Master at work

March 5, 2019

After graduating in engineering and working as a sales director, Simon Whitaker decided to establish a menswear clothing retailer with wife Eve, inspired by his fashion-conscious late father. Here, Simon explains more about the ethos behind South Tyneside’s sartorial sanctuary – Master Debonair

In 2015, I sadly lost my father, Bob, very suddenly, who was an extremely popular, dapper man. I wanted to look my best for his funeral but after walking around Newcastle for hours searching for a beautiful tie clip and pocket square, I left disappointed. One store had the right style but not the right colour. Another store had the right colour but not the right style.

A few months later, I spoke to my wife, Eve, and said ‘I think I’d like to source some men’s accessories’. We thought of a name and Master Debonair was born – with a few accessories, a Facebook page, and some inspirational looks that we both loved. The website launched and with a little bit of stock we had customers visiting our home to buy them.

It quickly became clear that we needed a physical store and we decided to open one close to where we live in East Boldon. We had people queueing outside of the door before we opened.

We believe in differentiating by detail and welcoming everyone into Master Debonair – be that staff, suppliers or customers. Eve says: “I want people to feel better about themselves when they leave the store. Clothes can be your armour when needed and whatever size or shape you are, you can feel great in the right fitting clothes.”

Every gentleman deserves self-confidence. We aim to deliver that experience through the products we sell. We love seeing our customers really wearing Master Debonair clothes.

We start every day as a new day from zero and take nothing for granted. We have built an amazing team around us; this isn’t something you can do on your own. We never think of ourselves as a small business, our processes and practices are that of a big business just on a smaller scale. We came into this without a tainted view of what you can and cannot do as an independent retailer.

I’m not necessarily inspired by fashion designers, I look more at the guys who wear the clothes. David Gandy and David Beckham always look great and their style isn’t forced or contrived. We also have some of our style icons pictured in store, such as Robert De Niro, Basil Rathbone, David Bowie, Al Pacino and Michael Caine.

When we’re looking at brands to stock, we always ask ourselves, ‘is it Master Debonair?’, ‘does it fit with our brand?’ and most importantly ‘do our customers want it?’. We also have a price architecture that we have built our stock around.

We have our own style and brand philosophy, which is also why we are investing heavily in our own brand. We visit as many shows as possible both in the UK and abroad. I think we are more focused on consumer behavioural trends of how people buy and the experience wanted both online and in store.

My go-to is a shirt, waistcoat, jacket, jeans and boots – and always my dad’s watch.

Master Debonair