Sunderland's flagship Master Debonair store celebrates first year in business

Suits have been flying out of the store as Master Debonair celebrates a year of cutting a dash in Sunderland.

The menswear store recently celebrated its first year in the prime corner unit of the restored Mackie’s Corner, the very unit in which milliner Robert Mackie would craft his hats, giving the landmark Victorian building its name.

After building up a loyal following at their first store in East Boldon, which opened six years ago, with a sister store in Chesterfield soon following, the retailer opened their third site in Sunderland city centre in August 2021 as part of the ongoing renaissance of the historic Mackie’s Corner, which has become a hub of independents.

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Not only has it been a real labour of love for Sunderland-born Simon Whitaker and business partner Eve Middlemiss, it’s also a fitting new chapter for the building which was home to the then town’s very first fashion stores in the 1840s.

Master Debonair CEO Simon Whitaker at the store's opening last year

As well as occasion wear from brands such as Marc Darcy, Skopes and Fratelli on the first floor, the shop has a casual range from brands such as Blend and Farah on the ground floor. It caters for all sizes, from a 34in chest up to 60in, with an on site tailoring service for tweaks.

Visitors to the Sunderland store get the opportunity to use the private showroom which they enter through a Narnia-like wardrobe door, while the main changing rooms are an equally quirky affair with red ‘Peep Show’ signage.

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The must-see décor is an important part of the experience, with the Boldon store even featuring a hidden beer tap for shoppers to enjoy.

“It’s a landmark year for us and we are really delighted so far with the response to Sunderland, which is our most recently opened store,” said Eve.

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The store is part of the renaissance of Mackie's Corner

“Master Debonair offers such a unique experience that we have people travelling to us from all over the country. We have one customer who travels regularly from Plymouth, just so he can buy directly from the shop.”

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With the emphasis on classic style, the shops have also found that they have customers from a much wider demographic.

“We have everyone from toddlers to customers in their 80s,” said Eve.

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“They appreciate looks that don’t go out of fashion and are also great for special occasions, including everything from weddings to race days, proms and nights out. It’s not just about looking good, it’s about using clothes to help people build their self confidence.”

Inside the new Master Debonair at Mackie's Corner.
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The company has also developed its strong online presence, which again brings in customers worldwide, helping customers with their styling to create an overall look.

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“Everyone has faced some of the most challenging times retail has ever known in the last few years,” said Simon.

“But we are delighted that Master Debonair is going from strength to strength and we want to thank all of our customers for shopping with us and look forward to welcoming many more.”

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Inside the new Master Debonair at Mackie's Corner.

The restoration of the ground floor of Mackie’s Corner is complete and, as well as Master Debonair, comprises Fat Unicorn deli, Bou-chique womenswear, The Sweet Petite cake shop, Cafe 1851 and Black Door Hairdressing.

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Work is now forging ahead on the upper floors which will also have units for retailers and other creative businesses.

Inside the new Master Debonair at Mackie's Corner.