Since the founding of Holdall & Co Ltd, we’ve had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know interesting and talented individuals from many varied professions. Over the course of this year, we’ll be sitting down and chatting with many about their professions and taking a peek inside their bags, to learn more of their everyday carry items and the tools of their trade.
For the second in our series of “Everyday Carry with…”, we caught up with Eric Musgrave, freelance fashion business writer, creator and editorial director of Drapers, founding editor of FHM and regular contributor on Radio 4, Radio Five Live, BBC News, Sky News, Channel 4 and in the press.
Our time with Eric is documented below, along with a video of Eric explaining the items he carries (the video is also available on our YouTube channel).
I’m Eric Musgrave, I’m a freelance writer specialising in the fashion business, specifically the menswear business.
Tell me how you got into your line of work - what did you do before you became a writer?
I’m from a working class family in Leeds. I was born in 1955 and was the first and only member of my family to go to grammar school and University. I went to Hull University to study History. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after I left, so I took two gap years and finally decided to be a journalist. After a bit of a false start, my first proper job in journalism was as a junior reporter on a trade magazine called Drapers Record, which I started on the 28th January 1980, so just over 36 years ago. I’ve been writing about the business side of the fashion industry since then.
Do you have any favourite stories from your work life?
I’m not sure I have favourite stories, but I’ve been very fortunate. It’s been a great job (or a series of jobs), which have taken me all around the world. It’s a fascinating story of how clothes are made, how fibres are created and the huge infrastructure that gets things from the back of a sheep, to hanging in a beautiful shop in central London.
Have you ever had a low point or struggles during the path of your career?
There’ve been a few. I was sacked from my first job in journalism where I was on a 6 month trial. 5 and a half months into it I was called down to see the manager and told that they didn't think I was on the wavelength of the publication and handed my P45.
I was the editor of a magazine called Fashion Weekly and received about 20 minutes more notice than everybody else that it had been sold to a company I used to work for - and didn’t want to work for again. That was about 18 months of hard work that disappeared down the drain.
So there’s a few ups and downs - a few downs rather, but many more ups.
What did you do to build yourself back up again?
Just get on with it. Because, I once tried running a trade association and was out of my depth. It wasn’t really the job for me, so sometimes you’ve just got to say “Okay, I tried it and it wasn’t for me,” but when it comes to journalism and magazines, I feel confident that I know what I’m doing. But I’m very open to offers, I like work, I like what I’ve done so far, but that’s not to say I couldn’t try something else.
What lessons has your work life taught you? What have you learnt from doing this?
It’s always a good thing to treat people in your working life, as you would treat them in your personal life. Being honest, fair and straight forward whenever possible is always advantageous, rather than being tricky, deceitful, etc, etc. I don’t think I am particularly different in my business life than I am in my private life.
If you were given the day off from all of your everyday responsibilities, how would you spend it?
Even though I was brought up in the city of Leeds and lived in London for a long time, I now live in the country - I’ve lived in the country for nearly 20 years. I like being in the country; I’d probably go for a walk with my dog and go to a pub for a nice quiet drink - that’s my idea of a good time.
Have you met anyone famous through your career?
I’ve met lots of people that are famous; The Queen, Prince Charles, Diana Princess of Wales, Bryan Ferry and Elle Macpherson to name a few I can remember off the top of my head.
The most impressive person that I’ve met is a man called Bernard Lewis, who setup a company now known as River Island. He’s 90 now, but he opened a hand knitting wool shop in about 1947, and from that developed a clothes chain called Lewis Separates. He eventually changed the name to Chelsea Girl; a famous fashion chain in the 60s, and later renamed it to River Island. He’s a fantastically bright, very smart and extremely charismatic man, and he’s probably the most impressive person I’ve met.
What are you proudest of?
I’m probably proudest of having a good reputation in the business - I mean, I’m quite well respected, and I’d even say well liked, and that means a lot to me. It shows that my hard work of over 30-odd years has been recognised.
What does your future hold?
I intend to keep working, because I like working and I can’t afford not to work. One of the downsides of doing the work I do - despite what people think, is that it’s not particularly well paid. So you often find freelance journalists go on forever, and I think I will be one of those. But I do like the business, it’s fascinating, there’s always new people to meet, new things to learn and fashion is about change and development - so it’s a stimulating environment.
Have you got a moment that’s been the happiest in your career?
I’ve twice been named ‘Business Editor of the Year’ which is quite an achievement to be said; the work you’ve done over the past year has been recognised by your peers as the best in its class - so that has given me a lot of satisfaction.
Another was turning around the magazine Fashion Weekly, which was in a pretty terrible state when I was given it as my first role of editor. Given the very few resources we had we did a really good job, such that our biggest rival came and bought it - that was the sharp edge of that success.
If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
To speak a few languages, because I’m very English which means that I don’t speak any languages. I once lived and worked in Holland for about 18 months, now I don’t often feel inadequate in any sort of company - but I felt very inadequate in Holland, where virtually everybody you meet speaks two, three or even four languages. I still wonder how they managed to do it.
If you could interview anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Simply because I would have liked to have met him, my favourite writer is an American humorist called S. J. Perelman, who has been dead for about 25 years. He was a famous writer from the late 20s onwards, and I really love his work and I would be fascinated to meet him and talk to him about his work - and his amazing vocabulary that he used. He was also a very fastidious dresser, so we would have something else to talk about too!
Eric explains the items he carries and the story behind them: