Over 90 years of Anglo-American heritage
America has always been known as the land of opportunity and never more so in history than at the very beginning of the 20th Century. One of the many thousands of Europeans who crossed the Atlantic in search of horizons new was David Doniger, a hat-maker and entrepreneur from Scotland, who was leaving behind his family clothing business and looking to settle in the USA.
Part of the McGregor clan, Doniger could trace his roots back to the first kings of Scotland and, possessing both a keen eye for business and a rather dapper sense of style, he had made enough money for the voyage by making caps out of the McGregor tartan. Finding himself in New York, it seemed only natural to set up business in the trade he knew best and introduce the city to the style of his homeland and, indeed, the joys of plaid.
New York in the 1920's
In the twenties, New York was the epicentre of the brave new world - fashionable, exciting, glamorous and bursting at the seams with bright young things who wanted to embrace change and make their mark on the world. It was the perfect place for Doniger, in 1921, to introduce the McGregor Coordinated Sportswear Collection - an innovative and completely modern new concept of offering individual garments that worked separately but also together to form a complete working wardrobe. Fabrics, colours and styles were carefully chosen to compliment one another - a ground-breaking idea that worked perfectly for the new generation of fast-movers.
Getting dressed in the morning had never been so easy! The collection was an immediate success with the fashionable American guy who demanded quality, style and modernity but with a sizeable dose of old-school European class and, by the early 30s, Doniger had made enough dollars to be able to set up his offices in the swanky address of 303 Fifth Avenue. Already he was an American success story!
Iconic American Youth
Gradually, the combination of Anglo-American sportswear and classic tailoring, with its mix of casual and formal, relaxed and smart, came to typify the sartorial style of New York and as our influence grew, that of the whole of the country. In many ways, it became the epitome of Preppy - arguably the greatest contribution made by the US to the world of fashion. Our collections were bought not only by Wall Street high-flyers but, increasingly, by younger, less conservative Americans and gradually they became part and parcel of the visual culture of the country.
In 1955, our red Anti-Freeze jacket was chosen by the wardrobe mistress working on a new, daring film called Rebel Without A Cause. She put it on the back of an up-and-coming sexy actor called James Dean and film history was made as the jacket became forever linked with an iconic image of American youth. At the same time as Jimmy Dean was rebelling against his mum and dad over at The Griffith Observatory in LA, our preppy look was being adopted by the much more bookish, but no less style-conscious Ivy League set on the East Coast.
The colleges of New England nurtured a sense of individuality, sportiness and a high level of personal grooming that found a perfect match in McGregor's collections with their emphasis on quality, fit and a certain sartorial elegance that stopped things getting too laid-back. (vintage brochure 1938) Luxury was also important to these students as they often came from very privileged backgrounds so Doniger had another hit on his hands when he introduced cashmere sweaters and cardigans back in the late 1930s.
Cashmere at the time was a very exclusive yarn available only from the undersides of Himalayans goats and the glamorous few who could afford it back in America cherished it's softness, lightness and warmth. Another huge hit was the Scottish Drizzler - a humorously named jacket that was first such water-resistant garment in the country and became an instant classic amongst the sporty Americans who loved its style whilst at the same time buying into the heritage that the quirky name evoked.
Today, our McGregor name still stands for quality, a sophisticated collegiate lifestyle and that unique ability that America has of combining European tradition with a leisure sporting life. It's a long way from those first tartan caps to our collections of today but we are sure that Doniger would still recognise our collection as being his own and be proud that his clan still has influence on the wardrobes of thousands of discerning men, women and juniors across the world.