The shirtmaker TM Lewin has called in administrators for the second time in less than two years, becoming the latest victim of the general shift to working from home.
The business, which operated 150 shops before the pandemic, has operated a solely online business since first calling in administrators in June 2020. As well as its specialism, shirts, it sells suits, knitwear, coats and accessories such as ties.
Founded by Thomas Mayes Lewin and Geoffrey James Lewin on Panton Street, London, in 1898, the partners established themselves on nearby Jermyn Street, the home of English shirtmaking, in 1903. The firm supplied the RAF and British Army with uniforms during the first world war and made its shirts in Southend, Essex, until the late 1980s when it moved production overseas.
The group, which was bought out of administration in 2020 by Torque Brands, which is part of the US-based Stonebridge Private Equity, currently employs about 50 staff, whose jobs are now at risk.
Will Wright and Chris Pole of Interpath Advisory, the joint administrators, said that since the buyout the business had “continued to be negatively impacted” by pandemic restrictions on large events and social gatherings which had reduced demand for its shirts.
Formalwear brands have also been hit by the switch to working from home and the increasingly casual approach to dress for those heading into the office.
TM Lewin’s administration comes after the tailor Gieves & Hawkes was put into liquidation in January and the shirt brand Pink was shut down by its owner, LVMH, in January last year, although it recently relaunched online.
The fellow tailoring brand Austin Reed and the womenswear brand Jaeger collapsed into administration in November 2020, with Jaeger later being bought out by Marks & Spencer.
Fashion brands have also been suffering from a general shift in spending towards tech such as mobile phones, digital services such as streaming and gaming, and experiences such as dining out or holidays.
Wright said: “Over the course of the pandemic, men’s apparel – and formalwear in particular – has been one of the hardest-hit parts of the retail sector, as work-from-home measures and restrictions on events meant demand for suits and formal tailoring waned. “
He added that despite “significant restructuring at the start of the pandemic which saw it move to an online model, the impact on this famous British brand has been severe”.
The joint administrators are now aiming to sell the business. Potential buyers could include Marks & Spencer and Next, both of which have been taking interests in brands in a bid to broaden their appeal.
Next has already signed deals to run the UK arms of lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret, which fell into administration in 2020 and the casual clothing retailer Gap, which closed all its UK stores last year.