Those who are said to be dead live longer. And indeed it seemed Savile Row Until not long ago, the crisis seemed to be coming to an end: on the legendary London street, between Regent, Bond and Oxford Street, where the best tailors make elegant tailored suits for their wealthy clients, the crisis claimed its first victims . Houses with great tradition were forced to close, including Chester Barrie and Hardy Amies, a true lord and one of Britain’s most famous couturiers, who also served as court tailor to Queen Elizabeth.
The uncertainties of Brexit and the lack of customers mercilessly took their toll on the best men’s fashion store in the world. In addition, companies fell into the coronavirus crisis. There was no longer a demand for fine thread. The shops remained closed. UK suit sales have fallen by 2.3 million in the last five years. And many tailors lost their last shirt.
Not surprisingly, the British public was extremely alarmed. After all, Savile Row is as much a part of England as Big Ben, Bobbys and Tea Time. And it’s part of the British lifestyle (unless you’re more attracted to the Sex Pistols’ sense of punk style) to show up in fine clothes: the best materials and optimally made.
“Bespoke tailoring“ is the name of the method of making a person a suit adapted to their specific needs and desires. The customer is king and communication is everything. Every detail is discussed, up to 30 different measurements are taken and patterns are made. Then, up to ten assistants get to work and in 50 hours of work a unique piece destined to last forever is sewn.
Of course, this exclusivity comes at a price: a two-piece suit from Dege & Skinner, for example, costs from £5,600. At Hackett you can participate for only £1,900.
Savile Row was created 1740, when the first tailors settled here. She is named after Lady Dorothy Savile, wife of the Earl of Burlington. The list of names of those who have since dressed in the 300 meter long alley in the center of the Mayfair district is elitist and exclusive and includes crowned heads and world-class celebrities. Napoleon III took action here, as did Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Dickens, Tsar Alexander II of Russia, the Emperor of Japan, Buffalo Bill, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Cary Grant, Michael Jackson, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Stones. And yet something new was needed, perhaps even something that broke with rigid traditions and yet did not lose sight of the golden craft.
At the Gieves & Hawkes tailor shop before the coronation of Charles III. and Camilla carefully incorporated the insignia of the royal supreme into her wardrobe
Arrive Margaret Knatchbull what’s it called. “Savile Row is an incredible place,” she tells us when we reach her by phone in London for the interview. “And it is our duty to ensure that places like this thrive and remain vibrant.” That’s exactly what the outgoing businesswoman said. She did it with self-confidence. With The Deck, he brought the first women’s tailoring to Savile Row, breaking into a true men’s stronghold. It was now possible for women to make a suit, even by women.
Kathryn Sargent, head tailor at Gieves & Hawkes, was the first in 2016 (she now has her own store on Brook Street). And for the first time, Phoebe Gormley dedicated herself exclusively to women’s fashion on the first floor of Cad & The Dandy. But Knatchbull took a big step further: in 2019 she opened her own business with her own store, a great business that gave her a breath of fresh air and a new life.
“This gives the street what it needed,” explains Knatchbull: “That is, something to move, to become a little more modern. “It is important to maintain a delicate balance: modernizing is good, but not everything that people love and value about Savile Row’s heritage should go.”
Business with women is booming
Daisy Knatchbull is not a new face on Savile Row. As communications director at Huntsman, one of Savile Row’s most renowned high-end tailors, she has now been involved in the fashion business for five years. The appearance of its business premises also clearly shows how The Deck differs from the image of traditional establishments: it is brighter, cozier and more welcoming than is usually the case among the intimidating mahogany paintings and gilt frames. The price of a bespoke women’s suit starts at £2,800. Three adjustment appointments are required. This also attracts notable women: Kate Moss, Lauren Hutton, Elizabeth Hurley, Twiggy, Elle Macpherson, Gillian Anderson and Maggie Gyllenhaal; all of them illustrious clients of The Deck.
“Our business is booming among women,” Knatchbull tells us proudly. “Every year we have doubled our business.” The goal is for customers to put together a variety of different outfits using just one suit and a few key pieces. “There are women who don’t necessarily wear our suits to the office, but they wear the pants with sneakers when they take their kids to school,” says Knatchbull. “Then they go to lunch in full costume. And in the evening they put on high heels and go out dressed.” Knatchbull has expanded its range to include dresses and scarves. “The most important thing is that I wanted to create a cozy atmosphere that focuses exclusively on women.” needs of women and their emotional relationship with clothing.
By the way, Knatchbull did not experience any skepticism or resentment from superiors. “I know a lot of people would have expected a bit of drama. But they didn’t see me as a threat, they were very supportive. They knew the time had come to create a women’s store. That’s why we received a lot of congratulations at the opening, and other tailors “They recommended us to the wives of their male clients.”
Rock ‘n’ roll on Savile Row
So Savile Row is still exciting. On the one hand, this is due to the atmosphere of yesteryear. Prince Harry shops at Dege & Skinner. King Charles III has had his suits fitted at Gieves & Hawkes since he became prince. Kings and presidents have also appeared in Davies & Son. Huntsman, Henry Poole & Co or Norton & Sons offer custom-made English products. On the other hand, sometimes you can also find less conventional styles. Ozwald Boateng, for example, opts for colorful suits; was the first from Savile Row to show a collection at Paris Fashion Week. And Cad & The Dandy offers modern cuts.
Savile Row also always showed a weakness for rock ‘n’ roll. The Beatles headed here to their company Apple Corps. Their famous rooftop concert also took place there. And the street had Edward Sexton, the great icon: in the sixties he brought London swing to Savile Row and dressed David Bowie and Elton John. The Beatles wore their suits on the legendary cover of “Abbey Road.” And Mick Jagger married one of his outfits. Sexton passed away this year.
Savile Row continues to open up over time. And yet it remains timeless.