Quality Classic British Tailoring Since 1805
Fashion So Iconic it Features in the British Oxford Dictionary
View Crombie Fashion collections on London Fashion Review Blog
An Introduction to the Crombie Fashion Label
Crombie Founder, John Crombie 1772-1858
The impressive heritage of, British fashion label Crombie spans back over 200 years to the year 1805 – the same year Napoleon was leading the British Navy in their epic victory against the French and Spanish naval forces. It was in 1805 that John Crombie, son to a family of Scottish weavers, founded his first woollen mill in Aberdeen’s Cothal Mills. Through his use of only the finest natural fibres, he soon gained a reputation throughout Britain for the top quality of his luxury cloth. His cloth was quickly coveted, not only by cloth merchants, but also by the London tailors wanting the only the finest for their noble clientele.
The Crombie company soon expanded with subsequent generations of the Crombie family joining the business – and by the mid-nineteenth century, their cloths were the fabric of choice for Savile Row tailors. Their international export market expanded under unusual circumstances in 1861 upon the outbreak of the American Civil War. Crombie received large orders for their ‘Rebel Grey’ cloth from the Confederate army, increasing business five-fold.
During the 1870s, John Crombie’s grandson, Theodore helps to further expand Crombie’s overseas market – he travelled through Europe with trunks filled with Crombie fabrics securing new deals and contracts. Throughout the decade, Theodore’s agents established the Crombie brand further afield, from Canada to Japan. Crombie entered Russia in 1880 with the ‘Russian Coat’, starting a long relationship with the Russian market, which still remains strong to this day.
The Crombie brand has continued to go from strength to strength, contributing heavily to the war effort during The First and Second World Wars. Aside from their assistance during the wars, Crombie we free to resume their work at the pinnacle of British fashion, dressing royalty, statesmen and celebrities worldwide – Cary Grant, Winston Churchill, Presidents Kennedy and Eisenhower and The Beatles have all worn Crombie outerwear.
As of 2011, Crombie had expanded its product line to include a womenswear line to accompany the established menswear and accessory lines. Crombie remains an iconic brand, well known worldwide for the quality of their garments and timeless elegance of their designs. As when the brand began, Crombie continues to use only the finest raw materials to create its products. The majority of fabrics used in their coats are still milled in Britain and 80% of their accessories are made in England. The Crombie products are sold throughout the UK in their 3 stand-alone stores and through concessions in prestigious department stores including House of Fraser and Harrods.
The Crombie Fashion Label: A Timeline Snapshot
- 1805: John Crombie establishes his first woollen mill in Aberdeen’s Cothal Mills – he soon gains a reputation for the fine quality of his luxury cloths.
- 1810: The Crombie mill receives and award from the Board of Trustees for Fisheries and Manufactures in Scotland for the high quality of their Forest cloth (the woollen cloth of the time).
- 1828: John’s eldest son, James Crombie joins the mill business as it continues to expand and prosper throughout the post Napoleonic War period. At this time, the main cloths produced by the Crombie mill were tweele and wincey, woven in blue and grey hues. Legend has it that the word ‘tweed’ was born around this time when a London merchant misread a poorly handwritten letter from Crombie, referring to an order of tweele.
- 1849: By the mid-nineteenth century, Crombie were well established amongst the most prestigious drapers of London and Paris – Their high-quality wools, merinos, cashmeres and tweeds were the fabrics of choice for the top tailors of Savile Row.
- 1851: Crombie’s cloth is presented at the Great Exhibition and is awarded a prize medal by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert ‘For Superior Manufacture and Beauty of Design’.
- 1855: Crombie is commended once again at the Exposition Universelle in Paris by Napoleon III.
- 1861: Crombie’s business increases five-fold upon the outbreak of the American Civil War. The company received large orders for their ‘Rebel Grey’ cloth form the Confederate Army, who had no mills of their own in the blockaded South.
- 1862: At the International Exhibition in London, Queen Victoria’s commissioner commends Crombie cloth.
- 1870s: John Crombie’s grandson, Theodore helps to expand the international Crombie market, travelling the globe with trunks filled with the company’s fabrics. Such was Theodore’s success that in 1871, during the Prussian siege of Paris, an order for Crombie cloth was famously sent by hot air balloon.
- 1880: Crombie enters the Russian market with the ‘Russian Coat’ – a heavy duty outerwear coat specifically designed to withstand the harsh Russian winters.
- 1900s: Throughout the early 1900’s, Crombie turned their expertise to new lines, producing lighter suits, coats and morning jackets to cater to the new markets opening up in France, Belgium and Germany.
- 1914-1918: During the First World War, Crombie contributed heavily to the war effort, switching its production to that of military officer’s uniforms – Around one tenth of al overcoats worn by British offers during the First World War were made from Crombie cloth.
- 1928: Crombie becomes part of the Illingworth Morris Group, when the founding Crombie family sold their interest in the company to another British textile family, the Salts. This merger created what becomes Britain’s largest textile group, and remains so for much of the twentieth century.
- 1932: The Duke of York (who later became King George VI) visits a Crombie mill wearing an overcoat created by Crombie especially for him. The coat was reinvigorated and re-released in 2009 and the ‘King Coat’.
- 1939-1945: Crombie once again contributes extensively to the war effort – During 1941 alone, Crombie’s output included overcoats for 90,450 soldiers, 23,364 RAF officers, and 12,042 US army officers.
- 1946-onwards: With their contribution to the war over, Crombie could once again put all its effort back into producing top quality fabrics and outerwear that would be worn by royalty, statesmen and celebrities worldwide.
- 1990s: Crombie opens its first stand alone store in Edinburgh, which was soon followed by further stores in London and Manchester.
- 1995-2004: Crombie held the prestigious Royal Warrant as a supplier to HRH The Prince of Wales.
- 2010: Crombie launches its new e-commerce website, which is soon rolled out internationally in different languages and currencies.
- 2011: Crombie launches its first full womenswear collection for the Spring/Summer season after testing the womenswear market with a small capsule collection in the Autumn of 2010. For their womenswear line, Crombie gave their signature classic tailoring a feminine touch. The first full collection features a range of quality separates including dresses, jackets, skirts, trousers and the famous Crombie outerwear.
Future of the Crombie Fashion Label
Crombie is so relevant in British fashion and culture that the word Crombie actually features in the Oxford English Dictionary:
Crombie, [krom’bi] The name of J&J Crombie Limited,
a Scottish firm of clothmakers, used to designate a type of overcoat,
jacket, etc., made by them.
Expect Crombie to remain an iconic British fashion label, producing the finest quality apparel and accessories that with such a rich heritage, could continue on for another 200 years.
Visit the official Crombie website, here.