Dragon Duncan Bannatyne spreads his wings with foray into fashion

HE HAS dashed the hopes of hundreds of budding entrepreneurs with one blast of his fiery breath, but now Duncan Bannatyne is looking to blaze a trail in the world of fashion.

The Dragons’ Den star is better known for his expertise in venture capitalism than cutting-edge couture.

However, the Clydebank-born tycoon has launched his own leisure and sportswear collection. In keeping with his no-nonsense image, the price range of the Bannatyne collection is more Primark than Prada, but the gravelly voiced TV host’s foray into the fashion industry has already divided style experts.

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Katarzyna Krzywania of Edinburgh College of Art said she feels the designs and fabrics lack sophistication.

The sportswear specialist added: “I can see a lot of polyester and elastane. The range is very simple and minimalist and I think it has commercial potential, but it could do with more styling.”

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However, fashion stylist Lindsay Campbell believes Bannatyne has shown characteristic savvy by tapping into the fitnesswear market.

The 27-year-old fashionista, who has dressed TV stars Lorraine Kelly and Amanda Lamb, said: “Sportswear has become a popular market for designers and celebrities. It used to be that leggings and an old baggy T-shirt were enough, but now we want to look good while we are working out.

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“Duncan Bannatyne’s new range is simple, understated and to the point.”

A spokesman for the tycoon said members of his 60 UK gyms had expressed a desire for clothes that were practical, fashionable and affordable. He said: “The range has been specially designed following research and feedback from Bannatyne Health Club members.

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“All the items provide the same high quality and value for money that is synonymous with the Bannatyne brand.”

It is not the first time the Scot, who is estimated to have a fortune of around £430 million, has dabbled in the world of fashion. Last year he placed an opening bid of £5,000 in a charity auction for Princess Beatrice’s hat, which was likened to a “toilet seat” and a “pretzel” when she wore it to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

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Fellow Dragon Hilary Devey is reported to be working on her own fashion range which is based around her penchant for flamboyant 1980s-style power-dressing and shoulder pads.

However, the two TV entrepreneurs are unlikely to replicate the success of footballer David Beckham’s range of underwear, which sold out as soon as it hit the shelves at H&M.

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Celebrity-endorsed fashion ranges are big business, with Kate Moss reputedly earning £3m from her collaboration with Topshop, while Cheryl Cole recently launched her own footwear collection.

Earlier this month Bannatyne, who previously worked as a welder, sailor, hospital porter and ice-cream van salesman, revealed that his divorce from his second wife Joanne McCue is taking its toll on his wealth.

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The father-of-six, who was granted a decree nisi in December, said: “It’s costing a lot and I can’t predict the effect on my finances. Both of our lawyers are costing me a fortune.”