Friday, 13 February 2015

The Future of Saville Row ...

We need more British investment on Savile Row
Asian investors are quietly taking over Britain's home of bespoke tailoring. Are we about to lose another British success story to foreign ownership, asks David Gandy

There is a pattern emerging on Savile Row, and I'm not talking about Prince of Wales check.
The world's most renowned and celebrated street for bespoke suits and tailoring, the street that has dressed the world's richest, most famous and most stylish men for generations, is going through a transition.
It seems that, slowly, this most British and historic of sites is being acquired by Asian investors. Gieves and Hawkes, Hardy Amies and Kilgour are now under Asian control and I'm sure more and more of our most revered tailors and suit makers will succumb to the temptation of Asian backing before long.
This development may seem a little troubling at first, but as Ambassador for London Collections: Men, a close admirer of the above-mentioned tailoring houses and also a regular frequenter to Savile Row, the immediate effect has been extremely positive.
Hardy Amies and Gieves and Hawkes both showed at LC:M earlier this year and their range of off-the-peg and bespoke tailoring were among the most admired, stand-out collections of this season's shows. Gieves and Hawkes' famous No 1. Savile Row address is under going a multi-million pound refurbishment and I'm sure Hardy Amies and Kilgour will follow suit, so to speak.
I have to be honest, I believe heavy investment and redevelopment is what Savile Row desperately needs. Perhaps James Bond, David Beckham, Justin Timberlake and a host of other extremely famous and stylish men love wearing Tom Ford and Ralph Lauren, but if you are looking for a bespoke suit cut by the finest cutters in the world with hundreds of years of experience, you will appreciate why a Savile Row suit is the pinnacle of style and grace. That said, how many bespoke suits do men buy a year? Not many and thus Saville Row is not exactly the most bustling of streets in London.
And yet, Savile Row should really be the ultimate men's shopping street. It badly needs to entice more visitors, bringing with them the custom and support that these tailoring houses need. But how? I believe the area needs to incorporate an array of mens stores, including Hackett, Belstaff, Burberry, Tods, Church's, even Topman. And how about M&S too? (Following on from their incredibly successful 'Simply Food’, why not a 'Simply Men' store?)
Instead of the above retailers moving in, though, someone has granted Abercrombie Kids approval to open a store on the Row. This is a sad decision which will likely have the opposite effect of what needs to be achieved here. Most likely, it will force up rental prices for the rest of the Row, leading to either more foreign investments or takeovers for the smaller or struggling tailoring houses. Some, unfortunately, might face closure altogether.
Of course what we really have to look at here is why it takes foreign investment and foreign shops to start this transition in the first place. We have to ask ourselves, where is the British investment? According to the latest stats, Britain has the fastest-growing economy in western Europe, but investment into some of our most famous British brands, products and exports (something desperately needed by all accounts) is slow to emerge. Ot looks like Savile Row could become another victim of that.
A prime example of what happens when British money is not invested into well-regarded British brands is our car industry (or what used to be our car industry). World famous names such as Mini, Bentley and Rolls-Royce are all German owned and I hear that Aston Martin may be next. I can almost hear the Bentley Boys and Sir Alec Issigonis turning in their graves.
Mini, Rolls-Royce and Bentley are all recording record profits and the latest example of a brilliant British brand enjoying success in foreign hands is Jaguar Land Rover. Bought six years ago by Indian steel giant Tata from Ford, the company has just announced that its profits more than doubled in the last quarter of 2013, to £842m. All of this proves what exceptional British designers and engineers can achieve with the necessary investment.
Of course, it is very easy for me to say that companies and individuals should invest millions of pounds into traditional tailoring houses and brands. And obviously it's not just Savile Row businesses - I could reel off a long list of young, exciting British designers and brands that are producing world-class products and are crying out for investment.
In reality it is us, the consumers, who could also assist, preserve and transform these British labels, brands and products, and that's by actually buying British. So the next time you get out of your Audi or BMW, in your Zara casual wear to go and buy that Armani or Tom Ford suit, perhaps you should think twice. Perhaps you should consider going to see Simon at Henry Poole, for example. You will experience a service like no other and you will find yourself in the very finest suit, something so special you may even want to hand it on to the next generation. Henry Poole has been a family-run business and a stalwart of Savile Row since the early 19th century. If we are not careful, true British-owned businesses like that may soon be very rare indeed.
David Gandy is represented by Select Model Management

Follow David on Twitter at @DGandyOfficial


( … ) “While the Gieves and Hawkes assessment of the repugnant installment of Abercrombie & Fitch and Abercrombie Kids on the Row certainly rings true, we can’t help but also think that the real problem of Savile Row may not just be the « Abercrombie and Fitch Affair » (with all the noise made around the issue by our gently-crazed friends of the Chap and their now infamous « Give Three Piece a Chance » campaign).
In reality, the Abercrombie and Fitch affair is merely a tree, even if a big and smelly one, that hides the forest…
Friday night, after a wonderful event at 39 Savile Row, we had the pleasure to share dinner with our dear friend (and occasional contributor) James Sherwood, with whom we had the opportunity to exchange our feelings about the recent evolution of the Row, the current marketing orgy there, and the misuse of the name Savile Row.
For those who are not regular readers of PG, let us remind you that James is the author of the bestseller « Savile Row, The Master Tailors of British Bespoke », published in 2010 at Thames & Hudson, as well as a worldwide acclaimed and recognized figure known as “The Guardian of Savile Row” (see the cover of The Rake magazine hereafter). James worked for many years in the caves and dusty cupboards of Savile Row in order to reconstitute, protect and save the precious archives of iconic houses like Henry Poole & Co and Gieves & Hawkes (during the era of Robert Gieves).

Saville-Row T&H

He was also the curator of « The London Cut », the first retrospective Savile Row exhibition ever organized for Pitti Uomo (2007). This one-of-a-kind exhibition gathered together for the first time, a display of iconic houses of the Row –a move certainly not typical in the 21st century in the highly competitive arena of current fashion and style. This London Cut exhibition of seminal Savile Row houses has also been also shown in Paris and Tokyo.
In short, if there’s one man on earth who has been working tirelessly for the worldwide recognition of Savile Row, it’s Mr. Sherwood. And it’s about time, at a point where the legacy of Savile Row is on the verge of being pushed aside with a shrug of the shoulders, to pay tribute to James and credit him for his unique input that has helped to catapult  Savile Row’s power of attraction, specifically in a time when classical menswear is witnessing a global renaissance with billions of British pounds being invested in the sector.
London Cut 2

The problem today is that the Guardian of Savile Row probably does not know precisely what it is that he should be looking after (except perhaps Poole’s archives), because in less than five years since the completion of Mr. Sherwood’s exhaustive labour, the golden mile is more and more resembling a scene reminiscent of any other high street gathering of luxury shops found in most every major city in the western and oriental world.
To put it more succinctly, the long-guarded spirit of Savile Row that so many of us love and revere, is evaporating in front of our eyes. And the gesture of placing a few historical uniforms in display windows as trophies of the past in houses whose DNA is no more British, will certainly not suffice to retain the spirit of a craftsmanship that is unique in the world.
The new “masters” of Savile Row have not exactly been subtle in the way that they have been disregarding tradition : Gieves & Hawkes decided, for example, to shut down its archive room in which James invested so much effort, expertise and research –a work apparently deemed as useless and not modern enough to remain on the Row. Even the Gieves and Hawke’s Wall of Fame has been quickly removed by the new house designer/art director for whom these historical figures seemed too passé and out of line with hype marketing and current merchandising paradigms.
And what about Kilgour’s new boutique–of which fashion magazine editors swoon to the point of orgasm in describing the new design as being the epitome of what a contemporary boutique should be (with the overuse of the word ‘contemporary’ yielding a total loss of meaning), while in reality, it is a store with endless white walls not unlike hundreds of other designer shops in the luxury world.
The recent rise of London’s Fashion Week — ” London Collections : Men” has likely played a part in the leveraging of the Row, since this fashion week is basically a clone of the Paris, New York and Milan Fashion Week, complete with typical catwalks, contrary designers and conceptual installations….
That being said, don’t misunderstand what is written here. Our purpose is not to advocate for the blind protection of an old craftsmanship that remains difficult to be profitable because only a limited number of gentlemen in the world understand, appreciate and are able to afford bespoke.
We totally agree that it is time to promote the indisputable British know-how in this field, as well as to soften the legendary staunchness of the Savile Row tailors who struggle with the idea of mass communication and promotion.
What we really disagree with, is the way that the Savile Row name has been diluted and thrown into brand-communication-sauces as a way to fool the public with products that are in fact less and less British and artisanal.
While not going as far as to claim that certain garments are still made in the UK (when in fact the vast majority of them are not), the current marketing gimmick used by deceitful marketers is to place a label onto garments that states that they have been conceived and designed by authentic and legendary British master tailors. This is an ultimate lie that anyone even slightly interested in our field can detect. Many of the new masters of Savile Row are no more British…but Italian designers. And their collections, as everyone knows, are designed where they are crafted, i.e. in mostly very professional and high quality Italian factories. So the infamous « Designed by the master tailors of Savile Row » that one can find on the labels (and the website) of The Kooples, probably the most industrial and least British brand you can dream of, is nothing short of a marketing abuse…
Among this permanent marketing noise within Savile Row, in the midst of a massive usurpation of a name which has become the Eldorado of the speculators of many countries, we should for once give credit to Abercrombie & Fitch : at least they don’t pretend that their gross tee-shirts are made, much less designed by Savile Row; and, they do not pretend that the ridiculous body-builders who guard the entrance of their shops have been trained by British master tailors !
Thankfully, in this Roman invasion, a few incorruptible British villages still resist and relentlessly try, with talent and courage, to keep the spirit and the artisan know-how of Savile Row alive : Joe Morgan (Chittleborough&Morgan), Henry Poole and Co., Dege & Skinner, Richard Anderson and Steven Hitchcock (St. George Street, Mayfair) are among the last bastions of the dream of an elegant British gentleman.
In this context, the opening of Gaziano and Girling on 39 Savile Row is fantastic news : Tony and Dean are indeed two authentic British craftsmen and the Savile Row name fits them like a bespoke pair of Oxfords. They bring a definitive breath of fresh air to a Golden Mile that recently turned into a « Gold Mine » for realtors and wind sellers….
We, who have had the vulnerability to believe that in this 21st century, there are still things that money cannot buy, have to admit that maybe we were wrong. Savile Row will likely never be the same and the heritage that is heavily advertised by people who have no idea what they’re talking about, is about to die.
We live in a strange world don’t we James ?”
London’s Savile Row Tailors Strive to Stay a Cut Above

AUGUST 23, 2013
London’s Savile Row Tailors Strive to Stay a Cut Above

Visitors to 10 Savile Row in London are greeted by photographs of the current Sultan of Oman in full military regalia. Deeper inside the shop of tailor Dege & Skinner, above a rack of silk handkerchiefs, hangs a smaller picture of Prince William. There’s a reason for the sultan’s exalted status: Half of Dege & Skinner’s revenue comes from outside the U.K., and that share is growing.Savile Row shops are struggling to stay relevant in a global marketplace where British clients increasingly buy tailored offerings from Italian luxury powerhouses such as Ermenegildo Zegna. Dege & Skinner, Savile Row’s first maker of bespoke (or tailor-sewn) shirts, this year began advertising for the first time in its 148-year history. It’s also taken to communicating with potential clients by e-mail. The fashion quarter, synonymous with British suits since 1733, has outfitted notables from Emperor Hirohito of Japan to Charles Dickens, and it’s showing its age. There are approximately 17 tailors now on the street, about half as many as 50 years ago. And there’s newer competition, such as Burberry Group(BURBY), which is offering its own bespoke tailoring in 70 of its stores globally.
The Savile Row Bespoke Association lost its battle to keep Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) from opening a children’s clothing store at the Beatles’ former London headquarters at No. 3 Savile Row, site of the 1969 rooftop concert that was the band’s final live performance. The U.S. retailer has agreed not to have promotional events, models at the entrance, or loud music or crowds outside the store. Still, the Bespoke Association said the retailer is “out of keeping with the Row and its iconic status,” according to Gieves & Hawkes Chairman Mark Henderson, a spokesman for the group.
And with midmarket clothiers like Suitsupply offering personally tailored suits for $899 in numerous countries, outlets like Dege & Skinner are simultaneously modernizing and touting their bona fides. “We’re true, proper Savile Row tailors as opposed to those who call themselves ones, who wouldn’t know scissors from shears,” Managing Director William Skinner says. The appeal of the tailor is its nod to “male pride,” he says. “Our job is to bring out the peacock side in men.”
Dege & Skinner, a family business founded in 1865, is steeped in British heritage. It outfits cadets at Britain’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, including Prince Harry and brother William. Skinner spends three months of the year outside England, setting up shop in hotel suites in cities such as New York and Houston for invitation-only fittings, or jetting off for one-on-one sessions with wealthy customers in the Middle East and Asia.
Demand for bespoke suits has out-paced the growth of the overall menswear market, driven by demand from Asia, says Mintel retail analyst Richard Perks. (The U.K. menswear market climbed 2 percent last year, according to Mintel.) But it’s not easy money. It takes about two months to make a £3,500 ($5,410) suit. That includes 55 hours of labor—and at least two fittings—by various members of Skinner’s team of 21 cutters and tailors.
Dege & Skinner, whose dressing room contains a blocked double-barrel shotgun for sportsmen to hold while trying on its £2,000 hunting blazers, isn’t the only tailor relying on overseas customers. Demand is increasingly coming from young Chinese men, some attending schools in Britain, who “aspire through reading literature to the finer things in life,” says Simon Cundey, director of Dege & Skinner’s Savile Row neighbor Henry Poole. The number of Middle Eastern shoppers, particularly from the wealthy emirate of Qatar, is also growing, while Russians and Ukrainians have provided a strong market for more than five years, Cundey says.
“They tend to look for the finest quality,” Skinner says of his foreign customers, who favor fabrics like cashmere-silk blends, which can push the cost of a suit up to £11,000. In contrast, Britons tend to buy for the “long term,” choosing classic-cut suits in woolen or cotton fabrics.
To lift demand for his sport coats, shirts, ties, and cuff links and bring back more Britons, Skinner has broken with tradition and e-mailed invitations to the tailor’s latest trunk shows rather than sending them by post. Dege & Skinner’s first ads—in publications like U.S. riding journals—come after over a century of building the business mainly by word of mouth and referrals. Skinner has even resorted to celebrity endorsements.
He says he’ll make suits at “an agreed rate,” lower than his normal fee, for men who are in the “right circles,” in exchange for knowing they’ll recommend Dege & Skinner to potential clients. That has included a young banker who recommended his boss and some professional athletes Skinner is loath to name. Some things don’t change: On Savile Row, discretion, as always, is of the essence.
The bottom line: On London’s Savile Row, custom suits can cost more than £11,000. The number of foreign customers is growing fast.

1 comment:

Brummagem Joe said...

I'm always slightly bemused when looking over the racks at places like Kiton and Cucinelli where they want 6000 bucks for an off the peg suit or sometimes just a coat. It's beautiful hand made stuff but for this kind of tin you can get bespoke suit at A&S. Instant gratification I suppose.