In 2010, the world lost one of the greatest fashion designers, entrepreneurs and retailers, Joseph Ettedgui who died aged 74. What a legacy he left to us all, especially those of us who live in London. In the early days, Joseph’s knitwear label Joseph Tricot became legendary – luckily I still have two in my wardrobe from the ‘80s! And then there were his stores and cafes. His emporiums became the gold standard for visual merchandising, product selection, brands and interiors. He championed designers, architects and accessories – his concepts always moved, changed and developed – and he just had a way of knowing what good talent looked like. He also had a real passion for restaurants and cafes, which were amongst his greatest successes. Thinking about him, I suppose he was a serial entrepreneur with exceptional taste – quite a unique combination.
What I often forget is that in 1981 Joseph approached Chris Corbin and Jeremy King and backed them in their first restaurant, Le Caprice. They then opened the Ivy and J Sheekey before selling all three to Belgo Plc in 1998. Known simply as Corbin & King, they have been in business together for 33 years.
Corbin and King similarly just ‘have it’ and they have gone on to open one good restaurant after another: The Wolseley, The Delaunay, Brasserie Zedel, Colbert and, my favourite of all, Fischer’s in Marylebone High Street. They are all grand café style restaurants and they feel like Paris or Vienna in the 1940s! In a recent interview in the Financial Times, King said: “great restaurants should not define things, they should be the catalyst for things to happen.”
Up until now, I would have described Corbin and King as world-class restaurateurs. But they have now moved into a new area and opened a hotel, The Beaumont in London’s Mayfair. It has the same feel as the restaurants and wandering in, you would think it has always been a hotel; certainly not a motorcar garage as it previously was. In fact, they clearly have a particular knack for transforming garages as The Wolseley used to be a car showroom!
They could easily have stuck to their knitting, but instead they chose, much like Joseph, to take the creative eye that had already served them so well into a new sector. Is the leap from restaurants to hotels big enough that you could call it entrepreneurial? Certainly they share the importance of service, quality, atmosphere and behind-the-scenes logistics. But it is not a move without significant risks attached and, for that reason, I would argue that you could indeed call them entrepreneurs.
I also have a feeling that Joseph would have been very impressed with the hotel – if he needed a hotel in London, I am sure this is where he would have stayed.
Which other entrepreneurs have been able to go from one sector to another with such seamless ease? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org, and have a great weekend!