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EDITIONS
Monday, 31 December, 2001, 00:00 GMT
Margaret Barbour honoured
Mrs Margaret Barbour
Mrs Barbour produced the right product at the right time
The woman who reinvented the waterproof wax clothes firm J Barbour & Sons is to receive an honour for her services to British industry.


Whether you are a keen fly-fisher, a game Shot, passionate about all matters equestrian, or simply most at home in the country, Barbour is the name to trust.

Barbour website
Margaret Barbour, 61, who in 1991 was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours for her company's export achievements, is to be made a Dame, according to the New Year Honours list.

"This is not just for me, but for the company; everybody in my hardworking force in the North East of England," Mrs Barbour said.

The honour recognises Mrs Barbour's success at having turned the company's rustic clothes - initially designed for seamen, river workers, motorcyclists and Royal navy submarine soldiers - into a fashion accessory for the 1980s urban Sloan Rangers and the British upper-class country set.

Diversification

She then turned the rural brand into an international urban fashion icon in the 29 countries where it is represented through the company's local offices and network of retailers.

"Urban people realised we had a very good product that was very versatile," Mrs Barbour said.

Mrs Barbour also pushed ahead with ambitious diversification programmes, producing shoes, Wellington boots and bags, as well as clothes in breathable materials, moleskin and tweed, to create a broad range of products, all taking advantage of and, in their own right, bringing further fame to the company's brand name.

"I produced the right product at the right time that helped us to the peak that we got to," Mrs Barbour said.

Achievements

No stranger to receiving honours, Mrs Barbour is already a Deputy Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, an honorary doctor of business administration as awarded by the University of Sunderland, as well as an honorary doctor of civil law as awarded by the University of Newcastle.

Barbour wax waistcoat
Mrs Barbour's challenge was to push the brand beyond the wax
She is also the president of the Royal Warrant Holders Association, the chairman of J Barbour and Sons and the chairman of the Barbour Charitable Trust, founded in 1988.

The Trust controls a 25% stake in the family firm and is regularly making substantial donations to good causes in the North East of England.

Royal Warrants

The Barbour company has also received proper recognition from the UK's Royal Family on previous occasions.

Royal Warrants have been received both from the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen and the Prince of Wales.

And members of the Royal Family have on several occasions made Barbour clothes their choice of country wear, further boosting the brand's standing.

Fresh view

Mrs Barbour took control of the Tyne-and-Wear-based company following the death of her husband, John Barbour, in the late 1960s when he was just 29.

"It was a crisis in 1968 when my husband died. That could have been the end of Barbour because he was an only child," said Mrs Barbour.

By then, the company had been handed down four generations since it was founded in 1894.

"I had this great responsibility, almost you could call it a mission, to keep the company going."

"I went in with quite a fresh view and an enormous enthusiasm to take Barbour forward," she said.

"I realised we had a fantastic product but it needed updating."

Family firm

A teacher by profession, Mrs Barbour soon became a company director, working in all areas of the business before taking the chairman seat in 1973.

John and Margaret Barbour's daughter, Helen is the vice-chairman and a director of the Barbour board.

While one of her two grandsons is depicted in the company's catalogues wearing the gear the family is producing.

"We are still a family-owned company. I have a daughter and two grandsons. I don't know what their futures are going to be but there is a wonderful company there for them," Mrs Barbour said.

Mrs Barber married David Ash in 1991 but continued to be known as Mrs Barber in business.

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