Nov 302012
 

Chris Knott, right, and Doug Williams, left, help Julius Budacz look for a jacket at Coffman’s on Thursday afternoon. Knott, an ECU alumni, is the founder and owner of Peter Millar, a men’s fashion company. (Rhett Butler/The Daily Refelctor)

By Michael Abramowitz

Friday, November 30, 2012

An East Carolina University alumnus and successful world-class entrepreneur returned to Greenville on Thursday, clothing trunk in hand, to reunite with his former employers and make sure his local customers are happy with his work.

Chris Knott , 47, spent the day at Coffman’s Men’s Wear on Red Banks Road for a trunk show of his Peter Millar brand of men’s fashions for this season and next spring. Knott travels the world meeting with manufacturers, designers and store owners to market and move his down-to-earth designs onto some of their top shelves.

Knott knew early on, he said, that he would make his living in the clothing business. He started working in clothing stores as a teenager, then graduated from ECU with a major in clothing textiles and a minor in business.

“I had thread in my veins,” Knott said.

After college, John Coffman got Knott a job in New York City. After three years there, he went on the road and started selling clothes to people like the Coffmans.

“I bounce my ideas off these guys and get good honest feedback from them,” Knott said. “John knows the product side and Bill knows the systems.”

The Coffmans were first to feature Knott’s Peter Millar line — named for an old English lawn bowling insignia — in its own section, complete with suits, sport coats, shirts, trousers, ties, active wear, outerwear and accessories. They recognized the traits even while he was at ECU that targeted the fashion marketer for success.

“Chris has always been very talented and has an eye for quality. He was extremely successful right out of the box,” Bill Coffman said. “It’s all about a relationship with consumers, and Chris understands that. He understands the menswear business.”

Knott, a native of Fuquay-Varina, recruited two partners in 2001 to help with his growing Millar line and sales continued to rise during the next few years. In 2006, the Sea Island company of Georgia bought the line from Knott. It then was purchased in 2009 by Winona Capital Management, who worked with Knott and his team to further develop the brand.

In October, Peter Millar was acquired privately from Winona for an undisclosed amount by Richemont, a Swiss investment company that owns jewelers Cartier and Van Cleef and Arpels, several specialty watchmakers and other brands, including Alfred Dunhill and Chloe.

Even though Knott’s business has grown, he still runs it like the small entrepreneur he once was, and does it for the enjoyment he finds in the work, he said.

“I’m in Greenville today because that’s the fun part. If you just sit in an office all day or only go to the big stores, you really miss out, because these guys sell them one at a time and we want their customers to be happy,” Knott said.

Knott’s goal is to provide world-class quality clothing at reasonable prices for men everywhere.

“Our stuff is not inexpensive, but it’s not crazy expensive. We try to over-deliver everything, including service, product and brand,” he said. “We kind of work backwards and try to think like a consumer and then a retailer. If we do that, usually they both will be happy, and so will we.

“We roll our sleeves up and work like everybody else and I think people like that about us,” Knott said.

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9571.

via The Daily Reflector.

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