Savile Row tailoring
Savile Row tailoring is traditional and modern, men and women's bespoke tailoring that takes place on Savile Row and neighbouring streets in Mayfair, central London. In 1846, Henry Poole, credited as being the "Founder of Savile Row", opened an entrance to his tailoring premises into No. 32 Savile Row. The term "bespoke" is understood to have originated in Savile Row when cloth for a suit was said to "be spoken for" by individual customers. The short street has been termed the "golden mile of tailoring", where customers have included Prince Charles, Jude Law, Winston Churchill, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Lawrence Olivier, Duke Ellington, Lord Nelson and Napoleon III.
In 1969, Nutters of Savile Row modernised the style and approach of the traditional tailors; a modernisation which continued in the 1990s with the arrival of designers like Richard James, Ozwald Boateng and Timothy Everest. With increasing rents the number of tailoring businesses on Savile Row had declined to 19 by 2006. There were also criticisms from Giorgio Armani of falling behind the times. However, since the mid-noughties Savile Row has been enjoying a remarkable resurgence, perhaps typified by the arrival of young and innovative tailors like Cad and the Dandy, who have sought re-invigoration by means of modern technologies such as the internet, or Kathryn Sargent Bespoke, a tailoring business managed by a woman.
As of October 2014, a local online directory gives 44 tailoring and clothing businesses on and round Savile Row.
Tailoring has been associated with Savile Row since the 19th century, when Beau Brummell, who epitomised the well-dressed man, patronised the tailors congregated on the Burlington Estate, notably around Cork Street. By 1803 some were occupying premises in Savile Row, but none of those original tailors survive today.
The Savile Row Bespoke Association was founded in 2004 to protect and to develop bespoke tailoring as practised in Savile Row and the surrounding streets. Founder members include: Anderson & Sheppard, Dege & Skinner, Gieves & Hawkes and Henry Poole. The member tailors are required to put at least 50 hours of hand labour into each two-piece suit.
In a March 2006 report by the City of Westminster (Department of Planning and City Development), "Bespoke Tailoring in London’s West End", it was estimated that between 6,000 to 7,000 suits were made in and around the Savile Row area annually. This represented a turnover of approximately £21 million pounds. A Reuters article in February 2013 suggested that the total revenue for the informal group of suitmakers was now estimated to be £30-35 million pounds, with several tailoring houses having over 10% growth in recent years. The Fashion Industry's contribution as a whole to the British economy is an estimated £26 billion pounds a year.
As of August 2014, Norway’s Oil Fund, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, had acquired a 57.8 percent interest in the Pollen Estate. This includes properties in Mayfair, among which is Savile Row.
Henry Poole & Co are the acknowledged "Founders of Savile Row" and creators of the dinner suit. The company has remained a family-run business since their establishment in 1806. They opened first in Brunswick Square, in 1806, originally specialising in military tailoring, with particular merit at the time of the Battle of Waterloo. Their business moved to Savile Row in 1846, following the death of founder James Poole. In 1982, MD Angus Cundey brought the firm back to Savile Row (No. 15), after being in exile on Cork Street since 1961; Poole were forced to move to Cork Street, because the lease at number 32 expired and the unlisted building was demolished.
Gieves & Hawkes is a traditional British gentleman's bespoke tailor located at No. 1 Savile Row. The business dates from the late 19th century, and was formed by the merger of two separate businesses, 'Gieves' (founded 1785) and 'Hawkes' (founded 1771). Starting out with roots from two suppliers who focused on the British Army and the Royal Navy, it was the first Savile Row tailor to provide ready-to-wear clothes. There are various Gieves & Hawkes shops and concessions around the UK and in several other countries. It holds a number of Royal Warrants, which cover all three British Royal Warrants (Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and HRH The Prince of Wales).
Dege & Skinner (pronounced //) is known for its expertise in military as well as civilian clothing. It remains a family-run business and will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2015. Located at No. 10 Savile Row, the firm was founded as J. Dege & Sons, and became a joint venture between the two families when William Skinner Jr. joined the firm in 1916. After the Skinner family took full ownership, the business was renamed Dege & Skinner, reopened by customer Colin Montgomerie. The company is by royal appointment to Queen Elizabeth II, His Majesty the Sultan of Oman and His Majesty the King of Bahrain. TRH Prince William and Prince Harry can be seen wearing Blues & Royals uniforms made by the company in the National Portrait Gallery.
Davies and Son is an independent tailors on the West side SR, having started in Hanover Street in 1803. It moved to its current location in 1986, making it the oldest independent tailors on Savile Row. The brand incorporates a number of other tailoring businesses including: Bostridge and Curties and Watson, Fargerstrom and Hughes, Johns and Pegg, James and James, Wells of Mayfair and Fallan & Harvey. It is now owned by Alan Bennett, who stated in an interview: "It's difficult to attract new customers in Savile Row - it isn't generally a case of attracting passing trade. But I realised that by buying into other firms, where the owner might be approaching retirement age, I could add to my customer lists." Davies & Son hold the Royal Warrant as Military Tailors to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. Other customers have included: Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., Calvin Klein, Prince Michael of Kent, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Edward Fox, Clark Gable, Benny Goodman, Harry S. Truman and the Duke of Windsor. They have also clothed a large proportion of the crowned heads of Europe.
Huntsman, a 163-year-old business, was taken over by Roubi L'Roubi and Pierre Lagrange in January 2013. Roubi L'Roubi, is a British-born designer of Sudanese origin who is also couturier on New Bond Street, while Pierre Lagrange is a hedge fund investor from Belgium. Huntsman has its roots in equestrian wear and this is a part of L'Roubi and Lagrange's country lifestyle. L'Roubi explained to The Evening Standard that "rather than just owning the brand, we have a connection." He stated: “British upper-class fashion is about individuality. What we are wearing today is sombre but people wear tweeds and shooting stockings so bright that you’d never wear in the city, and that’s where the character comes out, in the high life."
As well as the tailoring business, L'Roubi and Lagrange face challenges at Huntsman, including infrastructure updating. Among the technology being used is an electronic tracer that produces a digital file and a hardcopy- this is for the extensive archive of more than 3000 clients and can be used when ordering ready-to-wear. He stated to Spear's magazine that technology for ready-to-wear is not being used on SR. "The others are afraid of technology. We’re competing with Gucci, Ralph Lauren." L'Roubi also stated that Britain is not as tolerant as it might be: "I’m gay, I’m black, I’m with a wealthy man — live with it!"
Norton & Sons was established in the city of London in 1821, the firm moving to Savile Row in the middle of the 19th century. In the 1960s Norton's incorporated the other Savile Row firm of J. Hoare & E. Tautz. The firm were tailors to Sir Hardy Amies. Since 2005, the business has been run by the fashion designer and creative director Patrick Grant. Grant is also known for his work with media, especially the BBC. The E. Tautz & Sons brand has been relaunched as ready-to-wear clothing and because of which, Grant was awarded the Menswear designer of 2010 at the British Fashion Awards. Grant stated: "When you walk into our shop you get a sense that you’re walking into a place where people enjoy their work and take great pride in it." Previous clients include Edward VII and Winston Churchill.
Founded in 1882 as T & F French in Piccadilly, in 1923 French merged with existing Savile Row tailor A.H. Kilgour to form Kilgour & French. In 1925, Fred and Louis Stanbury joined the firm, and in 1937 the business changed its name to Kilgour, French and Stanbury. In 2003, the business became Kilgour. In 2013, Fung Group acquired Kilgour from JMH Lifestyle. At present, Carlo Brandelli is the Creative Director (he was CD between 2003 and 2009). He stated: "The first time I was here [at Kilgour], I contemporised. But this time I'm experimenting with what bespoke can be. Because a suit is still a form of armour, it tells everyone where you are in the hierarchy."
Tailoring was softened in the early 20th century by Frederick Scholte, a Dutchman, when he developed the English drape for the Duke of Windsor (later Edward VIII). Scholte's "dress soft" style was developed into the "London cut", the house style of Anderson & Sheppard (A&S), by Peter Gustav, a protégé of Sholte. In 1906, Peter Gustav, who was also known as Per Anderson, founded Anderson & Sheppard at No. 30, Savile Row. The "London cut" is a high, small armhole with a generous upper sleeve that permits the jacket to remain close to the neck while freeing the arm to move with comfort.
In 2004 the lease ran out on A&S's premises at No.30 and the landlords wanted to raise the rent. It was at this time that Anda Rowland took over the day-to-day running of A&S. The daughter of entrepreneur Tiny Rowland, who had acquired A&S in the late 1970s and whose family still holds an 80 per cent stake in the business, had been working at Parfums Christian Dior in Paris. After Anda Rowland’s mother, Josie, decided to relocate to the current, smaller premises on nearby Old Burlington Street, she appealed to her daughter for help. Before her arrival, the company was without a Web site or viable computer network; costs were left untracked; and approximately £500,000-worth of unpaid tailoring bills (money owed to A&S) had piled up. Rowland stated: "We’d been in the old buildings since the 1920s, and like many Savile Row tailors or traditional companies, your image becomes tied … like Harrods, it becomes tied to the building."
Anda Rowland's background was in marketing, and her first step at A&S was to get on the internet. A&S's website is a marketing tool and, says Rowland, “it helps to remind people or reinforces the idea that we have one foot in the past but also one foot very much in today”. Since 2005, A&Ss' sales rose exponentially so that, instead of two apprentices working full-time in 2005, the firm today employs eight. As part of its revival, in 2012 A&S opened a haberdashery shop on Clifford Street at the end of the Row. Former customers at A&S include: Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire, Pablo Picasso, Bryan Ferry, Manolo Blahnik and Tom Ford.In January 2013, HRH Prince Charles visited A&S. In the 30 years that he has been having his suits and coats made by them, he had never actually visited the company's premises. A&S had a 2012 turnover of £4 million and growth has been over 13 percent every year since 2009. A&S manager Colin Heywood stated: "We're doing very well actually. We've found that business has picked up in the last few years, and we couldn't be busier."
Welsh & Jeffries has premises at No. 20. It is owned by James Cottrell and includes the tailors Lesley & Roberts. It started in 1917 on the high street of Eton and became an established military tailor. In 1990, H.R.H. the Prince of Wales confirmed Welsh and Jefferies pedigree as a military tailor when he appointed the firm with his Royal Warrant as sole military tailor. They are an independent company. Owner James Cottrell started as an apprentice at the age of 16 in Kilgour French & Stanbury and trained there for 5 years. He worked there as a coatmaker for 15 years before becoming a cutter at Tommy Nutter, from where he went to Henry Poole for 18 years. He was invited to join Welsh & Jefferies as a partner in January 2007, and in February 2013 took over the business with Yingmei Quan as junior partner. Yingmei Quan won the Golden Shears competition in 2011 which enhanced her reputation as one of the better female cutters on Savile Row. Cottrell stated: "Finding your cutting style is a process that improves with your experience throughout the years by looking at people’s figures and trying to get a perfect line and balance for that person. That is what bespoke tailoring is all about."
Chester Barrie was established in 1935 by expatriate English tailor Simon Ackerman, who wanted a British brand and tailoring for his New York based clothing business. Locating its factory in Crewe from 1939, close to the Port of Liverpool and its cloth supplier in Huddersfield, it introduced semi-bespoke and ready-to-wear tailoring to the row. Sold to Austin Reed in 1980, it went into receivership in 2002, which split the factory from the retail operation. Now owned by Prominent Europe, clients have included Cary Grant and Winston Churchill, while both Steve McQueen and Sean Connery wore Chester Barrie in their films.
The British fashion house Hardy Amies was founded by English dressmaker Sir Edwin Hardy Amies in 1946. Having been managing designer for Lachasse in 1934, and having designed clothes for the British Board of Trade under the government Utility Scheme, Amies bought the bombed out shell of No.14 Savile Row in 1946.
Amies was one of the first European designers to venture into the ready-to-wear market when he teamed up with Hepworths in 1959 to design a range of menswear. In 1961, he made fashion history by staging the first men's ready-to-wear catwalk shows, at the Ritz Hotel in London Amies also undertook design for in-house work wear, which developed from designing special clothes for groups such as the Oxford University Boat Club and London Stock Exchange. Amies also designed costumes for films, including 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Amies is perhaps best known to the British public for his work for Queen Elizabeth II. The association began in 1950, when Amies made several outfits for the then Princess Elizabeth's royal tour to Canada. Although the couture side of the Hardy Amies business was traditionally less financially successful, the award of a Royal Warrant as official dressmaker in 1955 gave his house a degree of respectability and resultant publicity. One of his best known creations is the gown he designed in 1977 for Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee portrait which, he said, was "immortalised on a thousand biscuit tins." Knighted in 1989, Amies held the warrant until 1990, when he gave it up so that younger designers could create for the Queen.
In May 1973, Amies sold the business to Debenhams, who had themselves purchased Hepworths which distributed the Hardy Amies line. Amies purchased the business back in 1981. In May 2001, Amies sold his business to the Luxury Brands Group. He retired at the end of that year, when Moroccan-born designer Jacques Azagury became head of couture. In November 2008, after going bankrupt, the Hardy Amies brand was acquired by Fung Capital, the private investment arm of Victor and William Fung, who together control the Li & Fung group. The current collection is overseen by design director Mehmet Ali. The Hardy Amies name is still licensed globally, particularly in Japan.
Nutters of Savile Row was opened on Valentine's Day 1969 by Tommy Nutter and Edward Sexton, who had worked together at Donaldson, Williamson & Ward. They were financially backed by Cilla Black and her husband Bobby Willis, Managing Director of the Beatles' Apple Corps Peter Brown, and lawyer James Vallance-White. Nutters was the first shop on Savile Row to pioneer 'open windows' and had bold displays created by the then unknown Simon Doonan, resulting in the shop helping modernise the perception of Savile Row. Nutters of Savile Row dressed the entire social spectrum from the Duke of Bedford and Lord Montagu, to San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, to Mick and Bianca Jagger, Elton John and the Beatles. Their designs included Bianca Jagger's wedding suit and the costumes for the 1989 Batman film including those worn by Jack Nicholson. Tommy Nutter was proudest of the fact that the suits worn by three of the Beatles on the front cover of Abbey Road were made by Nutters. Nutter left the business in 1976 and went to work at Kilgour, leaving Edward Sexton to continue running the business. Nutter died from complications arising from AIDS on 17 August 1992 at the Cromwell Hospital in London. Edward Sexton continues to work at his premises on Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge.
Chittleborough & Morgan was formed in 1981 when Joseph Morgan and Roy Chittlebrough left Nutters Of Savile Row, where they had worked with Edward Sexton, and opened their own shop. They produce only bespoke clothing with no ready-to-wear or made-to-measure.
Modernisation, which had begun in 1969 with Nutters of Savile Row, had slowed by the early 1990s, so Savile Row tailors were "struggling to find relevance with an audience that had grown increasingly disassociated". Three 'New Generation' designers are credited with keeping Savile Row ahead of the times: they were Ozwald Boateng, Timothy Everest (a former apprentice of Nutter's) and Richard James. Having each broken away independently from the Savile Row mould, public relations professional Alison Hargreaves coined the term "New Bespoke Movement" to describe collectively the work of this "new generation" of tailors. Interest reached a peak in 1997 when the three were featured together in Vanity Fair. The issue, entitled "Cool Britania", portrayed the tailors as the forefront of nineties style and design. The newcomers altered their shop fronts and utilised marketing and publicity to their advantage. For example, when Richard James opened his Savile Row store in 1992, he introduced Saturday opening, something of a revolution to Savile Row at that time. Eight years later in 2000, James opened a new shop with large plate glass windows that allowed customers to see inside.
The new generation challenged the traditional Savile Row styling, bringing twists and "a fine sense of colour to bespoke suits." They were seen to "push the envelope of modern suit making and bespoke active wear, creating more contemporary silhouettes with bolder fabrics." Unlike the older establishments, this new generation of tailors set out to garner celebrity clients, disseminate their products via supermarket chains and attract wider national and international custom, raising the profile of their new tailoring style. In 2001 Richard James was awarded the title Menswear designer of the Year, while Boateng received the French Trophee de la Mode for Best Male Designer in 1996.
Four-time winner of the British Designer of the Year award Alexander McQueen CBE served an apprenticeship with Savile Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard, before joining Gieves & Hawkes. He later joined the theatrical costumiers Angels and Bermans, who are on Garrick Road NW9. McQueen went on to found the fashion house Alexander McQueen, from which the creative director Sarah Burton designed the dress worn by Catherine Middleton during her wedding to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge in April 2011. Alexander McQueen have a flagship store at Number 9, Savile Row for Bespoke and Made-to-Measure.
Ozwald Boateng, a pioneer of the new generation, saw himself as both tailor and a designer, coining the term "bespoke couturier". Born in Ghana in the late 1960s and brought up in north London, Boateng started tailoring at age 16, selling his mother's designs on Portobello Road; by twenty three he had set himself up full-time in business. He began making bespoke suits in 1990, and is credited with introducing Savile Row tailoring to a new generation. The first tailor to stage a catwalk show in Paris, Boateng's many clients include Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, Dhani Jones, Russell Crowe, Keanu Reeves, and Mick Jagger. LVMH President Bernard Arnault appointed Boateng Creative Director of Menswear at French Fashion house Givenchy in 2004. His first collection was shown in July 2004 in Paris, at Hotel de Ville. Boateng parted with Givenchy after the Spring 2007 collection.
Steed Bespoke Tailors was established in January 1995 by Edwin DeBoise, whose father and brother are both tailors, and Thomas Mahon. They are based in Savile Row and Cumbria making bespoke and semi bespoke suits with a range of braces, buttons and ties. DeBoise trained at the London College of Fashion, and then apprenticed under Edward Sexton, followed by seven years at Anderson & Sheppard, before founding the company Steed. 2002 was Steed's eighth year in business and one that saw an amicable split with Mahon, who is now with English Cut. In September 2008, Edwin's eldest son Matthew DeBoise joined the company and is learning the trade under his father.
Richard Anderson was founded in 2001 by Richard Anderson and Brian Lishak who acquired Strickland & Sons (est. 1780) in 2004. Richard Anderson is author of Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed, his autobiographic account of being an apprentice tailor. Anderson stated in a 2006 Financial Times article: "Bringing the traditional and the modern together is not something new to Savile Row, we have customers of all ages." Customers have included Mick Jagger, Bryan Ferry and the Black Eyed Peas.
Stowers Bespoke, established in 2006 by Ray Stowers, former head of bespoke at Gieves & Hawkes for 25 years, was created to reverse the trend in the modern market to mass-produce garments in the far east, with all ready to wear suits, accessories and made to measure suits in England. Originally working from 13 Old Burlington Street, in the spring of 2007 Stowers Bespoke was the lead brand when Liberty launched their formal wear room making Liberty & Co. the only department store to offer in-house bespoke tailoring. In September 2008 Stowers Bespoke purchased an established tailors James Levett, and is in the process of making their shop at 13 Savile Row the Stowers Bespoke flagship store.
Cad and the Dandy (C&D) is the latest addition to Savile Row tailoring. It was founded in 2008 by former bankers James Sleater and Ian Meiers, who had both been made redundant during the 2008 financial crisis. C&D initially came to an arrangement with Chittleborough & Morgan to allow appointments in their shop. The company achieved a turnover of £1.3m in 2010, and was listed by The Guardian in the Couvoisier Future 500 in 2009. In July 2010 the founders won the Bento Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the Macworld Awards.
C&D launched a new flagship at 13 Savile Row in June 2013. The store is the first on the iconic tailoring street to hand weave a cloth before making it up into a fully finished suit. With Britain’s bespoke tailoring industry facing an alarming shortage of master tailors, the company established an apprenticeship programme in London with young “would-be tailors” joining C&D's 22 staff members across its three London locations: Savile Row, Birchin Lane and Canary Wharf. As of August 2013, C&D reached annual sales of £2.5m. In 2013, C&D entered the shoe market, buying the existing manufacturer Wildsmith, a 166-year-old business. C&D founders Sleater and Meiers are keen to complement Wildsmith’s “Made in Britain” credentials by eventually making all of its suits here, too. “Customers want quality, they want 'Made in England’, which is why we’re switching” stated Meiers.
In 2009, Kathryn Sargent became the first female head cutter in Savile Row. She had trained on Savile Row and then worked at bespoke tailors Gieves & Hawkes for 15 years. In 2012, she set up Kathryn Sargent Bespoke which is based in a Georgian house in Brook Street where she offers a luxury bespoke tailoring service for both men and women. Sargent stated: "Savile Row is changing and you don’t need to be on the Row to be a successful tailor. A shop front on Savile Row is unachievable for someone like me. Everything I do is bespoke so I don’t need a shop window — you can’t walk off the street and buy something here. My showroom is similar to a hotel room rather than a shop."
In an interview with Another Magazine, Sargent stated: "Really I wanted to be a skilled worker rather than just a designer. I wanted to be able to fit something perfectly," she says. "If you know how things are made and know the potential possibilities, you can be more creative. Where else do you learn that except for Savile Row?" She continued: "Savile Row has changed so much – I was lucky to come in at a time when it was changing. Now I just want to concentrate on doing really good bespoke work and on making my own contribution to the history of the Row". When being interviewed by The Daily Telegraph, she observed: "Women know how to make men look good in suits - most men consult their wives or girlfriends or mistresses... Women are accepted in medicine and in law; why not tailoring? I hope equality will become so not an issue that soon we won't be able to believe that it ever was."
Manchester-born and former professional footballer William Hunt first opened on Savile Row in 1998, having had a shop on the King's Road in Chelsea. Based on a grounding of engineering, architecture and a love of Hollywood, his fiercely masculine designs, infused with splashes of colour, have become a success. Hunt stated: "It’s an edgy, sexy label for ordinary guys... It’s the kind of clothes girls want to see guys in." On the William Hunt website, he states: "My clothes are for modern heroes. They are like armour. With the right attire there is no limit to a man's achievements." His aim is to design powerful suits for powerful men. Former clients include: Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Gordon Ramsey and Jonathan Ross. Since 2008, Hunt has expanded into golf, setting up The William Hunt Trilby Tour which is now widely regarded as the best amateur tournament in the UK.
Whitcomb and Shaftesbury (W&S), named after the intersection of two nearby streets, was started in 2004 by two Indian twins Mahesh and Suresh Ramakrishnan on St. George Street, near SR. Both had been working in New York but the brothers spotted “a gap in the market for high quality tailoring and quality advice”. The Chennai-born twins were able to lure Head Cutter John McCabe, a Savile Row stalwart having spent over 40 years cutting for the major names on the row. W&S's Savile Row Bespoke line is made in London, but they have another range, the relatively more affordable Classic Bespoke, which, while cut in London, is tailored in Chennai by handpicked craftspeople trained to Savile Row standards. W&S has two units in Chenai staffed by approximately 85 local craftspeople. In 2009 W&S established a new program concentrating on abused and deprived women in rural India, who undergo a rigorous 3-year training and certification programme: over 300 artisans have passed through this. Former clients include Sachin Tendulkar, Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson and Richard Gere. Mahesh stated: "The art of Savile Row is to create a three-dimensional form that drapes the body and shows structure while still being fluid and non-restrictive."
Other tailors on Savile Row
John Lancaster is the founder of the British custom & concept clothing label Designed by JLSA. From Savile Row by appointment, men and women are invited to collaborate on custom made tailored suits for business and artistic purposes.
William Westmancott has an office on Heddon St., behind Savile Row. He is known for his high-value tailoring, which has included 'the world's most expensive suit'. "It is the most expensive, luxurious and indulgent bespoke suit in the world," Mr Westmancott said. It is aimed at celebrities or "the man who has everything and for whom money is no object".
Other tailors include: Kent & Curwen (No. 2); Bernard Weatherill (No. 5); Comelie (No. 9-10); Higgins & Brown (No. 9-10); Katherine Maylin (No. 9-10); King & Allen, Holland & Sherry (No. 9-10); Manning & Manning (No. 9-10); Nooshin, Holland and Sherry (No. 9-10); Paul Jheeta (No. 12); Castle Tailors (No. 12); Steven Hitchcock (No. 13); Martin Nicholls London Ltd. (No. 13); Hidalgo Bros. (No. 13); James Levett (No. 14); Stuart Lamprell (No. 18); Maurice Sedwell (No. 19); Gary Anderson (No. 34/35); Alexandre: owned by British Menswear Brands (No. 39); 40 Savile Row (No. 40);
Conduit Street tailors
Established by Austrian tailor Jonathan Meyer at 36 Conduit Street in the late 18th century, Meyer & Mortimer supplied both the Prince Regent and his fashion mentor, Beau Brummell, as early as 1800. When the Prince became King George IV he awarded the company a royal warrant which, through Queen Victoria and monarchs since, it still holds today. After Meyer pioneered modern trouser design in the 19th century, he formed a new company with Mortimer in Edinburgh, called the Royal Clan Tartan Warehouse. After being bombed out of its premises during World War 2, the company relocated to its current location at 6 Sackville Street.
In the late 1950s, from his premises at No.43 Conduit Street, Anthony Sinclair created a classic, pared down shape, which became known as the Conduit Cut. Sean Connery famously adopted the look in 1962 for the first James Bond film, Dr. No, and continued to wear Sinclair suits for all of his appearances as Bond. The business now operates from No. 6 Sackville Street. Though it is sometimes reported that Ian Fleming and his character James Bond bought suits on Savile Row, there is no evidence for this in the books.
The Future of Savile Row Tailoring
As of November 2014, there are only two family-owned tailoring houses left on Savile Row, namely Dege & Skinner and Henry Poole & Co. Managing Director of D&S William G. Skinner, when interviewed by the online The Business of Fashion (The BofF) website, stated: "Ready-to-wear has been available on the Row for some time, but recession and a tough economic climate have led some retailers further down the road of ready-to-wear..." Although in recent years the global luxury menswear market has grown at roughly double the pace of luxury womenswear, the tailors of Savile Row face the stark reality that bespoke tailoring is simply not a scalable business.
How different companies compete in the forthcoming years will vary. Starting with the 150-yr old company Dege & Skinner, William Skinner points out the young people involved: the future generation of tailors, serving apprenticeships within the trade. He stated in an interview to The Guardian: "That highlights our belief in the future of the bespoke tailoring business. We have invested in the future of the trade, because we are confident about the future of the trade. We have a good business model; we make money and we reinvest it in the company. We are not a museum piece by any means." He continued: "A lot of people don’t want to go into a high street shop, they want the relationship and the service that we give. As long as we can maintain that, there’s every chance of surviving."
At Gieves & Hawkes (G&H), founded in 1771, the approach differs. In 2012, G&H was bought up by Trinity Ltd., part of Hong Kong's Fung Capital, the private equity partnership of Victor and William Fung, the chairman and group managing director of Li & Fung, the world’s largest supplier to consumer brands of clothing. Ray Clacher, Chief Executive of G&H, stated in an interview to The BofF: "In the last 12 months, we have [become] a more style-driven, less suit-dependent company than we have been in the past... We have hired in excess of 40 new heads just to look after design, production and development and merchandising." He continued: "We have opened seventeen stores and we have certainly spent over £10 million in terms of pure hardware — going into digital, websites for Japan, China, the UK."
Patrick Grant, designer and owner since 2005 of bespoke tailor Norton & Sons and its sister ready-to-wear line E. Tautz, stated to The BofF : "The simple truth is that there are opportunities to sell ready-to-wear clothes thanks to Savile Row’s history." He continued: "Personally as someone who has a business on both sides, I would like to see anything with a Savile Row name on it actually made on Savile Row... If you have got ten thousand suits being made by hand on Savile Row, but you have got a million suits somewhere in a factory in Asia also called Savile Row, I don’t think it can do anything other than hurt the business here."
Kilgour was taken over by the company '14 Savile Row', a subsidiary of Fung Capital, in 2013. 14 Savile Row also owns Hardy Amies and Norman Hartnell. They managed to re-install Carlo Brandelli as Creative Director, who had resigned when Kilgour was taken over by in 2008 by JMH Lifestyle. According to Brandelli, Savile Row has been invigorated, but he stated to The Daily Telegraph: "It has changed over the last few years but it is still not enough." He continued: "Too many of the tailors are like the wrong kind of museum."
Huntsman's Roubi L’Roubi is adamant that ready-to-wear is crucial to the survival of the Row. He stated to the website Economia: "There’s a way of carrying the traditions and modernising. They are not mutually exclusive." He also broaches the subject of the dwindling proportion of female customers: today it accounts for less than 5% at Poole, Huntsman and Gieves & Hawkes. He states: "It’s because women want instant purchases. They want to buy it, take it home and wear it that evening." At present, the companies that advertise as bespoke tailors for women include: Nooshin, Katherine Maylin, King & Allen and Kathryn Sargent.
Henry Poole & Co. are wanting to expand into China. In an interview with CNBC, Simon Cundey, director of Henry Poole & Co, stated: "We've had a number of customers who have ordered in London and want the attention to detail we offer them and we hope that by bringing that option to Beijing we can grow the market there." Henry Poole & Co already has two stores in China through a partnership; however tailors make the framework for the suit in London and send it over to be assembled in a Chinese factory.
Gaziano & Girling (G&G) have become the first shoemakers on Savile Row at number 39. They forged G&G in 2006, having been shoemakers in Northamptonshire. Dean Girling, in an interview with A&H magazine, stated: "With our combined experience, we knew that we were entering a competitive and very niche market at this price point but we also knew we could produce a shoe that appealed to an equally unique customer base."
Among the technological innovations available to tailors is 3D body mapping. Acustom Apparel, a company in New York, uses a scanning unit equipped with 14 sophisticated sensors that map 200,000 data points on a customer’s body in seconds, creating a 3D model that can be used for making precision-fitted custom clothing. Tailor Made London, located in Shoreditch, offer the same service, claiming on their website: "Our unique 3D scanning technology is the worlds most accurate method of measurement". However, Ian Meiers of Cad & The Dandy thinks 3D scanners have no place on Savile Row. He stated: "I’ve seen the results and some of the suits are shockingly bad." Roubi L'Roubi agrees: "I don’t believe in that. I want to measure with a measuring tape." Richard Anderson explained that human judgement is crucial: "The measure alone won’t tell you if a customer has a high shoulder or his neck is forward or he’s bow legged."
Laser-cut clothes have existed for several decades now and can be used on natural or synthetic fabrics. 'Cut Laser Cut' and 'Laser Cutting Services' are two examples of U.K. companies that perform such a service. At least one company on SR, namely The Savile Row Company, established 1932, advertises a laser cut service under the ‘40 Savile Row’ label.
Savile Row: The Master Tailors of British Bespoke.
Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed.
The London Cut: Savile Row Bespoke Tailoring.
- Author: James Sherwood. Publisher: Marsilio (1 April 2007). ISBN 978-8831791557
Henry Poole: Founders of Savile Row - The Making of a Legend.
- Author: Stephen Howarth. Publisher: Bene Factum Publishing (17 Feb 2003). ISBN 978-1903071069.
Savile Row: An Illustrated History.
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The Savile Row Cutter.
- Author: Hormazd Narielwalla. Publisher: Bene Factum Publishing (1 Aug 2011). ISBN 978-1903071335.
- Suit (clothing)
- Haute Couture
- British Fashion Council
- Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors
- Worshipful Company of Drapers
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