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Joseph Ettedgui Dead at 74

Godfrey Deeny
March 22nd, 2010 @ 00:43 AM - Paris

A private service was held this Sunday in London for Joseph Ettedgui, one of the half dozen greatest fashion retailers in the past half-century, who died last week.

The Moroccan-born Ettedgui passed away on March 18 after a long battle with cancer. He was 74.

Instantly recognizable for his large round black glasses, mop of tousled hair and preference for white socks with dark suits, Joseph created a chain of some 20 stores that set the standard for clean cut style and brilliant product mix among international multi-brand boutiques.

His eponymous chain was known to carry all the right designers of the moment from Emmanuelle Khanh, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Kenzo Takada in the Seventies, John Galliano and Katharine Hamnett in the Eighties and Alexander McQueen, Prada and Gucci today, mixed in with his own sleek private label, simply known.

His boutique chain, which he sold twice, both times in multi-million deals, remained hip until the very end. On March 8, his Paris flagship was packed out when Joseph invited English poet rocker Pete Doherty to play there, testifying to his perennial link to all things cool.

Joseph Ettedgui was born in Morocco on February 22 1936, the son of a shopkeeper determined his sons have brilliant careers. In 1960, Joseph and his brother Maurice arrived in London from Casablanca, opening a hair hairdressing salon on the King's Road, where two years later, where they were joined later by other brother, Franklin.

Ettedgui’s first boutique began after a Paris meeting with designer Kenzo Takada in Paris, whose knitwear he began selling in the basement of his salon in the early 1970s.

Joseph’s first eponymous store was in 1972 in Chelsea, offering iconic wardrobe staples – understated but stylish, and always impeccably cut, trousers and shirts, along with a canny mix of top independent designer brands. By the late 1970s, Ettedgui could boast stores in Paris, New York and Japan.

“Having a hair salon on the King’s Road in the 1960s was great because people like Mary Quant were there, so it was a great school for me. Everything was happening on the King’s Road, from fashion to music,” Ettedgui told UK fashion bible Drapers in an August 2008 interview republished after his death.

Though he had no fashion training, Ettedgui’s eye was regarded as nigh infallible and impeccable taste. His first store was designed by Norman Foster, who created a monochrome setting, retailing very largely black stock. His boutique philosophy was very much giving customers luxury basics and soon Joseph stores were destinations of a fashionable clientele around the world.

In 1999, Joseph and Franklin Ettedgui sold the majority of their business to a Continental financial group, led by Albert Frere, the Belgian investor often named Europe’s smartest businessman. Joseph personally made and estimated £30 million from the sale.

Six years later, Ettedgui enjoyed another £20 million capital gain when the chain was sold to Japanese clothing company Onward Kashiyama for £140 million.

Unlike certain retailers, Ettedgui had little interested in celebrities and preferred to sell to creative people within the fashion community.

“I remember when we opened on Fulham Road and everyone would come to Joseph before London Fashion Week. I remember people like Tom Ford visiting the store and I was always surprised to see that calibre of person. But that was what I wanted: to sell to the people I admired,” he told Drapers.

In 1998 he bought Connolly, the famed UK leather company that creates the interiors of Jaguars giving those cars their unique aroma.

Generally dressed in black or white suits, signature photos of Joseph generally featured him smoking a cigar, photographed though a puff of a corona.

Ettedgui is survived by his English wife, Isabel (née Pritchard), and their daughter, Gigi, and two sons, Peter and Paul, from a previous marriage.

Famously genial, blessed with an eternal curiosity and impeccably mannered, Ettedgui was one of the most popular figures are any fashion event he attended. Another door closes.

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