20TH CENTURY (POST 1950)
1952: Douglas Fairbanks Jr declares, ‘Savile Row has recaptured the tailoring supremacy of the world.’ Fairbanks Jr is one of the 20th century heroes of Savile Row. It is recorded in Anderson & Sheppard’s ledgers that he recommended Marlene Dietrich to the firm when she was in England making the Russian revolution epic Knight Without Armour.
1953: Queen Elizabeth II is crowned with the tailoring firms Wilkinson & Son (owned by J. Dege & Sons) and Ede & Ravenscroft in attendance at Westminster Abbey to dress the monarch, visiting royals and peers of the realm for what is the most elaborate ceremonial occasion in the nation’s calendar. The military uniforms, the ambassadors’ court dress and national and colonial liveries on display show off the mastery of the grand old Savile Row houses of Henry Poole, Davies & Son and Welsh & Jeffries.
1955: Hardy Amies is granted The Queen’s Royal Warrant and remains court dressmaker until his retirement in 2002. Stanley Lock takes over C E Phipps, which was founded in 1898 to produce embroideries for the burgeoning fashion industry.
1958: G.J. Cleverley & Co, Savile Row’s preferred bespoke shoemaker, opens at 27 Cork Street in Mayfair. The firm goes on to make shoes for Sir Winston Churchill, Laurence Olivier, Fred Astaire, Clark Gable and Sir John Gielgud.
1959: Kilgour, French & Stanbury create Cary Grant’s iconic suits for Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. Savile Row is recognised as the pinnacle of masculine elegance by cinema goers worldwide and North by North West and Grant achieve for bespoke Savile Row tailoring what Audrey Hepburn and Breakfast at Tiffany’s did for haute couture and ‘the little black dress’ two years later in 1961.
1961: Tragedy strikes Henry Poole & Co. The lease expires on Poole’s Savile Row palace and the company is forced to relocate to Cork Street. Despite protests in The Daily Telegraph, Poole’s inexplicably unlisted building is raised to the ground. Lost during this period are the patterns cut for iconic Poole customers Napoleon III, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens and Edward VII. Mercifully, the firm’s ledgers survive. Hawes & Curtis predict a glowing future as a ‘first class tailor’ for apprentice John Pearse. Instead, Pearse drops out, tours Europe, then opens the infamous boutique ‘Granny Takes A Trip’ in the Kings Road in 1965, where he dresses Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.
1963: Maurice Sedwell opens his shop on Savile Row.
1966: H. Huntsman & Sons is invited to make bespoke suits for the England football team which wins the World Cup.
1967: Tommy Nutter and Edward Sexton meet as salesboy and cutter respectively at Donaldson, Williams & Ward in Burlington Arcade. They will go on to form the most creative partnership in Savile Row’s history.
1969: Nutters of Savile Row opens on Valentine’s Day and unleashes the Tommy Nutter/Edward Sexton style on swinging London. Backed by Cilla Black and The Beatles’ record company Apple’s executive Peter Brown, Nutters of Savile Row dresses the entire social spectrum from the Duke of Bedford and Lord Montagu to Mick and Bianca Jagger and The Beatles. Nutters is the first shop on Savile Row to pioneer ‘open windows’ and exhibits some wild displays by Simon Doonan. Mount Street bespoke tailor to the stars Douglas Hayward dresses Michael Caine in the famous bullion robbery caper The Italian Job. Caine’s skinny suits and tone-on-tone white shirt and tie combinations set a cocky, sharp tailored style that resonates today.
1971: Maverick screen actress Katherine Hepburn, whose long-term lover Spencer Tracey was a customer of Huntsman, takes the extraordinary step of ordering bespoke denim jeans from her late lover’s Savile Row tailor. Hepburn’s commission foreshadows bespoke denim collections launched in 2006 by Timothy Everest and Evisu. Huntsman’s very stylish Head Cutter Colin Hammick tops Savile Row devotees Rex Harrison, Lord Snowdon and the Duke of Windsor in Tailor & Cutter magazine’s prestigious best dressed list.
1973: Robert Redford stars in the definitive film of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald was a dedicated customer of Jermyn Street bespoke shirt maker Turnbull & Asser. The shirts that reduce The Great Gatsby’s socialite heroine Daisy (Mia Farrow) to tears with their beauty in the film all bear the Turnbull & Asser bespoke label.
1974: Gieves Ltd acquires Hawkes (and the precious freehold of No 1 Savile Row) and becomes Gieves & Hawkes.Tommy Nutter seeks sanctuary at Kilgour, French & Stanbury after his acrimonious exit from Nutters of Savile Row. Kilgour also incorporates the famed hunt tailoring specialist Bernard Weatherill. Nutters of Savile Row continues with Sexton, Roy Chittleborough and Joseph Morgan. Maurice Sedwell hires Trinidad-born Andrew Ramroop who will go on to become Managing Director and a Professor of tailoring at the London College of Fashion.
1976: Gieves & Hawkes and Anderson & Sheppard alumnus Anthony Hewitt opens his own bespoke tailoring shop on Savile Row, A.J.Hewitt. The company prospers thanks to the Middle Eastern oil boom and the advent of young cutters Ravi Tailor and James Levett in 1979.
1978: 007 actor Roger Moore becomes a tax exile and invites his friend and tailor Douglas Hayward to his Cote d’Azur villa to dress him for the next James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. It is acknowledged that Hayward’s back-to-classic navy pinstripe three-piece suit is Bond at his sartorial best.
1979: Davies & Son is forced to leave its handsome Hanover Street townhouse where a private room had been set aside for King George V that was fitted with a tube not dissimilar to a hose pipe to communicate with the tailors upstairs. While clearing out the attic sets, which were reserved as places of assignation for titled customers to meet their mistresses, the firm discovers a bill for Sir Robert Peel (founder of London’s first police force) from 1829.
1980: A year into Margaret Thatcher’s reign as British Prime Minister, Andrew Ramroop becomes unofficial tailor to half the Tory Cabinet, which restores a pride in Savile Row bespoke tailoring to the corridors of power in the Palace of Westminster.
1981: H.M.Sultan Qaboos of Oman confers his exotic Royal Warrant on J.Dege & Sons. In arguably the most exotic commission conferred on a Savile Row tailor, Sultan Qaboos commanded Dege & Skinner to create uniforms for his Royal Oman Police Camel Pipe Band.
1981: H.R.H. The Prince of Wales marries Lady Diana Spencer at St Paul’s Cathedral. Gieves & Hawkes make the uniform for Prince Charles while the pageboys – including Lord Frederick Windsor and Edward van Cutsem – are dressed in Naval Cadet uniforms that were originally made by the firm for Prince Charles’s Grandfather King George VI and his Great Uncle The Duke of Windsor when they served as Royal Navy Cadets aboard H.M.S. Britannia. Roy Chittleborough & Joseph Morgan part company with Edward Sexton and continue trading under their own names. Edward Sexton opens his shop at 37 Savile Row and cements his reputation as Savile Row’s jet setting export, establishing a formidable business in the United States.
1982: Henry Poole MD Angus Cundey brings the firm back to Savile Row after twenty-years in exile on Cork Street.
1984: 24 year old East Ender Mark Powell opens Powell & Co on Soho’s Archer Street. His look – a re-mix of sartorial influences such as Neo-Edwardian, 30s Mobster and 60s Kray twin chic – pays homage to the creativity of Tommy Nutter and paves the way for the new generation of Savile Row tailors of the 1990s.
1985: After an encounter with Federico Fellini in Rome and a subsequent career as a maverick filmmaker, John Pearse returns to tailoring and opens a shop on Soho’s Meard Street.
1990: H.R.H. The Prince of Wales appoints Welsh & Jeffries his military tailor.
1991: Former Tommy Nutter apprentice Timothy Everest – who answered Nutter’s newspaper advertisement for a ‘Boy Wanted’ – opens his first bespoke tailoring shop in an East End Georgian townhouse declaring, ‘Opening a shop on Savile Row would be like moving in with my parents.’
1992: Richard James, the first of the ‘New Generation’ tailors, opens a shop on Savile Row. James introduces Saturday opening (a revolution on Savile Row) and a fashionable edge not seen since the house of Nutter’s glory days. Tommy Nutter dies. As a fitting epitaph, the outlandish purple suit Jack Nicholson wears playing The Joker, which was one of Nutter’s final commissions, appears on screen in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns.
1996: Ozwald Boateng unleashes his exotic, electric concept of Bespoke Couture on Savile Row from his new shop at No 9 Vigo Street.
1997: Ozwald Boateng, Richard James and Timothy Everest are christened ‘The New Generation’ on Savile Row and photographed by Michael Roberts for the London Swings Again issue of Vanity Fair. Alan Bennett buys Davies & Son, and incorporates Johns & Pegg, James & James, and Wells of Mayfair. Gianni Versace is shot dead outside his Miami palazzo. It emerges that in his later years the designer had become a bespoke customer at J. Dege & Sons (now Dege & Skinner), in addition to buying made-to-measure from Richard James. Diana, Princess of Wales is tragically killed in a car accident with Dodi Al Fayed in Paris on August 30th. Orders under construction for the Princess that were never collected are still held by Maurice Sedwell on Savile Row, John Lobb on St James’s Street and Turnbull & Asser on Jermyn Street.
1998: A.J. Hewitt acquires the colonial bespoke tailoring specialist Airey & Wheeler.
2000: Richard James acquires the biggest shop space on Savile Row at No 29. The ‘goldfish bowl’ glass windows slice Savile Row and Clifford Street at right angles like a breathtaking infinity pool of bespoke, made-to-measure and ready-to-wear Richard James.
2001: Former Huntsman head cutter Richard Anderson opens his bespoke tailoring house at No 13 Savile Row. His partner and co-founder is Brian Lishak, a Huntsman man with half a century of experience on the Row. Having apprenticed while still at St Martin’s fashion college with Edward Sexton, Stella McCartney invites Sexton to develop the tailoring for her debut as creative director of Chloe. On the embroidery front, S. Lock and M. Hand come together to form Hand & Lock.
2002: In an intriguing collaboration, former Anderson & Sheppard apprentice and enfant terrible of British fashion Alexander McQueen unveils a bespoke collection made by H. Huntsman & Sons. The exquisite but prohibitively costly enterprise is quietly terminated. Nick Hart opens Spencer Hart at 36 Savile Row, combining a bespoke sensibility with the severe chic of old school Prada, Jil Sander and Helmut Lang. He goes on to dress David Bowie, Jay-Z, Jamie Foxx and Kanye West.
2003: After a management buyout, Kilgour drops the French & Stanbury and appoints Carlo Brandelli as creative director. The house sets about ‘sexing-up’ Savile Row in a strategy not dissimilar to Tom Ford’s at Gucci in 1995. Sir Hardy Amies, a Savile Row legend and one of its greatest patrons, dies. He is succeeded by his protégée Ian Garlant, who remains creative director of the house.
2004: The Savile Row Bespoke Association, the organisation designed to represent bespoke tailors’ interests on the Row, is formed. Founder members include the Royal Family of bespoke tailoring: Anderson & Sheppard, Dege & Skinner, Gieves & Hawkes and Henry Poole. Having flirted with liquidation, H. Huntsman & Sons is saved by four sympathetic investors including present MD David Coleridge. The Savile Row Bespoke Association acts to protect the craft and good name of Savile Row and ward off interlopers by registering the Savile Row Bespoke Association label. The label is to appear in each of the Savile Row Bespoke Association members’ bespoke garments and serves as a guarantee to the customer that he or she is in receipt of a genuine, bespoke, made on Savile Row piece of clothing.
2005: Anderson & Sheppard is forced to vacate No 30 Savile Row and relocate to 32 Old Burlington Street. Gieves & Hawkes make morning coats for The Princes William and Harry to wear at the wedding of their father Prince Charles to Camilla Parker-Bowles (now Duchess of Cornwall). Timothy Everest edges closer to Savile Row with a bespoke and made-to-measure studio on Bruton Place in Mayfair. Young entrepreneur Patrick Grant and his investors acquire Norton & Sons from the Granger family. Tom Ford exits Gucci Group as creative director and commissions Anderson & Sheppard to make white tie and tails for a defiant photo shoot in W magazine to publicise the launch of his own bespoke tailoring house. Embroiderers Hand & Lock move to Margaret Street.
2006: Gieves, the fashion-led boutique brand within Gieves & Hawkes designed by Joe Casely-Hayford, is shown on the catwalk during Paris Fashion Week for the first time. Henry Poole’s Savile Row lease is signed for a further 15 years and both shop and workshops are gutted and refurbished to bring Poole’s into the 21st Century. Ozwald Boateng’s US reality TV show The House of Boateng is aired on Robert Redford’s Sundance Channel and brings his vision of New Generation Savile Row dandyism to the cable generation. Chittleborough & Morgan open a new space in the basement of No 12 Savile Row. Richard Anderson rocks the Row with a black sequin dinner jacket that is ordered by Bryan Ferry and photographed worldwide. Douglas Hayward’s daughter Polly succeeds her father as MD of the company.
2007: Florentine fashion foundation Pitti Immagine Uomo commission the first major exhibition dedicated to Savile Row bespoke tailoring. Titled The London Cut, The exhibition runs for a month at Palazzo Pitti and is accompanied by a book written by the curator James Sherwood. The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture invites Savile Row to bring The London Cut to the British Ambassador’s residence in Paris during July Couture Week. Richard James opens a new shop on Clifford Street dedicated entirely to his bespoke service while Ozwald Boateng takes Anderson & Sheppard’s old site at No 30 Savile Row for his first flagship store and cutting room. After a brief, unhappy marriage between Japanese jeans brand Evisu and Anthony J Hewitt, Hewitt MD Ravi Tailor leaves the Row to work from L.G. Wilkinson on St George’s Street. Robert Gieve, the fifth and last generation of the family to serve Gieves & Hawkes, dies.
2008: The legendary celebrity tailor Douglas (The Italian Job) Hayward dies. A new Archive Room at Gieves & Hawkes at No 1 Savile Row is curated by James Sherwood and inaugurated in honour of the late Robert Gieve. In March 2008 The London Cut exhibition is invited to show at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Tokyo. A satellite exhibition then travels to Isetan in Tokyo where Savile Row dominates the prestigious store’s windows and exhibition space. A three one-hour episide documentary mapping a year in the life of Savile Row is aired on BBC4 while BBC2 follows The London Cut to Tokyo for a further British fashion series to be aired in the autumn. One of the Row’s best dressed men, former Huntsman Head Cutter Brian Hammick, sadly dies.
2009: Queues form when Savile Row puts on its revealing ‘Below the Row’ show for one of the Victoria & Albert museum’s Friday Late exhibitions. Curated in conjunction with the V&A by students Chris Pollard and Susan Paisley, the exhibition shines light on the ‘dark art’ of bespoke tailoring by creating a working tailor’s shop and rarely seen subterranean workshop. The public’s increasing interest in the inner goings on of the Row is served with the publication of Richard Anderson’s fascinating book Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped & Smooth.
2010: Savile Row gathers en masse at the vibrantly refurbished Savoy hotel in London to celebrate the publication of James Sherwood’s definitive study of the Row’s inhabitants and their craft, Savile Row: The Master Tailors of British Bespoke. To help the occasion along, the Savoy invents the Savile Row Collins, a fine, stealthy gin based cocktail. Onlookers are agog as sheep appear on a grassed over Row for the hugely successful Savile Row Field Day, which is held in support of the Campaign for Wool, whose aim it is to increase demand and awareness of the wool industry.
2011: Another insider’s account of life on the Row as Michael Skinner’s (he of Dege & Skinner) enthralling book The Savile Row Cutter is published. The 150th anniversary of the tuxedo is celebrated by its inventor Henry Poole & Co and students of the London College of Fashion, who, in conjunction with fabric supplier Dormeuil, set about re-inventing the iconic jacket. The 21st century tuxedos go on display in Harrods and Burlington Arcade in London before appearing at the tuxedo historical society in New York. Does any other jacket have its own historical society?
2012: Emma Martin of Dege & Skinner wins BBC3’s jazz themed Young Tailor of the Year award, with her Oxford Bags wowing the judges. Savile Row is the scene of a very well dressed protest as scores of readers of The Chap magazine assemble outside No. 3 to protest against Abercrombie & Fitch’s plans to take over the building. June, and the tailors of the Row play their part in the British Fashion Council’s inaugural London Collections: Men by hosting Savile Row Open Day (see the News section) and a stunning cocktail party in Burlington Arcade.
2013: Savile Row’s stunning contribution to the second London Collections: Men is The English Gentleman at Spencer House. Sixty models are dressed by the Row’s tailors and effortlessly demonstrate that Savile Row remains the centre of classic men’s style. March, and the Savile Row Room opens at The Campaign For Wool’s Wool House exhibition at Somerset House with queues quickly forming for the cutting and tailoring masterclass demonstrations. An exciting new chapter begins for Huntsman as internationally acclaimed couturier Roubi L’Roubi takes the reins of this most venerable of Savile Row houses as owner and Creative Director.
2014: The Row makes its own inimitable contribution to London Collections: Men men’s fashion week with its brilliantly original The English Gentleman presentation at The Cabinet War Rooms in January and the fascinating Meet Me in Rio film in July. May sees Open Row, as our members work together with our partners Chivas to open their doors and give 300 style-conscious individuals a never before behind-the-scenes look at the workings of our famous street.
2015: The year gets off to a flying start with Savile Row’s The English Gentleman taking up the prestigious closing spot of January’s London Collections: Men with another eye-catching presentation of the art of bespoke tailoring and contemporary men’s style, this time at Apsley House, the palatial London home of the Duke of Wellington. To coincide with LC:M, the revered Huntsman opens an in-house pop-up store at 11 Savile Row to showcase the collection of clothing inspired by the role of a fictional spy HQ that it plays in the major new feature film Kingsman: The Secret Service.