production turned to the war effort, eventually picking up a contract to produce officers' uniforms for the US Army in Europe, after the United States entered the war post the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Post-war, business picked up, and in 1949 the factory moved into no longer needed sections of the Rolls-Royce Crewe factory, which itself had been constructed pre-war as a shadow factory to mass-produce the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. The new capacity allowed the firm to expand, including supplying its product to Harrods after Myron sent his own sales people in initially to promote the product.
Ackerman was very wise in his promotional activity, engaging popular movie stars including Cary Grant and popular figures including Sir Winston Churchill, backing this up with practical and relatively affordable style. Having sold across Europe and the former Commonwealth Empire since 1955, in 1961 the company moved to a new factory in Crewe, to allow the Bentley Motors business to expand.
In 1978, the Ackerman family sold the business to the Austin Reed Group, by which time the business was employing 470 people, selling to Harrods, Selfridges, Turnbull & Asser and Saks Fifth Avenue, in Manhattan, New York. Austin Reed started using the factory to produce a number of other brands beside Chester Barrie, and from 1981 started to produce the ready-to-wear stock for fellow Savile Row tailor H. Huntsman. In 1989 the company won the Queen's Award for Export Achievement, and in 1998 started making the purple label suits for Polo Ralph Lauren.
As the dot.com boom decline hit world markets, the demand for bespoke suits declined. In financial troubles, Austin Reed sold the loss-making Chester Barrie business to Thompson Holdings (Richard Thompson) in 2000. After the business went in receivership in 2002, the Crewe factory sold to former management, trading as the Cheshire Clothing Company, who later move to a brand new factory. SRG Group plc acquired the Chester Barrie Brand and worldwide licensing rights, and engage CCC to manufacture top-end bespoke suits.
In 2006, CCC itself went into receivership and closed. A new independent manufacturing company was formed in Crewe, Cheshire Bespoke, who again widened their manufacturing offering to supply ranges for brands including Ozwald Boateng.
In 2007, the ownership of the Chester Barrie brand and worldwide licensing rights were sold to Prominent Europe. This has given the brand a new lease of life, while the relationship with Cheshire Bespoke is much diminished.
Chester Barrie now runs a number of concessions within department stores across the UK - including Harvey Nichols, Austin Reed and House of Fraser - where they offer their ready-to-wear tailoring as well as a Made To Measure service. The product offer has also been expanded to include shirts and ties plus a more "dress-down" selection, reflecting the shift in styles of dressing.
The selected House Of Fraser stores which hold a Chester Barrie department are: Belfast, Cheltenham, Glasgow, Guildford, London City, Manchester and Norwich. Two stores also exist in Italy in the Coin chance of departmental stores in Mestre and Verona.
Recently, a licence agreement was signed with Zhejiang Giuseppe of the Wenzhou province in China. This will bring five Chester Barrie stores to China within the coming year - including a flagship store in Shanghai.
- 1935 Simon Ackerman returns to set up business in London
- 1937 Opened first Chester Barrie store on Savile Row
- 1938 Myron Ackerman, Simon's son is despatched to run the business in the UK
- 1941 World War II, Chester Barrie makes uniforms for American officers
- 1949 Chester Barrie opened a larger factory shared with the Rolls Royce Company
- 1950 Begin selling to Harrods and Austin Reed. Harrods originally rejected the brand for being too expensive but Myron Ackerman sent his own staff to work in store and the suits sold extremely well.
- 1955 Started selling across Commonwealth countries (Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, etc.) and Europe (notably France, Sweden and Belgium)
- 1961 Chester Barrie moved to a new purpose built factory in Crewe to keep up with demand.
- 1978 Business sold to the Austin Reed Group. By then Chester Barrie was employing over 470 people. Selling to Harrods, Selfridges, Turnbull & Asser and Saks Fifth Avenue, New York City
- 1981 Chester Barrie gained recognition from founders of Savile Row, when H. Huntsman ordered their first ready-to-wear stock from Chester Barrie.
- 1989 Won the Queen's Award for Export Achievement
- 1998 Starts making purple label suits for Polo Ralph Lauren.
- 2000 bought by Thomson Holdings
- 2002 Goes into receivership. Crewe factory sold to former management, trading as the Cheshire Clothing Company, who later move to brand new factory. SRG Group plc acquires the Chester Barrie Brand and worldwide licensing rights, and engage CCC to manufacture top-end bespoke suits, while others are outsourced to Far East
- 2006 CCC goes into receivership and closes. New independent manufacturing company formed in Crewe, Cheshire Bespoke, who now widen offering to cover ranges for brands including Ozwald Boateng,
- 2007 Chester Barrie business and brands sold to Prominent Europe, who continue relationship with Cheshire Bespoke.
- "About Us". Chester Barrie. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
- Sarah Bridge (20 October 2002). "Chester Barrie is back in style". Mail on Sunday. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
- Lauren Goldstein (November 9, 1998). "Ralph Lauren, Prince Charles, and You!". Fortune magazine. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
- "Manufacturing". Chester Barrie. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
- Marino Donati (28 April 2007). "Cheshire Bespoke to step up tailoring production". Retrieved 2010-12-12.
- "The soul of the suit". Warrington Guardian. 6 October 2008. Retrieved 2010-12-12.