Saturday, 30 September 2023

Why Bespoke Savile Row Suits Are So Expensive | So Expensive | Insider B...

The female tailors of Savile Row


Cutting it: the female tailors shaking up Savile Row

By Chloe Street

28 February 2022


The world of bespoke suit and shirt-making has traditionally been a man’s world, says Chloe Street. But change is afoot, and these brilliant women are tearing up the rulebook at the seams


Say the words ‘bespoke suit fitting’ and the image conjured will likely be one of two men: the male client, trying on his made-to-measure tailoring, and the other a male tailor, pins and tape measure in hand.


But times are a-changing, and not only are more and more women embracing the delights of bespoke suiting, but there are increasing numbers of talented women joining the industry, many of whom are specifically focused on catering for them.


“Women have been present in the back rooms of the tailoring profession as finishers and assistant tailors for centuries,” says Kathryn Sargent, who runs an eponymous tailoring house on Brook Street near Savile Row. It’s “tradition, class systems and protocol” she says that have kept them from the front of house.


Daisy Knatchbull, founder of female-only tailoring specialists The Deck, thinks part of the problem has been a lack of obvious routes and role models for women wanting to enter the industry, “as well as unfortunate prejudices, sometimes not always conscious.”


However, not only are the barriers to entry being dismantled by a few pioneering women leading the way, but the increasing appetite from female clients means there’s increasing appetite for female tailors, as many women would rather be measured and fitted by another woman. “I think bespoke tailoring has become more accessible, more open to people, the myths have been debunked and people feel like exploring, expressing and investing in themselves,” says Sargent.


Not only does a bespoke suit have obvious appeal in terms of fit, but as we all become more eco-conscious, they’re growing in popularity as a sustainable, timeless investment that can be passed down for generations. “We’re seeing consumer tastes move away from the ‘more is more’ 90’s lifestyle to more considered, thought-through purchases,” says Phoebe Gormley, of Gormley & Gamble tailors. And Knatchbull agrees that people are “consolidating their wardrobes and looking to invest in longevity, versatility and durability. We have seen a huge increase in sales post-lockdown as the more conscious consumer is choosing to purchase high quality investment pieces such as a suit from The Deck.”


Feeling tempted? These are the female tailoring maestros to know…


Daisy Knatchbull, of The Deck


The Deck

Launched: 2019


The story: Knatchbull worked on Savile Row in her twenties, where she was “lucky enough to experience the empowering nature of a tailored suit young - something many women have never had the chance to experience in their life,” she says. Then, in 2016, she became the first woman to wear top hat and tails at Royal Ascot. The positive reactions she received inspired her to set up her business, with a mission to bring the magic of bespoke tailoring to more women. She is the first women-only tailor to have a shop address actually on the street Savile Row.


The service: She caters for a purely female client base, from ages 18 to 80, which is fairly unique on Savile Row. “We wanted to give women the chance to be focused on exclusively within tailoring and challenge the conception that being tted for a suit is an intimidating process by offering an empathetic women-for-women service; understanding their needs and emotional relationship with clothing,” she explains. “There are very few places making for women compared to men, and almost none for women only.”


The Deck offer four signature suit styles – the ‘suits of The Deck’ – which between them aim to offer something for every woman, regardless of shape or size. Each design is made to a client’s measurements as well as their cloth, lining and button preferences. They also offer waistcoats, skirts and dresses too with more categories in the pipeline.


“The process begins with us learning everything we can about the client - what she does, where she goes, what she likes - and together we ensure we are creating something that will last a lifetime in her wardrobe,” says Knatchbull. “Each suit tells a unique story, written by each of the women that wear one.”


Why she loves it: “For me the best part of my job is the moment a client tries on their finished suit, particularly a woman who has struggled their whole life to find trousers or a jacket that has ever fitted them because of their size, height or shape,” says Knatchbull. “I’ve had many women burst into tears, and women who cannot stop staring at themselves. It’s the most rewarding feeling. So I guess proud of making women feel more confident, strong and empowered in themselves. That’s what gets me out of bed each day!”


Kathryn Sargent, of Kathryn Sargent


Kathryn Sargent

Launched: 2012


The story: Sargent started at Gieves & Hawkes in the mid 90s and rose to the position of head cutter (the most senior role), becoming the first woman in the history of Savile Row to do so. “I always dreamed of my own atelier so that was the next logical move,” says Sargent, who became the first, and only, female Master Tailor in the Savile Row area when she opened her year-long seasonal store on Brook Street in 2016.


The service: Sargent, who’s been in the business 25 years, has trained in all aspects of tailoring and pattern cutting from the ground up in a traditional bespoke tailoring house, which gives her an unparalleled know-how. “I think my feminine qualities and being a very chatty person from Leeds has helped relax clients,” she says. “By getting to know them I can really make something that suits their lifestyle and body shape, making them them.”


Her clients are 50-50 male to female and number everyone from professionals to brides and grooms to be, NASA scientists, opera singers and famous athletes. She purposely doesn’t have a house style, but instead focuses on pieces that suit the client. “The beauty of bespoke tailoring is that it gives the wearer freedom to develop their own signature look that is completely unique to them,” she explains. “A beautifully tailored jacket frames your face in how the collar, shoulder line, shape of the lapel all relate to each other.  The cut should be in the correct proportions and flattering so the result appears effortless.”


Why she loves it: “I fell in love with Savile Row and Mayfair the first time I walked around, the sense of London history, it is the number one global destination for the craft of true bespoke tailoring,” she says. “Now it’s my world, I have many many friends throughout the area, it’s a little village, a community.” For Sargent, the best part is “to be able to create every day, meet amazing clients and, build the relationships I’ve built with clients, work with my amazing team.  I never know what the next commission will be!”


Phoebe Gormley, of Gormley & Gamble


Phoebe Gormley

Launched: 2014


The story: Phoebe Gormley started making clothes when she was 14, and ended up falling in love with cutting up her father’s old suits. She soon discovered Saville Row where she did several internships before heading to university. “With one hour of lectures per week I became bored enough to start writing a business plan,” she says, “and on seeing the viability of one women’s wear only tailors in a city with thousands of menswear tailors; I decided to take the gamble.” Gormley invested the money that was meant for her final year’s tuition fees (hence the gamble in the name) and opened G&G when she was 20, seven years ago.


“I stood out like a sore thumb as a woman and someone under 25,” she remembers. “The naivety of youth meant I didn’t know quite how much I would stick out until it was too late to turn back! So, I powered on.” Within a year she’d taken on a space just off Savile Row on Maddox Street, becoming the first women’s wear only tailors in the area in its 200-year history.


The service: Gormley caters to an entirely female client base and the majority of what they request can be split into three parts. The first is classic workwear: the second is occasion wear – “I adore making suit and separates for brides and guests,” says Gormley, “whether that’s a cream silk tuxedo to wear to the registry office or a perfect jacket to go over the already-found dress, there is so much passion and excitement in occasion wear, it’s always fun,” – and the final category is beautifully tailored pieces that aren’t suits.


“Womenswear is often confined within the measly scope of sizes XS, S, M, L, XL, whereas men’s has short, regular, long, classic fit, slim fit and extra slim, all of a size 36,” she says. “So we make lots of silk shirts, cashmere blazers, the perfect winter coat, for people who care about clothes that fit properly. I also love working with silk and mixtures of patterns, textures and materials, everything from Loro Piana wool/cashmeres to Liberty print silks, it’s all possible in womenswear,” says Gormley, who dresses everyone from princesses to schoolgirls, CEOs, brides and bright-eyed graduates.


Why she loves it: For Gormley, its all about empowering women. “When a woman says ‘nothing fits me’ she blames her body. When a man says ‘nothing fits me’ he thinks, ‘so I’ll have it made’. Your body isn’t wrong, it’s not too curvy, too straight, too long or too short, your shoulders aren’t too big, your boobs aren’t too big. Off-the-peg sizing is a joke, and you are a goddess,” she says. I adore giving women a place to resolve this total failure of off-the-peg sizing, partnering it with immaculate customer service, and hundreds of years old heritage craftsmanship and British manufacturing, and making heirloom pieces that last a lifetime, not just a season. It’s a total joy to do my job.”


Emma Willis MBE, of Emma Willis


Emma Willis

Launched: 1999


The story: Having worked for other menswear brands, Willis launched her own label in 1989, focusing on bespoke shirts made in England from the finest materials. Initially she sold her bespoke shirts in City offices before putting down roots on Jermyn Street in St James in 1999.


All her shirts are designed, cut, stitched and finished at Bearland House in the centre of Gloucester – “British bespoke shirt making is rare as is having one’s own manufacturing employing and training locally,” says Willis, who also established a charity Style for Soldiers in 2008, which provides smart clothing to injured service personnel.


The service: Willis, who employs an all-female team of cutters, makes beautiful bespoke shirts using the very best Swiss and Italian fabrics in quiet, elegant designs and colours. Her clients are mainly men, and span everyone from film producers to hedge fund managers, farmers and property dealers, but she has many female customers too and a ready-to -wear collection on Net a Porter.


Why she loves it: “Our shop is very social with our customers often meeting and befriending one another,” she says. “I get visitors from all over the world and post pandemic this has been even more enjoyable with the sense of relief to be able to see each other again and meet new people.”


For Willis though, the best part is the people she meets in her shop. “I never know who it may be next and all those amazing contacts have enabled me to do with my charity and other initiatives.”

Thursday, 28 September 2023

BIOGRAPHY OF MICHAEL GAMBON / The Olivier award-winning actor, whose major film roles included Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series, has died

Michael Gambon, star of Harry Potter and The Singing Detective, dies aged 82


The Olivier award-winning actor, whose major film roles included Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series, has died


Chris Wiegand

Thu 28 Sep 2023 12.39 BST


Sir Michael Gambon, whose extraordinary acting career took him from Laurence Olivier’s nascent National Theatre to screen roles in The Singing Detective and the Harry Potter films, has died at the age of 82.


A statement on behalf of his wife, Lady Gambon, and son, Fergus, issued by publicist Clair Dobbs, said: “We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon. Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus at his bedside, following a bout of pneumonia. Michael was 82. We ask that you respect our privacy at this painful time and thank you for your messages of support and love.”


Memorably called “The Great Gambon” by Ralph Richardson, and admired by generations of fellow actors, he excelled in plays by Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett and Alan Ayckbourn. “I owe an enormous amount to Michael,” said Ayckbourn on Thursday. “He was a remarkable stage performer. It was a privilege to watch him at work on my stuff. You couldn’t really term it acting – more an act of spontaneous combustion.”


It was Ayckbourn who directed him in 1987 in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, which won Gambon an Olivier award for his performance as the conflicted Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie Carbone. Gambon also starred in Ayckbourn’s ambitious trilogy The Norman Conquests. Other key roles included the eponymous scientist in Brecht’s The Life of Galileo at the National Theatre in 1980, and as the restaurateur returning to visit a former lover in David Hare’s Skylight, which earned him a Tony award nomination on Broadway in the mid-90s.


Gambon’s Harry Potter co-star Fiona Shaw told BBC Radio 4 that he was “a brilliant, magnificent trickster” who “varied his career remarkably and never judged what he was doing, he just played”. Dame Eileen Atkins told the BBC that “he just had to walk on stage and he commanded the whole audience immediately”.


Among those paying tribute on social media was Jason Isaacs, who said: “I learned what acting could be from Michael in The Singing Detective – complex, vulnerable and utterly human.” David Baddiel said that the first time he had seen “any Theatre with a capital T” was Life of Galileo at the National and that Gambon’s 1980 performance remains “the best stage acting I’ve ever seen”. The actor Peter Egan described Gambon as “one of the funniest men on the planet and a great actor”.


After Gambon enjoyed an arthouse film success with Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989), he proceeded to take roles in major movies such as Sleepy Hollow, The Insider and Gosford Park. Then, with a flowing beard and tassel hat, he portrayed Harry Potter’s professor Albus Dumbledore in several blockbusters, taking over the role from Richard Harris after his death in 2002. He lent his rich voice to many films, including as Uncle Pastuzo in both Paddington movies and as the narrator of the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar!


With an imposing frame and rueful features, Gambon described himself as looking like the manager of a department store and a “big, interesting old bugger” while Ayckbourn once called him a “wonderful, limitless machine, like a Lamborghini”. Adored by audiences, with a powerful presence that could add weight to the lightest of material, Gambon shielded his privacy and reluctantly gave interviews. In 2004 he told the Observer: “I just plod on and try to keep my mouth shut.”


Gambon left school aged 15 and, unlike many of his contemporaries, did not receive any formal training at drama school, instead gaining experience through performing in amateur productions. He was born in Dublin in 1940; his father moved to London and was a reserve policeman during the second world war. Gambon was taken over to England by his mother to join him at the end of the war. They later moved to Kent, where at the age of 16 he began an engineering apprenticeship in the Vickers-Armstrongs factory. He began to work in amateur theatre as a set builder, then ended up on stage instead in bit parts at the Unity theatre and the Tower theatre in London.


He bluffed his way into his first professional roles by fibbing about his experience, making his debut in Dublin in a small role in Othello. Aged 22, he had his West End debut as an understudy in The Bed-Sitting Room. He also took an acting course at the Royal Court run by George Devine and William Gaskill.


Gambon said that he had never seen a Shakespeare production before he acted in one himself. He had minor Shakespeare roles at the National Theatre and auditioned for the company by performing the role of Richard III – recently and iconically played by Laurence Olivier – in front of Olivier himself. He appeared in Othello at the National with Olivier and in Hamlet starring Peter O’Toole. Then, on the advice of Olivier, Gambon left the National to join the Birmingham Repertory theatre in order to be given larger roles, which included the title part in Othello. Aged 30, he played Macbeth in a production in Billingham that he described as being set in outer space. In the early 80s, he was at the Royal Shakespeare Company performing in Adrian Noble’s productions of King Lear and Antony and Cleopatra, sometimes both in the same day, the latter staged at a breakneck pace. In 2005, Nicholas Hytner directed him as Falstaff in Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 at the National Theatre.


On television, he had massive hits with series about two very different sleuths. The first was Dennis Potter’s musical noir The Singing Detective, which cast him as a mystery novelist hospitalised with psoriatic arthritis. The second was a set of Maigret thrillers, playing Belgian author Georges Simenon’s eponymous Parisian policeman. He also played an angel alongside Simon Callow in a TV version of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America.


After appearing in the Samuel Beckett plays Endgame, Eh Joe, Krapp’s Last Tape and All That Fall, Gambon began to withdraw from stage work. In 2014, he said he was having difficulty remembering his lines: “I feel sad about it. I love the theatre but I can’t see myself playing massive parts again.” In 2009, illness led to his withdrawal from starring in Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art at the National Theatre, just weeks before opening night, replaced by Richard Griffiths.


Harold Pinter’s plays had brought Gambon some of his best roles, including Jerry in the love triangle of Betrayal and the elegant Hirst in No Man’s Land. After he had stopped performing on stage, his rich, unmistakeable voice could at least be heard in Jamie Lloyd’s production of Mountain Language in the all-star Pinter at the Pinter season in the West End in 2018.

Michael Gambon RIP

BREAKING: Harry Potter actor Sir Michael Gambon has died

Tuesday, 26 September 2023

The Emily in Paris fantasy tour


Forget the Emily in Paris fantasy tour, it’s not a patch on the life I live here

Pamela Druckerman

Best-selling American author says the new Netflix-endorsed city break doesn’t show the best features of her adopted home – free preschool, university and healthcare


Sun 24 Sep 2023 00.00 EDT


The news flashed up like a red béret: Netflix has endorsed a real-life Emily in Paris-themed trip to the French capital, based on its hit TV show. The four-night visit includes a masterclass on “the art of flirting” (taught by a woman meant to resemble Emily’s cruel-but-sexy boss); a lesson on baking pain au chocolat; optional runs along the Seine, like Emily takes in the series; and many evening apéros.


There is no shortage of Emily-themed activities in Paris. The tourist office publishes its own guide to destinations from the show, and there are dozens of unofficial tours (several warn participants not to attempt their three-hour walks wearing stilettos). Last autumn I attended an American’s Emily-themed bar mitzvah here; the party T-shirt had stars of David inserted into the cross-hatches of the Eiffel Tower.


But Netflix’s official “Paris by Emily” tour (the first one is scheduled for next April) reaches a new level of TV-meets-world surreality: the makers of a TV show about an American fantasy of Paris are trying to deliver that imagined version of the city to real-life visitors. It’s as if Lewis Carroll sponsored guided tours of Wonderland, or George Lucas offered to take you into space. (The tour’s starting rate of £2,928 per person, not including airfare, suggests organisers have the means to remove any unwanted sights.)


It’s hard to track all the vectors of meta-weirdness. The inaugural tour guide or “Emileader”, Ines Tazi, is a French-Moroccan Instagram sensation who has appeared on Netflix reality TV shows. (“I love creating bridges between online and offline, fiction and reality,” she says.) Whereas the fictional Emily posts Paris-themed selfies, the tour operator – a company called Dharma – promises a trip that’s “designed to be iconic from every angle, ensuring you don’t just live your best life – you have the pics to prove it”.


At first glance, the Emily tour seems like another case of media companies trying to upsell their fanciest subscribers, just as the rich have come to expect exclusive, highly curated activities where they mingle with each other. Tour participants can pay extra for a hair and makeup service, or to create their own perfume. Netflix is American, so they’ll presumably have to arrange any extramarital affairs on their own.


But I think the desire to be subsumed in an escapist TV show is a product of our current cultural moment, too. Americans have dreamed of Paris ever since Benjamin Franklin marvelled over the city’s stylish inhabitants in the 18th century, and wrote that he “was once very near making love to my friend’s wife”. But the Paris fantasy has taken on special resonance in the face of terrifying climate change; vast and growing political cleavages; eroding rights for American women; and the possibility of future pandemics.


In a recent IFOP poll for the website Bonjour New York of 1,113 Americans aged 18 and over, 36% said they’d like to live in France, up from 20% in 2005. There may be an Emily effect: among those who had watched the series, 54% said they would live or work in France if they could, compared with 25% of those who had not.


Among Americans in Paris like me, identifying errors on the show – from the oversized apartments to the French people speaking English to each other – has become a kind of sport. But the show’s fans fact check in reverse: they consider the scripted version of Paris to be the gold standard, and reality a poor second-best. Tourists have written scathing reviews of a bakery featured in the series, because its real-life croissants didn’t provide the Emily’s transcendent experience. “We’re just a neighbourhood boulangerie, we’re not selling dreams,” one employee said.


Emily fans seem to crave a place – even an imagined one – without disappointments, where bad things rarely happen. In the IFOP poll, about half of viewers insisted Paris has no rats or homeless people and 76% said they believed “most French people dress elegantly in their every-day lives”. Lily Collins, who plays Emily, admitted that, after all the prancing on cobblestones in heels, she had to get orthopaedic inserts.


The series wants it both ways. When Collins appeared on the French talk show C à vous last year, an interviewer said the show was a “postcard” that ignores the city’s reality. “We own every aspect of the show being fantasy based, and also based in a realism, showing Paris in many different ways,” Collins replied.


The French want it both ways, too. They groan about the cliches, but they like the attention and the tourist spending, and French Vogue put Collins on its cover. (In another boomerang, Collins said she’s starting to dress more like the character she plays on the show.) And to be fair, it’s sometimes hard to know where the Parisian stereotypes end and real life begins. A woman in the French fashion industry recently told me that she once spent an evening trying to keep her boss’s mistress away from his wife at an office party, just like on the show.


Perhaps boosted by the series, the past few months in Paris felt like a full-scale American invasion. Even at cafes far from the Emily loop, I often heard more English than French. Visits to the Paris region were up 27% in the first four months of 2023 on the same period last year (they’re still 2.5% below 2019 levels). Americans and Britons comprise the biggest groups of foreign visitors.


With Emily’s fourth season approaching I’d suggest another kind of escapist speciality tour: one that introduces foreigners to France’s free preschools; its practically free universities; and its universal healthcare. Real-life Paris is trying to address climate change by installing kilometres of bike lanes and making Europe’s biggest expansion of its public transit system, with 68 new metro stations in the suburbs.


Instead of honing the seduction skills of anxious Americans, the social services tour would show them an encouraging, alternative model for how to run a country. Perhaps I’ll set it up. I wonder how much I could charge.


Pamela Druckerman, an American writer based in Paris, is the author of five books including French Children Don’t Throw Food