Since Henry Poole & Co established itself on Savile Row in 1846, the small street in the heart of London’s Mayfair has earned a mighty international reputation for offering the finest craftsmanship from the best bespoke tailors in the world.
The word ‘unique’ can be wrongly used but in this case, it applies to Savile Row because there is no other street like it anywhere in the world. Many of its historic buildings still only permit tailors to take up residence if they are continuing the tradition of hand-tailoring garments on the premises. This is partly what gives the Row its unassailable authenticity. Visitors immediately sense that behind all those discreet, historic façades, there is the continual buzz of artisans and craftsmen at work.
Despite its long history, Savile Row constantly adapts to change. When working from home did away with the need for office wear, some were gloomy about the future of the formal suit – but Savile Row tailors knew better. Every Savile Row tailor will tell you that collectively they are a resourceful lot, and never more so than during lockdown, which saw the Row taking giant innovative strides to benefit and reward the loyalty of its customers. For example, Huntsman worked with telepresence Ohmni robots, used in virtual surgery, that have the necessary levels of precision to undertake virtual fittings. One of Huntsman’s most ambitious tasks to date has been perfecting its cloth library, sharing over 11,000 cloths online from different merchants, enabling customers to design their own jackets from home. It has also adapted its innovative online service to include virtual shopping platform HERO, so customers can connect with shop assistants live. Meanwhile, the concierge service Toshi arrived on the Row, collecting suits and taking them to customers, waiting outside to return them after they had been tried on.
Today, the tailors’ optimism and resilience are being rewarded by a surge in demand, as clients flock back to the Row, grateful to be casting aside their throwaway casual wear for a beautiful, enduring heirloom.
Indeed, every Savile Row suit is made with such experience, craftsmanship and care, that it will last a lifetime and be passed to the next generation. Plus, the pure wool and tweeds favoured by the Row are renowned for being environmentally friendly.
Dugdale Bros & Co, which has supplied Savile Row with cloth from its Huddersfield mill for 125 years, now has a residency on the Row, beneath The Service. The Service is a coffee shop, exhibition space and marketplace, but more than that, it offers a window into Savile Row’s authentic soul. Here you will find tailors discussing their craft over coffee or popping downstairs to choose a bolt of cloth from Dugdales. Its popularity is proof that Savile Row is as thriving and busy as ever.
Savile Row has recently welcomed The Savile Row Valet, a pop-up that can alter suits for the next generation and offers pressing, dry cleaning and repairs, equipped to deal with all the Row’s exquisite finishing details like bespoke buttonholes.
The tailors are united in their commitment to excellence and the continuation of their craft. Yet all are distinct, with rich and varied histories. Henry Poole is known for inventing the dinner jacket in 1865, when the Prince of Wales and future King Edward VII (known to his family and friends as Bertie) asked Henry Poole to cut a short coat he could wear at informal dinners at Sandringham. Henry Poole accordingly shortened the traditional tailcoat and presented the evening jacket to the Prince of Wales in celestial blue. It was soon popularised in America as the tuxedo.
Dege & Skinner has an unsurpassed reputation for uniforms and made Prince William’s and Harry’s dress uniforms for their weddings. Huntsman, of course, has been immortalised by the Kingsman films, and is sought out for its morning suits (both Jack Brooksbank and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi donned a Huntsman morning suit when marrying Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice respectively).
Cad & The Dandy started in the City and remains popular for a sharper, younger look and now has a ready-to-wear collection within its new store at 7-8 Savile Row in collaboration with Arthur Sleep, the first-ever British shoemaker to make shoes on Savile Row and London’s first shoe-making factory in over a century. Hackett took over the Hardy Amies store and launched its bespoke line, J.P. Hackett, and has a ready-to-wear collection exclusive to Savile Row. Anderson & Sheppard has a reputation for more flamboyant partywear, like the pink velvet suit that Daniel Craig wore on the red carpet – and the great American author Fran Lebowitz has suits made there too.
Chittleborough & Morgan’s signature is the stitching it puts inside jackets, from Welsh dragons to the Suffragette colours it embroiders inside womenswear. Norton & Sons takes a more minimal approach, more akin to a Bond Street atelier, and famously only ever displays one immaculately dressed mannequin in its window, while inside there is just a blue sofa and walls hung with very good art. Richard Anderson makes jackets with plentiful, clever pockets for the intrepid traveller. Edward Sexton continues to champion the famous Tommy Nutter look, who was known for dressing the Beatles and launching the new bespoke movement.
Finally, and most recently, there is The Deck, launched by Daisy Knatchbull, the first ever shopfront on the Row to cater exclusively to women. Savile Row might look elegantly restrained but it is bursting with innovation and variety to suit all ages and genders.
In June 2022 Savile Row is hosting its eagerly anticipated Concours on Savile Row, which will see tailors partner with a car marque, for example Henry Poole with Land Rover, Hackett with Aston Martin, Huntsman with Bentley and Norton & Sons with Lotus.
Travel restrictions might have prevented international trunk shows during the pandemic, but Savile Row is testament to the fact that quality and fine craftsmanship will always be in demand. The concentration of extraordinary talent and ideas in one tiny area of London gives the Row its energy and reputation, which are guaranteed to survive – along with its superbly crafted handmade clothes – for generations to come.