PERHAPS it is the uncompromisingly brusque Scottish service. Maybe it is the clientèle, which includes a mysterious Russian lady cosmonaut. Or it could be the tweed.
But an unassuming, family-owned shop in a small Borders town has joined the world’s fashion meccas, putting 24 High Street, Jedburgh, in the same league as Fifth Avenue in New York, Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive and the couturiers that line the rue du Faubourg St Honor in Paris.
An investigation into the best fashion outlets in the world has ranked David Thomson, a men’s outfitters in a town with a population of 5,000, alongside stores such as London’s Polo Ralph Lauren, Milan’s Gianni Versace and New York’s Helmut Lang. It must be so: Maxim Fashion, a publication for the upmarket shopper, says it is.
The store, which sells established labels, such as Yves Saint Laurent, and more modern names, such as Urban Stone, comes in at number 19 on a list of 80 shops around the globe. The tweed, says Maxim Fashion, is a must. It point outs: ‘‘What else are you going to wear next time you’re out shooting?"
True, the magazine suggests the service at David Thomson can be "as uncompromisingly brusque as only the Scots can manage". Never, say its regular customers.
Listed immediately after it on the Maxim survey is Corniche for Men, in Edinburgh, the only other Scottish outlet to rate a mention. It is described as a "damn-near oddball store selling avant-garde from Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood".
Alec Campbell, the great-grandson of David Thomson, who opened the shop in 1883, scarcely raised an eyebrow as he fought off the media maelstrom that yesterday’s revelations incurred.
Mr Campbell explained: "We do excel in tweeds and our customers come from all over the world. The other day we had a Russian lady cosmonaut in the shop.
"Customers come from Fifth Avenue, and we serve eminent medical people from all over Europe, as well as people from the navy and military. Our custom comes from word of mouth but I cannot name names as service is confidential.
"There was one incident last year when I received a telephone call from a man at Ascot racecourse. He had seen someone wearing a kilt we supplied and wanted to come up here to order one. Our kilts are made in the Highlands, but the source is secret .
"We can also offer cheaper prices than in the cities. No matter how wealthy you are, you want value for money and are not going to throw money away for nothing."
Mr Campbell, coyly confessing only to being in his fifties, started working in the shop at 16. It hardly seemed as though the Maxim plaudits were likely to alter much his phlegmatic nature.
Mr Campbell said: "I have to be honest, I was surprised that we got a mention. Our local customers are just as important as our international clients. The two really serve to augment each other."
Other shops deemed worthy of patronage in Maxim Fashion include Church’s in Northampton, for its high-quality shoes. The company still has its factory and headquarters in the town and has supplied names from Winston Churchill to the fictional James Bond.
James Smith & Sons Umbrellas, London, which has supplied members of the Royal Family, gains a mention.
Forty-eight miles from David Thomson, Nina Grant, who has owned Corniche for Men for 23 years, was taking full advantage of the mention to promote her store.
She said: "We are delighted that at last Corniche for Men is getting some of the recognition that it deserves for being at the forefront of fashion for so long."
Miss Grant refused to disclose whether the shop was frequented by the famous, saying only: "We have very interesting and very loyal customers."
The coyness seemed to be infectious.
FLAIR FOR FASHION: FROM TWEED TO TOMMY
IT HAS always been an institution to its small, but select, band of loyal customers. Somehow, it’s impossible to walk through the doors of David Thomson (better known to its devotees as DT’s) without walking back out with that certain something you didn’t even know you needed.
I’ve been hooked since the first pair of purple flares that owner Alex Campbell allowed me to take home on "appro", assuring me they were perfect with the ultra-fashionable four-inch platform shoes I’d painfully hobbled in on.
DT’s has been keeping me firmly at the forefront of fashion ever since.
There’s a feel of organised chaos about the small shop on Jedburgh’s High Street, where the clutter of the multi-coloured sale rail combines with rows of keenly priced upmarket suits, top-quality jackets and the kind of designer labels that are such a magnet for the young and trendy.
Maxim has highlighted the tweed, and there’s certainly plenty of that for the huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ types, but, personally, I’m a sucker for the suits. Alec, who has an uncanny eye for quality at a reasonable price, has for years made mysterious trips to secret destinations abroad. The result is a range of designer suits from France, Germany and Italy at prices that are sometimes a fraction of those in the major retail centres.
They’ve lured me back time and again, but my 180-mile trips pale into insignificance beside those of a friend who’s been known to nip up from near London to purchase two or three at a time.
That’s the kind of loyalty DT’s inspires.
If I have to take issue with one thing, it’s Maxim’s description of the sales technique as "brusque and uncompromising".
You’re never going to get the frills of a Paris fashion house, but, no matter how busy they are, the staff have always got the time to show you another shirt, or that dodgy tie you mistakenly thought you fancied.
I’ve been proud to strut my stuff dressed in DT’s finest for about 30 years, but now the secret’s out and I’ll have to fight off the glitterati for my next pair of plus-fours!