MIND MELD: Former British prime minister Tony Blair described his first meeting with Sir Philip Green as the two helped to mark the 10th anniversary of the Fashion Retail Academy in London on Wednesday night.
“Before our meeting, I asked the civil servants, ‘So, what’s he like, then?’ And they told me he was ‘direct.’ Philip never graduated from the school of diplomacy, but rather the school of life, and there was a real meeting of minds that day,” said Blair, whose government helped to set up the FRA, a vocational school for aspiring buyers, merchandisers and graphic designers.
Blair called the Topshop tycoon “the real visionary” behind the project, which was co-funded by Green’s Arcadia group and the British government and is supported by brands including Marks & Spencer and Next.
Blair added that when he told his four children he was going to cut the ribbon on a fashion academy “they were a little unkind.”
The famously frank Green also spoke during the two-hour ceremony at Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden, and said he was happy for the government’s support, “but I wanted no interference from politicians.” Green had earlier told WWD that he gets the greatest buzz from finding “somebody who’s 18 and has a great eye and gets it, but who needs to be educated and taught how to buy and how the machine works.”
Over the past decade the academy, which is located in central London near Tottenham Court Road, has trained more than 5,000 students in fields such as fashion retail, merchandising, buying and graphic design. Some 90 percent of graduates are currently in employment.