Tuesday, 24 February 2009


Welcome to this first edition of Steed's View.

With this blog, our aim is to keep our clients and friends informed about our trade and travels, while also weaving a good yarn into the virtual fabric of its pages for posterity’s sake. In this first edition, we’ll share some perspectives on the culture of Savile Row by attempting to dispel many of the popularly held myths about our little corner of the bespoke universe.

Even though the basic premise and art of what we do has changed little in hundreds of years, the culture surrounding Savile Row—from mile-high rents to the invasion of the merchandisers—is shifting.

For many, the concept of Savile Row is now more figurative than literal—especially as those who were trained in the practice and customs of the trade ply their art in different locales.

Finally, we’ll wrap up this edition with an update on our comings and goings, not to mention where you can expect to see us next—both “on the Row” and off.


Edwin DeBoise, Savile Row Bespoke Tailor

Myths of Savile Row

In the history of tailoring, Savile Row has more mystique's about it than just about any other address. But in the past, Savile Row has been about far more than just a fitting and retail experience for gentlemen—and ladies—seeking to enhance their wardrobe. It has also been about a culture of excellence, learning and tradition. Today, this culture remains, although aspects of it are beginning to fade—at least as it pertains to the physical location of our illustrious street. In this short essay, I’ll dispel three myths about the current state of Savile Row.

Myth #1: It’s all about the address

Unfortunately, the concept of Savile Row and Savile Row Tailoring are now two different things—which is something new. In the past, generations upon generations of those in the tailoring trade apprenticed for decades before they became permanent figures on the Row—where they would spend the rest of their professional careers. And clients knew the one street they needed to go to in all of London—some might say the world—to get suited up. But today, things are changing. It’s not all about the address (nor is the address necessarily indicative of anything but the ability to pay a larger rent check each month than in the past). According to Times Online, “Many of the tailors, some of which have operated in Savile Row since the 1800s, are threatened by rent rises of an average 57 per cent since 1995, as their leases come to an end next year.” Even one of the greatest houses ever to open its doors on the Row—and not to mention my training ground—Anderson & Sheppard, has now moved off of the Row. My friend and former partner, Thomas Mahon, waxed eloquently on his blog,
English Cut, about his hopes that the next tenant will not trample on the history of the building. “I really hope that the spot where the rug was rolled up on the parquet floor, so Mr. Astaire could dance to check the fit of his coat never came away from his collar, won't be the permanent resting place for a new Xerox machine,” blogs Mahon.

Myth #2: Talent is easy to find

While those in the bespoke trade are always looking for new clients, we’re also constrained by the availability of talent in our own ranks. That’s because studying for and completing an apprenticeship in the bespoke tailoring trade can take longer than learning the more traditional professions (e.g., law, accounting). Managing Directors of houses are not made overnight—nor are their employees. To get to the top of one’s game in the business can take decades. And its years—usually between three to five—before a student taking up the trade graduates from his apprenticeship. So you can see that we’re as or more constrained by the availability of good talent as we of attracting new clientele.

Myth #3: Styles Come and Go

The reason the big fashion houses such as Armani have been able to grow over the years—besides their use of less expensive material, machinery, and less experienced labor to drive higher margins and to raise capital—has been in large part because of their ability to convince the market that style comes and goes. This, in my view, is a myth. On Savile Row, when we speak of style, we speak of the individual style of our clients. Take Ed Hayes, New York Lawyer who has been inducted into Vanity Fair's international best dressed hall of fame. He has a style that not everyone could carry off but has a certain Je nais se quois that makes it work. Style can also describe the style of certain houses as well. For example Anderson's
(A&S) is known more for a soft approach to tailoring, draping the fabric over the client with only a slight amount of shoulder padding. Still, regardless of personal or house preference, one thing’s for sure—that suit, coat or dinner jacket purchased this year will still be in style decades down the road (provided one’s fabric selection shows moderation and good taste).