Page last updated at 08:23 GMT, Saturday, 13 June 2009 09:23 UK

Designer Banks' 'surprise' at CBE

Jeff Banks. Photo: Tim Whitby/PA Wire
The mountains around Ebbw Vale were Jeff Banks's childhood playground

Fashion designer Jeff Banks said his Welsh heritage was "part of his fabric" as he was selected to be made a CBE for his services to the industry.

The 66-year-old originally from Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent, said his award had been "a long time coming" but was still a "surprise" and a "shock".

Starting in 1964 with the Clobber brand, his was among the first British ranges to be exhibited in Paris.

He founded the forerunner to the British Fashion Council.

His career has included redesigning the uniforms for Brownies and Girl Guides as well as designing the Portsmouth players' suits for last year's FA Cup final.

His clothes sell across the world in countries including the US, Australia and Japan, and he also designs a range for department store Debenhams in the UK. He has two shops opening in China early next year.

Despite this, he said friends and colleagues had often asked him why others in the industry have landed an honour but he had not. He said: "I'm just surprised. It's a shock."

It was just so stimulating and exciting to see new graduates coming through, snapping at your heels
Jeff Banks, CBE

He said being born in Ebbw Vale was "a term of reference that relates me to almost everything I do".

"As a background, I know how hard life can be, you know what you need to do to excel in something. I guess it is part of my fabric," he added.

He said his new range of jeans at Debenhams was modelled on his memory of an uncle and cousin who worked in the now-closed steel works in his home town.

"I gave it an industrial look based on my knowledge of what hard work is about."

'Holidays'

With few family members in Wales now, he said his visits are mostly limited to a charity fashion show in Merthyr Tydfil for Macmillan nurses and giving away prizes in an annual junior cycling road race based around Ebbw Vale.

His mother, Phylis, was Welsh. His Scottish father, Alf, was a sheet metal worker in the Fleet Air Arm.

After the war, the family moved to London but that did not break his connection with Wales.

He said: "I used to get shipped back every Easter holiday, summer holiday and Christmas holiday. My playtime was up in the mountains and that was fairly regular for me from the age of four to about 11 or 12.

"So in my spare time, I grew up in Ebbw Vale."

When he was not in south Wales, the designer was growing up in south London.

He is a patron of the Prince's Trust and is currently working on a scheme with the charity to help young people get jobs in the fashion industry.

He said while the fashion industry was in "turmoil" the fashion design industry was "in great shape".



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