Jeff Banks (born March 17, 1943 in Ebbw Vale) is a renowned Welsh designer of both men’s and women’s clothing, jewellery, and home furnishings.
Born in the Gwent valleys, then Monmouthshire, South Wales, at Ebbw Vale his sheet metal worker father left his mother when Banks was aged eight, and she resultantly decided to move to London, England.
Offered a scholarship to independent grammar school St Dunstan’s College in Catford, South London, his mother couldn’t afford the uniform so he got a round delivering paraffin on a wheelbarrow – by aged 13 he had employed a man to drive a lorry based tanker, and sold the business aged 15.
Encouraged by a teacher to study art and become a painter, he realised his art skills were limited during his first year at London’s Camberwell School of Art, and so transferred to studying interior design and latterly textiles at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, and then fashion at New York’s Parsons The New School for Design.
Banks holds honorary degrees from the University of Lancaster, East London, Newcastle & Northumbria, University College for the Creative Arts, and the University of Westminster, and is a Doctor of Arts.
In 1964, with money saved from the paraffin business and his father mortgaging his own home, Banks opened the boutique Clobber in London, which carried his own designs along with other designers’ work. It proved to be such a success that in 1969, he launched his own fashion label.
In 1975 he opened the first standalone Jeff Banks shop in London, as well as retail outlets in twenty-two department stores, including Harrods and Harvey Nichols.
In the late 1970’s, he co-launched the fashion chain Warehouse, as well as continuing to work as a freelance designer. After it was taken over by retail chain Sears, he was sacked for being disruptive in board meetings – a decision he never regrets. In 1979 and 1981 Jeff became British Designer of the Year, and in 1980 he was made British Coat Designer of the Year.
Banks’ standing as a commercial force in retail fashion led to his presenting over 320 episodes of The Clothes Show, the BBC’s long-running fashion show, alongside Selina Scott and Caryn Franklin. The show’s success of often gaining over 10million viewers, led in 1989 to the first “Clothes Show Live” event at the NEC Birmingham, as well as the launch of the Clothes Show magazine.
In 2000, he signed a deal to design clothes for the UK chain Sainsbury’s. The installation of Jeff Banks stores within Sainsbury’s outlets proved successful, but a dispute led to the early termination of his contract. The resulting lawsuit was resolved with Sainsbury’s agreeing to pay a reported settlement of £1 million, plus a box of truffles every week.
He has continued to work as a designer with designs for the Guide Association, the England football team, and recently for London’s 2012 Olympics bid, which were modelled at the launch by Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Steve Redgrave and Denise Lewis.
Having previously attacked designer Stella McCartney – Banks claimed she’s only made it because of her father – Banks made the headlines again in 2007 when he attacked model Kate Moss’s range for Top Shop, saying:”Can Kate sharpen a pencil or draw a matchstick man? I wouldn’t put money on it. I’ll bet [Kate Moss] just grabbed one of her many Prada bags, rifled through her wardrobe … and turned up at Topshop’s head office in Oxford Street for a quick hour’s briefing with the in-house designers and buying staff.”
Banks own fashion design hero’s are Hardy Amies, Giorgio Armani and Alice Temperley.
Banks has been married twice. First to the 1960’s pop star Sandie Shaw, and subsequently, to Sue Mann, a model and makeup artist. He has converted to Buddhism.