Savile Row: Bespoke Menswear
In the world of bespoke tailoring, one name stands above the rest: Savile Row. Fiona Symington-Mitchell discovers why it remains the epitome of men’s style.
You can tell a lot about a man by his suit: his character, personal style, even where he lives. In the world of English tailoring, the name Savile Row stands alone. Its heritage is as famous as the league of men that have frequented it. Think of any style icon over the last century – Cary Grant, Mick Jagger, Fred Astaire – and chances are they wore a Savile Row suit.
Like a signature, a bespoke suit is a personal statement, one that reflects the character, style and lifestyle of its wearer. Made for him alone, to his measurements, it can signal career success, a special event or even a rite of passage, a gift of a father to his son. Such is the quality of a bespoke suit that a man can develop and evolve his style, confident in the knowledge that he is impeccably dressed.
“Having a handmade suit that has been personally created for you and only you is a luxury that is still very special,” explains William Skinner, managing director of fifth-generation tailor, Dege & Skinner.
Be spoken for
Derived from the age-old agreement between a tailor and gentleman that the cloth for an intended suit was “be spoken for”, a bespoke suit begins with the selection of fabric based on what the suit is for, where it will be worn, and the individual’s style.
The master cutter will then take up to 35 measurements, taking note of a man’s posture, from his shape to how he moves, to achieve a perfect fit before drafting a pattern and cutting the cloth by hand.
Across three fittings, the suit will be handcrafted with adjustments made by an expert team of in-house craftspeople. Taking a minimum of 50 hours to make over 10 to 12 weeks, the entry-level cost for a two-piece suit is around £4000. The finished garment should last a lifetime, altered as needed or repaired.
The master tailors of Savile Row
Along Savile Row, a surprisingly small street in Mayfair, there are over 30 tailors. Each one has its own history, house style and approach.
As a guide, there are the historical houses dating back to the 1800s, best exemplified by tailors Henry Poole & Co, Dege & Skinner and Gieves & Hawkes. Established in 1804, Henry Poole & Co is regarded as the founder of Savile Row and creator of the tuxedo. With 40 royal warrants dating back to Napoleon, its ledger books read like the who’s who of modern history, with entries for Charles Dickens, Irving Berlin and even JP Morgan.
At Dege & Skinner, the house style reflects its heritage of bespoke military uniforms, including those for Princes William and Harry.
“We tend to put a little more structure in the chest of the coat to give it some form, some shape to allow it to hang properly and to give it longevity,” says Skinner.
Over the 245 years Gieves & Hawkes has been trading, the tailor has counted every British monarch since George III among its esteemed list of patrons, along with several other Royal households around the world, statesmen, business leaders, and stars of the stage, sportsfield and screen. With its masculine and considered aesthetic, Gieves & Hawkes suits are timeless.
Other houses established in the 1990s offer a slimmer silhouette drawing upon the world of fashion, art and design. As a pioneer of the ‘modern classic’ cut, Richard James has dressed some of Britain’s most style-forward men, from Mark Ronson to model David Gandy. Ozwald Boateng, with his strong design aesthetic, sharp tailoring and liberal use of colour, has achieved celebrity status. His clients include Mick Jagger, Spike Lee, Will Smith and the cast of Guy Ritchie’s British cult classic, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
“Savile Row has been around for hundreds of years but it has to be relevant to today,” shares Brian Lishak, co-founder and director of Richard Anderson, whose house style is based on a traditional riding jacket. With over six decades’ experience of working on the Row, he adds, “So what we do is adapt a style to an individual. We establish a relationship that will be maintained for years, even generations.”
This article appeared in volume 29 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.