By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The founder of one of today’s most successful high-end clothing lines stopped in Tupelo on Friday to honor his first customer.
Chris Knott, who launched Peter Millar in 2001 with a small collection of cashmere sweaters, sold his first order to MLM Clothiers’ Jimmy Long. Eleven years later, Peter Millar is a multimillion-dollar company with luxury apparel sold nationwide.
“Jimmy gave me my start,” Knott said while visiting MLM.
The store held a reception that morning for Knott during which he received a key to the city from City Council President Fred Pitts.
“With him writing the first order, others said, ‘OK, I’ll give it a try, too,’” Knott said. “That gets it out of the gate.”
Long purchased one dozen raspberry cable crew-neck cashmere sweaters, which he then sold in his downtown Tupelo store. After customers snapped them up, he ordered more. Peter Millar eventually grew to include summer shirts, trousers, jackets, ties, outerwear, shoes and socks – much of which MLM now carries.
Knott put Long and MLM co-owner Joe Yarber on his advisory board to help guide the company’s growth and style.
“I (complained) about a lot of things, but he listened,” Long said. “If I told him the sweaters needed to be an inch longer, he would look into it and call me back to say, ‘You’re right. I’ll change that.’”
Peter Millar’s collection features colorful clothing appropriate for any setting – casual to dressy – and has a timeless, cross-generational appeal. Knott said he sees 18-year-olds wear the same clothes as their grandfathers.
Raised in a small town in North Carolina, Knott said he built his company on the same down-home values that defined him. He cherishes close, personal relationships and has hired many of his childhood friends. It’s about trust and respect, he said.
That formula proved successful; Knott sold his Durham, N.C.-based company for $65 million in October to Swiss luxury goods firm, Richemont.
Knott will stay on as the brand’s creative director.
“I feel like I’ve come full circle,” Knott said. “Today is a celebration about the sale to Richemont, and we’re doing it here where it all started with my first sale.”