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Mother & son-in-law men’s smart fashion businesses set for growth

Lynne and Andy increase their premises for Mr. Munro Menswear in Newcastle city centre.

The mum and son-in-law team behind Newcastle fashion house, Mr. Munro, is set for major growth in its walk-in menswear business.

Lynne Machin, 59, and Andy Robson, 32, are poised to open a second, larger showroom in their Blandford Square premises, in Newcastle city centre, as well as bringing in two new men’s fashion brands to their portfolio of affordable suits for weddings and other occasions.

The pair first went into business together while working as Business Link advisers, based at Seaham. Their part-time venture sold “festival kits”, comprising ponchos, toothbrushes, and other essentials.

Lynne moved from London to the family’s roots in the North East after marrying husband, Tony, in her 20s, to run a nursing home in Roker. After that business closed, she set up a houseware business, the Linen Attic, near her home in Boldon. She went on to devise Totally4Girls, a range of purses for keeping sanitary ware, which featured in an online version of Dragon’s Den.

Andy built Lynne’s website and it was while doing that work that he met Lynne’s daughter, Jess. The couple have a young daughter and live in Seaburn.

Together Andy and Lynne created their Totally4 range of “kits”, including the original Totally4Girls products.

“When the Government changed the basis of regional funding, we were made redundant, so we took on the Blandford Square premises and Lynne spotted an opportunity to provide something original for brides, leading to her establishing bridal outfitter, Vintage at No.18. She also worked alongside another tenant in the building and quickly learned that there was an unfulfilled market for outfits for the groom and his attendants.

“Brides would ask Lynne ‘Do you know anywhere to buy men’s suits?’ and that was how it all started,” said Andy.

“I also think the men’s market is a little less competitive as there aren’t many people in the area doing what we do, which is giving men the chance to buy at reasonable prices in a relaxed, informal environment, without any pressure.”

Mr. Munro – named a after a branch of Lynne’s family – was set up two years ago and has grown steadily, with 50 per cent of sales on line and the others through the retail outlet. However, all sales have been by appointment. The new showroom facility, equipped with TV and refreshments, will change all that and launch the next phase of the company’s expansion.

Lynne said: “Andy and I have enjoyed working together in a number of different ventures and we seem to make a good team. Not everyone expects to find a mother and her son-in-law working together, but it’s worked for us!”

With about two thirds of customers looking for wedding outfits, Mr. Munro is bringing two new suit ranges, Nines and Torre, made in Portugal. A typical three-piece tweed suit sells at about £175 or upwards, with the Torre suits slightly more upmarket, at £375.

Andy’s web and search engine optimisation (SEO) business, Squidgy, has supported Mr. Munro from Day One, developing the e-commerce site and using SEO and other tools to building the brand’s visibility in the region and the wider market. With the company now boasting a six-figure turnover, the pair expect sales to double this year and plan to bring in new staff to service the growing online side of the business.

Their “typical customer” is looking for a “bit of a heritage feel”, said Andy, who came into the business with no formal fashion training. “Classic Harris Tweed is a bit too formal, so he’s looking for something that makes him feel more individual, or different,” he added.

“Men are starting to care a bit more – it’s no longer just about the bride.”

Mr. Munro’s new facilities will be formally opened at an event on March 18, sponsored by innovative Newcastle drinks company, Noveltea. Staff from caterer, Emily Botham, will model some of the Mr Munro outfits, while serving guests.