Saw the newspaper cutting for Crowthers and it brought back memories. I was a mod of course and bought many clothes in Crowthers. It was a great shop selling stylish clothes in muted colours like crushed raspberry and petrol blue.
My favourite outfit was a purple tunic top which went over wide black crepe trousers. It seemed like a Manchester Biba and was a real change from the tat at chelsea Girl or inventing our own outfits - we went to Sale Locarno once dressed in our school gym outfits - short pleated navy skirt, white aertex blouse, white tennis pumps and........red braces!
I went to work for John Crowther (Crowthers South King St). I was production Manager and worked with John and his then wife Chris for two years. I remember standing outside the shop one day with John and this bloody great Rolls Royce pulled up. The window slid down and the owner of Biba and Consortium (can't remember his name) stuck his head out and said "I've been hearing big things about you John Crowther but there's plenty of room in this country for the two of us"
John wasn't a flash guy and when I persuaded him to buy an E-Type he let me use it in case people thought he was flashing his cash around. I left John and set up my own label called "Something Good" anyone remember it?
I believe he divorced Chris and he was going out with Nicholas Monseratte's (author of the "Cruel Sea") daughter. Sadly John died very young, during a routine dental operation.
Ad from Grass Eye, Nov 1969
I, too, worked for John Crowther between 1967 and 1970 - and got to drive his E-type often, too. I was hired as a van driver and, most mornings, John would park outside the south King St. shop, chuck me his car keys and I would take the Jag to park in the British Railways car park a couple of streets away. Considering I was a 17-year-old oik from a council estate, driving John's car was quite a thrill, and it sometimes took a bit longer to get to the car park than it should. I was also accosted once by some posh bloke who reckoned I must have nicked it. Don't blame him really.
He was quite a guy was John. He had such style. In the early years he had his main shop and all his production and warehousing within a tiny group of buildings. Bob Lichfield, warehouse manager, and I were in a windowless cellar, a Dickensian jeweller's vault in the bowels of the building. In the early days I delivered CMT's effectively the kits for the machinists to make up, delivering them to sweat shops around the city and further afield, then collecting the finished dresses, all bagged up on polythene.
I only had John's old minivan. I do mean minivan, not minibus, as in a tiny vehicle. I once had scores of dresses in the back, up to the van's ceiling and, on opening the door, the whole lot just slid onto the tarmac, like a waterfall, causing some consternation among the shoppers in the boutique. The shops were done out with what we would now consider antiques - bentwood hat stands instead of clothes rails, cheval mirrors, aspidistras in Edwardian jardinaires, stuff picked up for a song as a result of the slum clearance programme underway at that time.
His first shop was an old terraced house opposite Oldham market, which he painted all over in a black and white Paisley pattern. The publicity from that alone probably set him up. It hit all the TV channels. Well, both in those days.
He expanded to have a shop in Birmingham and one in Kensington High Street, as well as selling stuff to Miss Selfridge, Bus Stop and other boutique chains. I would set off from Manchester each week at 3 a.m. arriving at the Kensington store at 8.00 " no joined-up motorways then" offload there and at other places in London before driving back arriving home about ten at night. I loved it. And he was such a loss to the world.
The garments were superb things, even if I was not really into clothes myself. The secret was that they were individually designed by Pat (?) with superb patterns, my favourite was Sunny Manchester - rainy scenes, of course.
John was also the guy behind the band, Barclay James Harvest, bankrolling them for several years without ever really seeing their more successful times as far as I can tell.
I remember Crowthers boutique in Oldham. I've still got a purple velvet midi skirt with little buttons up the side. I used to wear it with long pink suede boots to discos etc. I was training to teach at Hull and my friends were envious of the clothes I could buy in Manchester!
Hi there, my name is Steve Crowther. I am John Crowthers nephew and I was born in Oldham in 1962, my father is Bob Crowther, Johns eldest brother.
In 1964 we moved to NZ ( Mum was a kiwi ) and Bob set himself up in a butcher shop in Invercargill. I remember Uncle Johns passing and will always regret not getting to know this guy that everyone speaks so highly of. I was given Johns wrist watch, a gold piece from Bravingtons of London and will always cherish it.
I have some photos of John which I will happily post if anyone is interested and I would love to hear from anyone that knew him back in the 60's.
I worked at Crowthers in the late 60's although my maiden name was Dixon. I remember John and his wife, would be interesed in the seeing any pictures you have. I really enjoyed working there, the clothes they made were excellent.
I remember well in 1970-72 a really great girls' boutique called CROWTHERS on South King Street. Sold a lot of "Grannie" dresses I recall ... quite a trendy place.
It was owned by John Crowther, from Oldham, who also managed Barclay James Harvest band. He also set up a couple of boutiques in London.
The girls who staffed Crowthers were the best-looking girls in Manchester and, by constantly hanging around in my Lotus Elan sports car, I eventually managed to get one interested in me. Her name was Sandra Young and she was a beautiful skinny blonde with absolutely wonderful legs....and she later married me and we had four children together. Sadly divorced since 1987!
Crowthers was a quite upmarket boutique and John Crowther had a factory next door ..upstairs in a large open gallery room where all the wooden support beams were painted red..and women machinists churned out the clothes.
You could frequently see members of the Barclay James Harvest band popping in to the boutique, particularly Woolly Wolstenholme and John Lees. John Crowther had a room next door, on top of the factory, which he had turned into a bed-sitter and it was quite popular with the Crothers' girls, band members and friends!
I don't know what happened to Crowthers Boutique and how South King Street has been developed, as I've been living in Monaco for years and years now.
I did hear that John Crowther died in a dentist's chair after a general anaethestic....but have no idea if it is true or not.
I'd love to see those photos Steve. Although just an employee - the van driver and much else beside - John was never pompous or patronising to us. I went to his and Chris's house at Diggle, taking stuff they'd bought from Habitat - on John Dalton Street at the time.
He was a great bloke. He certainly had style.
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