We need more British investment on Savile Row
Asian investors are quietly taking over
's home of bespoke
tailoring. Are we about to lose another British success story to foreign
ownership, asks David Gandy Britain
By David Gandy / 18 Feb 2014 / http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/fashion-and-style/10636181/We-need-more-British-investment-on-Savile-Row.html
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
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,
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. Britain
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
AUGUST 23, 2013
By Sarah Shannon on August 22, 2013 / http://bambooinnovator.com/2013/08/23/londons-savile-row-tailors-strive-to-stay-a-cut-above/
Visitors to 10 Savile Row in
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 London ,
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 U.K. 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. Japan
The Savile Row Bespoke Association lost its battle to keep Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) from opening a children’s clothing store at the Beatles’ former
headquarters at No. 3 Savile Row, site of the 1969 rooftop concert that was the
band’s final live performance. The London 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. U.S.
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
Military Academy Sandhurst, including Prince Harry and brother William. Skinner
spends three months of the year outside Britain 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
Demand for bespoke suits has out-paced the growth of the overall menswear market, driven by demand from
says Mintel retail analyst Richard Perks. (The 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. U.K.
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
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 Britain , is also
growing, while Russians and Ukrainians have provided a strong market for more
than five years, Cundey says. Qatar
“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
journals—come after over a century of building the business mainly by word of
mouth and referrals. Skinner has even resorted to celebrity endorsements. U.S.
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.