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Fine twine

Thomas Schmitz founded the label "John Crocket" 25 years ago and since that time he has been based on a typical British style


Those who enter the outfitter John Crocket on the Cologne Friesenstrasse feel shifted to another world.
Old floor boards, English leather armchair, high wooden shelves with suits, sweaters and shoes conveys a breeze of the fine London in the midst of the former Cologne red-light district.

"We still offer quality here, as it was customary twenty years ago on Jermyn Street in London," says company owner Thomas Schmitz, who fits perfectly into this environment with his classic suit and white shirt with cufflinks. Offers include shirts made of particularly high quality full-grain or double-grained fabric.
And this at a price, as the 54-year-old Schmitz finds, quite favorable from 64 to 74 euros. "A shirt made of ivory still remains smooth after ten washes, but does not look feminine," the graduate economist boasts of these substances. During his studies Schmitz had already dealt with cashmere sweaters from the UK, which he sold partly out of the trunk to friends and acquaintances. Because cashmere sweaters, as he got to know and appreciate them in Ireland and England, could hardly be found in Germany in the 1980s.
And instead of hiring at a company like his peers after graduation, Schmitz preferred to become self-employed in the confectionery department. And rented a first little shop on Cologne's Albertusstrasse 25 years ago under the label "John Crocket". Schmitz was named because all the names around the British national sport cricket were already protected. For this purpose, the Cologne young entrepreneur admitted two cricket clubs and a tennis bat to the company logo. However, many traditional and particularly high-quality clothing products have long since ceased to be produced in the UK, complains the Cologne, who has regularly spent holidays with his family in Ireland since his childhood. John Crocket also has his shirts made in Turkey. "But it's just fabrics that are bought by an old-time dealer from London," said Schmitz.
However, his sweaters for ladies an d gentlemen are "thoroughly original Scottish", stresses the trader who studied in Ireland at Trinity College and in the English Exeter and subsequently delivered a doctoral thesis at the University of Goethe in Frankfurt/Main.

Both the robust Harris Tweed and the softer Lovat Tweed for the Sakkos come from Scotland. The renowned company Brisbane Moss from Lancashire, in turn, produces for the Cologne the nearly indestructible corduroys, which are offered in almost as many colours as the sweaters. Whilst there is a rather incomprehensible offer for men here, it is more manageable for the ladies. The offer includes sweaters, jackets and cashmere scarves. And, of course, classic full-grain cotton blouses.
Already in the 1998, Thomas Schmitz started an online business, which now accounts for three quarters of the turnover of John Crocket GmbH & Co KG. However, the stylish entrepreneur does not wish to provide information on its height. The clothes are currently ordered at fifty per cent by e-mail and telephone. While the calls are not received and processed by a call center, but by the employees in the office on site, as Schmitz explains on the tour through the small administrative district: "This way personal and individual advice is also possible on the phone."
The warehouse is also located directly at the store: "This has the advantage that in our Cologne store we can offer the customer almost any product in all sizes and colours immediately," says Tina Schmitz (42), who supports her husband in the business. For the past twelve years, the company has been sitting in the generous store in the Friesen district, which has since become a shining outpost.
But there have also been setbacks in business development: since 2008, John Crocket has been suffering from the banking and financial crisis; suits and ties have suddenly experienced a massive contraction in demand. "We had to start with products such as Duffle Coats and Cordhoses," says Tina Schmitz. As a result of the crisis, the offices in Dusseldorf and Bonn were also closed. Thomas Schmitz opted for a kind of shrinkage cure and put even more emphasis on online commerce.

"Our business is basically destined for the Internet," Schmitz says. Once you know your size, you can usually order online without any problems, even if cuts have changed slightly. "A size 52 remains a 52."
And that's similar to the shoes. The Cologne brand "Crocket's Finest" has been manufacturing in Spain for several years. In doing so, a renowned Trier tannery supplies the naturally tanned sole leather, while the calf's upper leather is again sourced from France: "A thoroughly European product", the head of the company finds. John Crocket made a virtue out of necessity after having previously represented a famous English shoe brand. But it was offered much more cheaply by other channels, while John Crocket was banned. That is why the Colonies decided to have their own shoes made. They can also offer them at a much cheaper price, Thomas Schmitz assures. Since 1995, the Colonies have produced a catalogue twice a year, which they also send to their customers. They are mainly located in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. But even from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Ireland, orders have become increasingly frequent. Because all his products were mean, that they were characterized by a long shelf life, the entrepreneur stresses. One time at a fashion show, a colleague recognized by color that Thomas Schmitz'sweater had to be 25-year-old. "There was nothing wrong with the sweater," says the stylish entrepreneur. Although it may still have come from the time of his trunk sales.