IT’S the iconic Scottish coat brand famously worn by President John F Kennedy at his inauguration in 1961 that also found favour with Winston Churchill and Doctor Who.

Now Crombie is back in the fashion spotlight with new owner Crombie 1805, headed by Scot Gordon Ritchie and backed by private investors.

Mr Ritchie, who worked for Crombie as its head of wholesale from 2011 to 2014 and is now the venerable company’s managing director since its acquisition in February, told the Go Radio Business Show with Hunter & Haughey that his goal was to reposition the brand as one of “global stature”.

“We are very much custodians of Crombie,” he said. “It is important that we tell the story of the brand and make people aware of its heritage and history. There are not many fashion brands that have that – Crombie is older than Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Hermes.”

The Crombie story began in 1805 on the River Don in Aberdeenshire when John Crombie, son of a family of weavers, took over Cothal Mills. He took his cloth to London on horseback where it soon became renowned for its quality and was sold to the royal tailors. As the business grew, Crombie moved to Grandholm Mills, which became the UK’s biggest wool-producing mill.

It was also a trailblazer in Japan in the 1800s at a time when the country was closed to foreigners. Thomas Blake Glover, known as the Scottish Samurai who later was one of the founders of the Mitsubishi Corporation, was Crombie’s agent in Japan.

Lord Willie Haughey, who revealed that he is the proud owner of three Crombie coats and has been a fan of the heritage brand since the age of 14, admitted that he had been unaware of the company’s Scottish roots until hearing Mr Ritchie recount its pioneering story.

In his previous role with the firm, Mr Ritchie – whose first job was in a tailor’s shop in Aberdeen – said that he had been tasked by its then owner to “take the brand back out into the world”, adding: “At that time, Crombie had about six to eight stores of its own and concessions in department stores. Within six months we had written orders with stores in 22 countries and within three years we were in 35 countries and in the best stores in the world.”

Mr Ritchie noted: “It was just myself, an assistant, a suitcase, and a budget for travel – knocking on doors, making the most of every opportunity, and bumping into people in lifts. The guy I bumped into in the lift … six months later, he got the fashion director’s job at Bloomingdale’s.”

Now selling ready-to-wear clothing for men and women and having expanded into new categories – knitwear, rainwear, leather goods and accessories – for the first time under Mr Ritchie’s stewardship in previous role with the firm, Crombie has its first new owners for 40 years.

“Crombie 1805 is only the fourth owner and it took us two years to reach a deal with the previous owner,” said Mr Ritchie, who also helped turn around the Kirk Originals sunglasses brand favoured by singer Liam Gallagher when he was the firm’s managing director from 2017 to 2019.

“A lot of brands lose their way and lose the essence of what they were about in the beginning,” he said. “I believe Crombie has become so much more than just a Scottish brand and I’m looking forward to injecting a new energy into the brand and raising it profile globally.”