Adventures in Bespoke Tailoring

ASSHAT

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Shopping for some trouser tissue to go with linen blend jacket. Got a couple mohair mix samples, and I'm intrigued. IIRC ASSHAT ASSHAT maybe did a bunch of mohair? I've got loads of all weather mohair suits but never considered summer pants, curious if anyone has tried this.

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Like you i have a bunch of mohair suits. Never tried it as an odd trouser fabric. Perhaps i never spotted the right cloth. For those sort of jackets i’ve always gone with linen, cotton or high twist wool.
 

formby002

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Like you i have a bunch of mohair suits. Never tried it as an odd trouser fabric. Perhaps i never spotted the right cloth. For those sort of jackets i’ve always gone with linen, cotton or high twist wool.
I too have several Mohair suits, the problem with using it just for pants would be the sheen.

I've always though Mohair suiting.
 

doghouse

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Wouldn't Fresco be da ticket...? Texcha and Kewlness.
About 99.9% sure I'm getting linen


Like you i have a bunch of mohair suits. Never tried it as an odd trouser fabric. Perhaps i never spotted the right cloth. For those sort of jackets i’ve always gone with linen, cotton or high twist wool.
Indeed. The fact they threw some of these samples in there his aroused my curiosity.
 

formby002

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Its said that Mohair can crack. I've never witnessed it and I've had sevral things made up out of Mohair over the years,and that includes the heavy 3 ply stuff.
 

doghouse

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I've only heard that about the old 100% stuff, but as formby said I've never seen it, so it may just be apocryphal
 

ASSHAT

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I've only heard that about the old 100% stuff, but as formby said I've never seen it, so it may just be apocryphal
ive got plenty of the old 3 ply stuff and its not 100%, it more like 60/40 or 55/45. Any way its never cracked on me, and i even took a nasty spill while drunk in a tonik suit. Nothing happened.
 

Journeyman

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I too have several Mohair suits, the problem with using it just for pants would be the sheen.
I have a few mohair suits. My first was a light-grey Brioni and it had quite a sheen. I didn't particularly like the shiny, light grey look so I sold it.

The other two are by Corneliani for RL Polo and they don't have any sheen at all that I can see. They're also extremely hard-wearing and the trousers are excellent at keeping their creases. They're both PoW checks, one in a mid-brown and the other in a mid-grey.
 

Walter

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I have a few mohair suits. My first was a light-grey Brioni and it had quite a sheen. I didn't particularly like the shiny, light grey look so I sold it.

The other two are by Corneliani for RL Polo and they don't have any sheen at all that I can see. They're also extremely hard-wearing and the trousers are excellent at keeping their creases. They're both PoW checks, one in a mid-brown and the other in a mid-grey.
fellow aussie cocksackie also caught onto the mohair trend. Very well executing the fxh fxh school of dress

3D696758-C7A5-4A39-8C80-E9A48E5F7C78.png
 

sirloin

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Trying to select shirt fabric via WhatsApp.
Going for a few basic poplins (Monti or Alumo), and in return, my very kind tailor is sending crazy patterns 😂
Admittedly top white and blue, with a thin blue border, does look nice. Think it's Mason.

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Journeyman

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I used to have a Charvet shirt in a very similar pattern to the red, white, light blue and dark blue striped fabric in the middle of the right-hand side.

I used to wear it with ties with small, neat prints - usually navy ties - and it worked well.
 

ballmouse

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I don't know. They look like they might be better suited for pajamas. Then again, I almost always wear solid colored shirts.
 

doghouse

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These are all nice, and I would wear any of them even though I do have a preference for checks over stripes...
Quite the same here for some reason.

Mason is good tissue in my experience as well
 

sirloin

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Surpriced there a so many fans of the candy stribes. An anglosphere thing?
I'm usually in a solid or regular stripe.
 

formby002

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Surpriced there a so many fans of the candy stribes. An anglosphere thing?
I'm usually in a solid or regular stripe.
Classic British style is often simple suit, but bold shirt and/or tie...

...but not always...Ha!!!

The defining thing I think is the cut of the suit. There's a difference between a well cut suit and a very well cut suit, which sounds obvious, but is loaded with all kinds of signifiers which I can't put into words as I've never attended the Sorbonne.
 

Walter

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Classic British style is often simple suit, but bold shirt and/or tie...

...but not always...Ha!!!

The defining thing I think is the cut of the suit. There's a difference between a well cut suit and a very well cut suit, which sounds obvious, but is loaded with all kinds of signifiers which I can't put into words as I've never attended the Sorbonne.
3150D727-F300-452F-AF3D-FA2A2211F5A5.jpeg
 

The Shooman

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^
that signifies everything that is wrong with menswear these days. Tight fitting trousers and coats that are tight fitting around the arms. A horrid look that afflicts so many today.
 

Pimpernel Smith

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^
that signifies everything that is wrong with menswear these days. Tight fitting trousers and coats that are tight fitting around the arms. A horrid look that afflicts so many today.
Not quite the Islington Twins mate....


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doghouse

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Well I ordered a jacket and a couple trousers last month so I'm doing my bit.
 

Kingstonian

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Article minus photos. I could not copy the whole lot. There is one photo of a Dege and Skinner cutter at the end who has adopted a Charlie Chaplin style. The rest of the photos are standard stuff that you would expect :-

When, in those gloomy days of March, the lockdown first gripped Britain, Savile Row became a hive of feverish activity.

At Dege & Skinner, Henry Poole and Anderson & Sheppard - tailoring establishments that between them can count more than 300 years of Savile Row history - the story was the same: as the doors to the street's august establishments slammed shut, vans and taxis were commandeered to deliver irons, sewing machines and boards for the tailors and makers, usually labouring in the basements and back rooms of the Row, to continue working from home.

At Anderson & Sheppard, the light in the shop was kept burning by one of the firm's senior cutters, Leon Powell, who would come in each day to keep things ticking over. The Row, he says, was dead. "Once or twice you might see a figure lurking in the back of a shop, but it was very eerie, the entire area."

In the brighter days of July, shortly after the government announcement that shops could open again, I took a walk down Savile Row, past the immaculate shopfronts, with their elegant twisted metal railings, the tailored suits and jackets on dummies standing to attention behind windows embossed with gold lettering.
Like the entirety of London's West End, it was all but deserted. The tailors of Savile Row do not depend on walk-in business. Few people strolling down the street feel seized with the compulsion suddenly to order a bespoke suit; but any street needs people, a sense of busy-ness, to come alive. One could only wonder when, if, they would return.
Gieves & Hawkes, at number one Savile Row, can trace its roots back to 1771, when Thomas Hawkes set up a tailor's shop in nearby Brewer Street; it moved to Savile Row in 1912. Henry Poole & Co, at number 15, was established in 1846, when Henry took over the business from his father James, who had been a volunteer soldier in the Napoleonic wars and, like all volunteers, was expected to make his own uniform, so became a tailor. Dege & Skinner, at number 10, was founded in 1865.

In the brighter days of July, shortly after the government announcement that shops could open again, I took a walk down Savile Row, past the immaculate shopfronts, with their elegant twisted metal railings, the tailored suits and jackets on dummies standing to attention behind windows embossed with gold lettering.
Like the entirety of London's West End, it was all but deserted. The tailors of Savile Row do not depend on walk-in business. Few people strolling down the street feel seized with the compulsion suddenly to order a bespoke suit; but any street needs people, a sense of busy-ness, to come alive. One could only wonder when, if, they would return.
Gieves & Hawkes, at number one Savile Row, can trace its roots back to 1771, when Thomas Hawkes set up a tailor's shop in nearby Brewer Street; it moved to Savile Row in 1912. Henry Poole & Co, at number 15, was established in 1846, when Henry took over the business from his father James, who had been a volunteer soldier in the Napoleonic wars and, like all volunteers, was expected to make his own uniform, so became a tailor. Dege & Skinner, at number 10, was founded in 1865.

But the Covid crisis has hit Savile Row in all manner of ways, presenting a threat to its very survival. How can the best bespoke tailoring in the world - everybody agrees on that - survive in a world where people have less money to spend, are unable to travel and where the very meaning of bespoke is challenged by the new conventions of social distancing?

The relationship between a tailor and his or her client is as familiar as that between a lady and her hairdresser. "You can't do bespoke tailoring by Zoom," says Colin Heywood, the managing director of Anderson & Sheppard. "The customer has to come in and engage, eye to eye, and see the processes and have a dialogue."

And, of course, be measured up - although that is the least of the problems. Tailors now come dressed with masks, visors and gloves. "You still need to get inside that two-metre distance," Heywood says, "but the idea is to minimise the frequency and the duration."

A lot of measuring - sleeve lengths, shoulders, across the back, coat length (Savile Row does not talk about 'jackets') - is done from the back. For fittings, the customer puts on the coat and trousers. "It's observed from a distance," Heywood says. "When you need to pin or mark you do it at arm's length, and quickly."

The bigger problems facing Savile Row are economic ones. With premises shut, firms have been able partly to fulfil existing orders, but new ones have been few. The lockdown happened at exactly the period when people would normally be ordering suits for Ascot, weddings and their summer wardrobe.

Then there is the foreign trade. A large proportion of revenue on Savile Row - more than 60 per cent in the case of some firms - comes from foreign customers, and most tailors do 'trunk shows', travelling to America and the Far East for sales and fittings, which restrictions on travel have made impossible.

In a normal year, the salesmen and cutters of Anderson & Sheppard make four trips to America. "We'd come back with 80 orders from our first trip, and another 40 from Asia and a second US trip. Those have gone," says Anda Rowland, who owns the firm.

Founded in 1906, Anderson & Sheppard arrived on Savile Row in 1915, catering to customers including Fred Astaire, Cole Porter, Noël Coward, countless crown princes, millionaires, film moguls, the Prince of Wales - and Marlene Dietrich.

Anda's father was the late businessman and newspaper proprietor Tiny Rowland, a long-time customer of Anderson & Sheppard, who liked its suits so much he invested in it, eventually acquiring 80 per cent of the company. Tiny Rowland died in 1998, and in 2004 Anda took over the running of the business on behalf of the family.

The following year the firm moved around the corner to new premises in Old Burlington Street, but its gentlemen's club ambiance (wood panelling, buttoned leather sofa, shelves and cabinets stocked with bolts of cloth, ties, silks, braces and buttons) - the default Savile Row mode - is timeless.

The average price for a Savile Row suit is £5,000. For this, you are not just buying a suit but a heritage - "the epitome of British tailoring", as William Skinner puts it. He is the managing director of Dege & Skinner, renowned for its ceremonial and military tailoring and hunting uniforms, which account for between 15 and 20 per cent of the firm's business.
It made the frock coat of the Blues and Royals worn by Prince Harry when he married Meghan Markle. A full-dress ceremonial uniform of the Household Division costs £5,000; a frock coat for a Master of the hunt, £3,850. These specialities are impervious to changing fashions. Young officers will always need regimental dress. Masters of hunts will always wear pink (so-called - it's actually red).
But what is the future of the suit post-Covid? Has anyone, other than politicians and BBC newsreaders and weathermen, worn one in the past six months? And working from home, as many will continue to do, will anyone want to?
The current crisis has merely accelerated what was already a long-term trend, and one the denizens of Savile Row were already adapting to. "Over the last 20 to 25 years the wearing of the suit has gradually declined," William Skinner says. "Life has become less formal."
Like every tailor I spoke with, Dege & Skinner makes many more sports coats, blazers and casual jackets than it once did. "But there will always be a requirement for suits in certain parts of society; there are people who want to follow tradition, and want to do it properly."
Simon Cundey, the managing director of Henry Poole, agrees. Typically, he says, an 'everyday' customer at Poole will order two suits a year - one for the spring, one for the autumn, "and then come back next year and have the same thing again. That's a lovely, easy customer who we love to see all the time.
"And then we have customers who suddenly have a binge; we haven't seen them for a few years and they'll order six or seven suits and perhaps some sports jackets and a dinner suit."

Good business, then, though a little less extravagant than the princes, emperors and shahs who patronised Henry Poole in the late 19th and early 20th century: Naser al-Din, the Shah of Persia from 1848 until his assassination in 1896, managed to rack up a bill of £884,910 - a mere bagatelle compared to the £1.8 million spent by His Highness the Khedive of Egypt.)
These people, Cundey believes, will not go away. Anda Rowland thinks that harder times may even provide a silver lining. "We saw this in 2008. People say, I'm going to buy less, but buy better, and I'll buy something from people I know, that I can have repaired, that's made ethically; we appeal to a modern audience."
In his role as chairman of the Savile Row Bespoke Association, William Skinner estimates that the Row contributes about £30 million of direct turnover to the British economy, with an unquantifiable amount from all the supply industries associated with it - the button and trim-makers, the Yorkshire wool mills whose overseas sales are considerably boosted by the selling point that their wares are recognised as the very best by the tailors of Savile Row.
The Row is an integral part of what might be called the London luxury experience: the overseas customers who come to order a suit also frequent the best hotels, eat at the smartest restaurants, buy theatre tickets; it is one part of a fragile ecosystem, all of which is now under threat.

But central to the crisis threatening Savile Row is a question that has preoccupied the bespoke trade since long before the coronavirus: rents. The narrow margins on which most firms operate, and the rent reviews that go only one way - upwards - lead one tailor to describe his business as 'basically, working for the landlord'.

And it is a situation, one hears it said, that must change if Savile Row is to survive.

"When we stop with furlough support and rate relief, and when the reality of cash flow from not being able to travel hits us at the end of the year, I think there's going to have to be a completely different arrangement with the landlord," says Rowland.

The majority of properties on the Row are owned by the Pollen Estate, which is itself owned by a combination of private family trusts and Norway's sovereign wealth fund (the latter acquired a 64.2 per cent stake in 2014), and which, since the 18th century, has owned a large tranche of east Mayfair, including much of the property on neighbouring Cork Street, long the preserve of upmarket art galleries.

The day-to-day affairs of the Estate are managed by Julian Stocks at Knight Frank. He says that the Estate has made efforts to help alleviate the immediate crisis for its Savile Row tenants, working on 'a case-by-case basis', and offering a mixture of rent-free periods, rent deferments into next year and beyond, and the option of monthly rather than quarterly rents.

My objective as the property director is to make sure that all our stakeholders, including the tailors, the galleries in Cork Street, the restaurants and cafés, can make it through this crisis and beyond. We want to do everything we can to protect the brand that is Savile Row."
But here's the question: how to reconcile preserving the unique character of Savile Row - 'the brand' in Stocks' words - with the Estate's requirement to make a profit by charging rents that are not necessarily what the businesses that give the street its unique character can afford to pay?
Stocks acknowledges there is "a contradiction" between tenant and landlord in that respect. "But our approach is to make sure that what we charge is sustainable so that businesses can afford the rents. The more profitable I can make the tailors by helping them, then we can grow the rents sustainably over time. That's the balance to strike."
Savile Row is not a long street, but there are presently 10 empty units - all predating the pandemic. This is more, Simon Cundey told me, than he could remember in the 30 years he has been at Henry Poole.
For all the tailors I spoke to, an essential part of that balance is ensuring that Savile Row retains its character as the Mecca of bespoke tailoring, and that only a certain kind of shop should be welcomed.
The Row is one of five historic London addresses designated as 'special policy areas' by Westminster City Council (the others are Harley Street, Mayfair, St James's and Portland Place), which theoretically makes it harder for landlords to dilute each area's distinctive character by changes of use and allowing chain stores to force out smaller independent businesses.

The arrival in 2014 of an Abercrombie & Fitch childrenswear shop at number 3 Savile Row - in another age, the home of Apple Records, where the Beatles gave their last ever performance together on the roof - caused collective apoplexy, and sighs of relief when it recently closed down.

Stocks agrees Abercrombie was hardly appropriate (number 3 is not one of the buildings owned by the Pollen Estate), but says the figure of 10 empty units is misleading. Four of those units, which do not belong to Pollen, have only recently been emptied for refurbishment. Of the three owned by the Estate, Stocks says, one is under offer to a new tailoring operation.

For the second, the Estate is in discussions with two Savile Row-trained cutters to rent the unit on a "preferential basis to get them going." And the third has been offered to an accessories brand that is, he says, "symbiotic with the street.

"We need to think about fresh entrants that are accreted to Savile Row in the shop units that tailors don't like operating out of - a really great watch brand, shoe brand or hat brand that works on Savile Row. There is no point as the building owner having a series of empty shops."

Certainly, there are a number of young tailors wanting to continue the Savile Row tradition. Kathryn Sargent, who trained at Gieves & Hawkes, and for the past eight years has had her own atelier on nearby Brook Street, says she would love to be the first business with a woman's name above the door on Savile Row.

"But the current rent situation makes that prohibitive. That said, I am part of the Savile Row community, which is more than just a location; it is a network of like-minded passionate tailors who are determined to see our trade survive, evolve and adapt."

Savile Row has survived world wars, recessions and changing fashions, but Cundey believes there has never been a more critical moment in the street's history than now. The threat, he says, is existential.

Henry Poole employs 35 full-time and 15 self-employed staff - the largest number on the Row. "We are already way off revenues this year to last, and it's very worrying. The first thing we really need to do is get back to some normality where people can travel."

Seventy per cent of Poole's custom is from overseas, and the firm has trunk shows scheduled for the USA and the Far East in September and October. "Without this business," Cundey warns, "we will have to downsize drastically.

"Customers," he continues, "are eager to return. We've had calls from America, Japan, Switzerland, saying how upsetting it's been for them to lose coming for Wimbledon, Ascot, the shooting parties in the shires. The question we always ask is, when are you coming back to see us?"

:
 

The Shooman

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Saw the most stunning corduroy pants the last time l was at my tailors. They were rust coloured with really wide wales...about 2 per inch or something. Really thick and luxurious and gorgeous. When l asked for the price l nearly fell over, right up in the 4 figure range, so that ended that dream pretty quickly.

Due for a skeleton fitting of my sportscoat soon. Looking forward to it. Will order some bone wool trousers at the fitting too, cut for braces. Not sure about the trouser fabric, but l want something extra nice for Spring trousers. I really love a beautiful pair of trousers, it is something virtually impossible to find off the rack in Australia. Beautiful trousers is one of life's great pleasures.
 

Kingstonian

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“Tailors all over the world are in trouble, but the large Milanese houses seem to have it particularly bad.

The problem is they don’t do trunk shows – they’re dependent on customers coming to them. Savile Row is very reliant on the US, but at least it requires just one trip to New York to make things better; Nicoletta needs the whole world to be able to travel, including England, Brazil and Dubai. Apparently only the Swiss are coming at the moment.”

From our friend Simon Crompton

I am not sure why he bothered going there with quarantine in operation.

He also says these tailors don’t do the internet. So more opportunity for Simon in the past ? He needs a new plan going forward.

Still interesting that he seeks out an Italian umbrella man when James Smith are just down the road in Holborn. No quarantine required. Then again James Smith probably already has good publicity.
 
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