Don’t you just hate the boring people? I know I do. Here I am in conversation with this guy who’s got his own business and drives a BMW sports saloon. I’ve learned he’s got a detached house in the suburbs and a small cabin up in Scotland. His wife is as sweet as a peach and an obvious tease. I wonder if she is the driving force behind her husbands persona.
He’s telling me about the contributions his ‘Big Boy’s Club’ has made to charity. “It’s a perfect platform to extend you’re writing and personal reputation Ian.” I do not know what he means “In what way?” “Join us, we’re a team with compassion, we share and sharing is caring. Come along to an open evening, the girls are allowed to come along now, we’re a long way away from the old secret and occult days.”
He is an entrepreneur. A corner shop, then another, renovates an old house and sells it, then another. The volume of his voice lowers to a conspiring whisper “There are three secrets Ian. Bus route, shops and a school. If you have these three ingredients you will make plenty of money. I ‘do’ four a year and make an average of forty K on each one. Don’t buy and rent, buy and sell that’s the way to make real money, money you can spend and enjoy.” “I do not know what he’s talking about. I take pictures, write books and spend my time on social media. I am earning a living whilst I sleep. My books and pictures are a never ending pension. When I die my work will reincarnate me.
My pitiful response is… “That’s very interesting and candid of you. I’m very interested.” I’m lying of course, I always do. It’s the habit of the weak. Rather than the confrontational “Well do you know what? It sounds like a load of bollocks to me. You and your greedy fat ball friends have conspired to put up the price of houses and hold millions of people at ransom with mortgages which enslave them and their families. Don’t get me started on your bedfellows, the imps and demons who rent properties and impoverish million of innocent tenants.” I have capitulated, degraded my inner being, I smile in hopeless self pity. The oaf cannot see my self deception, he is too thick skinned.
“Well here’s my card I’m only a text, e-mail or even a call away.” He smiles I am certain he thinks the ‘even a call away’ is some kind of verbal wink of an invitation into a more intimate social world.
The clothes company was formed by Dennis Coates and most of the fashion world condemned his design, quality, attention to detail and price believing there was no place for this type of clothing in the modern world. Fast food and throwaway Far Eastern made clothes were the way to go. Rags for the masses who follow the trends of the fickle minded haute couture which trickled down the from the stream of Paris, London, New York designs into the estuary of the world market, this is the way of fashion.
Dennis Coates was bought up on a run down farm just outside of Leeds. Fortune shined on him when he was a child. His mother loved and adored him and his father did not want his son to work the land “Get thee to collage lad, bogger the freezing mornings and the farm agents greed.” His beloved mother supported him in a very special way. She had sold all of her own mothers jewellery and worked in the local pub every evening to save enough for Dennis’s future. On his sixteenth birthday Dennis was given a new Raleigh three speed bike which he used every day of his life for the next five years.
And God did he study and work and learn his trade. His degree in fabric design and his first job as a tailor in Bradford were both a direct result of his parents sacrifices. On his twenty sixth birthday he gave his parents a present. A two bedroomed bungalow in a small village near Harrowgate and this would not be the first home he purchased for his Mum and Dad who Dennis loved more than life itself. He had a pragmatic attitude to life, for example when he was asked about his parents Dennis answered. “I live for my Mum and Dad’s memory, but that is not to say my life is stifled by their loss, no, every child should celebrate their parents lives and if they cannot, the parents have patently let the child down, for it is the parent to educate the child. The child IS a product of his or her parents nurturing of their offspring. To live in a void or to perpetually mourn ones parents is a sign they did not teach their child wisely.”
This was one of the most poignant statements ever made on Gerry Gevaert’s Saturday evening talk show. Dennis received a standing ovation from the audience and the three film stars who sat with him on the world renowned television talk show. After this interview Dennis became an overnight sensation and his clothing became something very special as the label now possessed a meaning. The man, his company and his product were all about, quality, family, long term ownership, honesty, integrity.
Those who wear his brand are cloaked in a magical uniform of those attributes. His label was not purchased for occasional use, the clothes could be worn day in day out, would stand wash after wash, dry clean after dry clean, they could be repaired, jackets relined at the factory in different colours, buttons came four colours and these could be changed to alter the look of a jacket, trousers were buttons not zip. Differing designs of mens clothing was targeted for either ‘work’ ‘leisure’ or ‘formal’. Women’s styles have the same formula. And the clothing evolved. You may remember the fervour when the famous wax cotton overcoat with its removable lining was discontinued. And the universal applause to the replacement of the same design being made in Gore-Tex fabric as Dennis considered it a better material. And every item had the three inch by two inch label sewn upon it. ‘Made in Bradford by Dennis Coates’. I still wear the originals items made to Dennis’s strict parameters to this very day.
Bradford and Leeds had the first two shops and ten years later there were thirty. And within each one was Dennis’s ethos. The manager and staff all had share’s in the outlet. Indeed there was a two year waiting list for those who wished to work for any part of the organisation. The clothing was made with the highest quality materials and made with the strongest of thread, buttons machined in with waxed cotton! But it was the generosity of the cut and the ageless design that set the brand apart. Dennis Coates was a genius who had to do things his way. The fashion experts knocked his work and the more he was critiqued, the more determined he became to succeed. “I do not have share holders. I have an objective to personally earn a million a year, this is enough for any man. The rest of my profits go back into my staff, my factory, and the quality of my clothing.” Is the quote below his photograph on most of the magazine advertisements. Later when he built the wool spinning factory, the cloth mill and dye works next to the original factory, an astonished fashion world believed him to be mad. Ten years later there is only one word… ‘GENIUS’ .
Dennis’s death came as a shock to the whole business community. The announcement was made by his solicitor by way of a press release ‘It is with sadness I have to announce the death of Dennis Coates owner of the clothing manufacturer of the same name. He has been buried in the family plot with his mother and father he wanted no fuss surrounding his demise‘. The business had over a thousand employee’s who benefitted from the estate. He chose ten ‘trusted’ managers to take over the day to day running of the business and they came into full ownership after five years. One day after this day, they betrayed Dennis and floated the empire on the stock market making themselves multi millionaires overnight.
The ‘Bar room millionaire’ takes a card from his inside pocket and makes the statement “Well here’s my card I’m only a text, e-mail or even a call away.” I notice the label in the brand new suit. Although now, the material is not as good as it used to be, the cut is not as generous and the buttons no longer have the name impressed around the edges I see the three inch by two inch label. ‘Made in Bradford by Dennis Coates’. As I take the card I think to myself ‘You are just like your suit Mr Boring, a fake, living behind a beautiful and long gone sentiment.’
I wrote this ‘flash story’ in 2011 and was reminded of one of the paragraphs when I listened to the news of David Jones’s death last week.