The Selfridges Group is owned by British-born Canadian billionaire W. Galen Weston, and his wife, Hilary, and holds in its portfolio four luxury department store groups: British chain Selfridges, Brown Thomas in Ireland, Holt Renfrew in Canada and De Bijenkorf in the Netherlands, as well as Ogilvy in Montreal.
W. Galen is the grandson of George Weston, a Canadian baker who built Canada’s biggest bakery business. Upon his death, his son, W. Garfield Weston, took up the reins of George Weston Ltd. and began a program of expansion and acquisition. In the Thirties, during the Depression, Garfield secured funding to expand into the U.K. and was soon reporting sales equal to the Canadian parent company. Within a few years, Garfield had acquired a string of British bakeries, trading under the Allied Bakeries banner, and he moved his family to England in 1935.
Meanwhile, the U.S. operations were growing stronger. Garfield remained in Britain during World War II, even sitting as a member of Parliament for a time.
W. Galen Weston was born in 1940 and moved with his parents back to Canada in 1945. He watched as his father’s business expanded globally, acquiring subsidiaries from Rhodesia to Australia, and worked in many of them. In 1961, at the age of 21 and after studying business administration at the University of Western Ontario, W. Galen moved to Ireland and set up a grocery store, Powers, with his own money — his father had put him to work at a young age.
In Ireland, W. Galen saw a major opportunity for growth and his instinct was right: by 1965, Powers had expanded into a six-store grocery chain. He went on to acquire a discount chain, Penneys, and a grocery competitor. He purchased an interest in department store Brown Thomas in 1971, eventually acquiring full ownership in 1984. He married Hilary Frayne, an Irish fashion model, in 1966 and together they have built the retail Weston empire.
The Weston family controls about 200 companies, including Canada’s largest supermarket chain, Loblaws, and President’s Choice brands, a variety of grocery and household products, and services, and the Joe Fresh contemporary fashion brand.
Here’s a look at Selfridges Group’s other fashion retail properties.
The original and first Brown Thomas store was opened on Grafton Street in Dublin by haberdashers and general drapers Hugh Brown and James Thomas in 1859. The company was bought by Selfridges founder Harry Gordon Selfridge in 1919 and it operated as a branch of Selfridge Provincial Stores until 1933, when it was sold to John McGuire, who had made his name at Cerys — another Dublin department store. The company was listed on the Irish Stock Exchange in the Sixties, Weston bought his first share in the company in 1971 and he bought it out in 1983. In 1991, the company bought out the Switzer Group, which included stores in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Dublin. In 1994, Brown Thomas sold its original store to Marks & Spencer and took over what was the M&S store on Grafton Street.
In 1998, the company opened the first BT2 boutique, which stocks contemporary and diffusion brands including COS, Etoile by Isabel Marant and Sandro. The shop became home to Ireland’s largest denim bar. There are now three BT2 stores in Dublin.
By 2000, all of the previous Switzer Group stores were rebranded as Brown Thomas. Since 2005, all four of the stores have been refurbished and stock luxury and designer brands including women’s wear from Celine, Stella McCartney, Mary Katrantzou and Christian Louboutin, as well as men’s wear, beauty and home goods. NEXT: Selfridges >>
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)
@Pharrell and his wife Helen Lasichanh were among the stars that came out to celebrate @rimowa’s first pop-up concept shop. The space, which is located on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, draws inspiration from airport luggage carousels and lounge areas – and features the company’s luggage and accessories. If the pop-up is successful it could pave the way for addition temporary shops throughout the world. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA)
@carineroitfeld celebrated @crfashionbook’s first calendar last night with a dinner party at Spring Place in Manhattan. Photographed by @stevenkleinstudio, the calendar takes on a fitness theme and features @joansmalls, @gigihadid, @danielle_herrington_ – pictured here – and more. “[Carine Roitfeld] wanted me to feel sexy and she wanted me to be myself and feel it out on my own and do what I felt was right,” said Herrington, aka Miss October. #wwdeye
@saintrecords and @virgilabloh last night at @americanexpress’ “A Night With Success Makers” event. “I always bring it back to community because without that I wouldn’t have the courage,” said Knowles when asked how she has gotten where she is now. Read more highlights from their conversation on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lizdoupnik)
This Just In: Industry sources have told WWD that Anastasia Soare is rumored to be considering selling her beauty business, @anastasiabeverlyhills. According to those sources, Soare has tapped investment bank Imperial Capital to explore sale options for her eponymous beauty brand –– and with at least $340 million in net sales, this would be a big deal. Put in context of other recent transactions for makeup companies, Soare’s price tag could be in the billions if she were to sell the whole thing. #wwdnews #wwdbeauty (📷: @clint_spaulding)
@assouline’s latest book, “The Spirit of Bentley: Be Extraordinary” captures the adventurous attitudes and opulent lifestyles of @bentleymotors’ most creative owners and enthusiasts throughout the U.K. The 292-page hardcover has a section dedicated to showing its team of skilled artisans and photos of its most colorful owners, from George Bamford to designer @alicetemperley, pictured here by Aline Coquelle. #wwdeye
@google released its report on the most popular search terms this year. For fashion brands, the list was led by @gucci, the luxury brand that stunned the market last October when it pledged to stop using fur. Runner ups were @supremenewyork and @fashionnova, along with more established brands like @louisvuitton, @chanelofficial and @ysl. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)