Style. Classic style. For many of us, these are the first words that come into our heads when we think of Savile Row. Savile Row is steeped in tradition, that much is certain. Built between 1731 and 1735, according to many fashion critics, its aim was to provide the world’s best tailoring for the capital of England.
Of course, only the best was good enough for British gentleman, and as times and fashion trends have come and gone, the genius and resilience of tailors and cutters on Savile Row has seen them only produce garments that would bypass any era, watching the industry from afar with a mixture of amusement and confusion.
However, it seems the current resurgence of Savile Row is due in no small part to the blending of timeless style with the bold approach of fashion – along with all its controversial nuances that divides opinion and ensures that no one person dresses the same. Now, more than ever, we are seeing Savile Row mix bold colours, voluminous cuts and extraneous details into traditional tailored pieces that have been well established and accepted for generations.
With an influx of new designers, and a younger generation more interested in the new world of fashion, the identity of Savile Row began to change. For some, this started with Tommy Nutter, the original “Nutter on the Row”. Having opened Nutters of Savile Row in the late 1960s, Nutter defied convention, designing and cutting completely original suits – the likes of which had not been seen before.
Tommy attracted many celebrity customers, with his signature wide lapels and broad shouldered creations being reminiscent of the glamorous 20s and 30s. Of course, as a pioneer of a modern approach on the traditional golden mile of tailoring, he did so with unprecedented charisma, cut, drape and juxtaposition of fabrics:
Tommy Nutter (Left & Center) Was A Savile Row Pioneer & Dressed Everyone From Mick Jagger to The Beatles Until His Death in 1992.
Since then, the introduction of ready-to-wear garments in menswear can be perceived as the catalyst for the changing of the guard, as Savile Row slowly started to lose its customers, and its money.
Giorgio Armani’s rapidly growing influence in menswear certainly played a part in this, with his off-the-peg suit of the 90s proving to be incredibly popular, denting the influence Savile Row was used to having when it comes to the most powerful of men’s attire:
Giorgio Armani’s Off-The-Peg Suits in The 90s Proved Extremely Popular To The Everyday Male.
There is no surprise therefore, that with the current resurgence of Savile Row, the Italians have been involved.
Chester Barrie, who has been on Savile Row since 1937, is opening concessions in an upmarket department store in three sizeable Italian cities, including Milan and Venice. Hackett has also opened up a shop in Milan recently, and Jeremy Hackett has been quoted as saying: “It’s said that the best-dressed Britons are Italians.”
Veteran Neapolitan tailor Mariano Rubinacci says that the Italians have always “considered the British style a guideline”, but adapt the more military dominated Savile Row style to suit the relaxed lifestyle of the Italians.
Just as London Collections: MEN belatedly reflected the enthusiasm us British gents have for fashion, the diverse nature of our capital ensures that we attract all sorts of talent with their own unique ideas and designs. This has helped produce new forward thinking and innovative formal garments that have slowly but indefinitely changed the landscape of tailoring on Savile Row.
The underlying ideals and ethos of Savile Row seems so far detached from the turbulent nature of fashion, but you can make the case that slim, well cut garments, good quality jeans and the ‘classic’ trench/pea/duffle coat (apply as you see fit) wouldn’t be deemed ‘timeless’ or had their place cemented in eternal style if it wasn’t for their origins and continued presence within fashion collections year after year.
Style and fashion are intrinsically linked, that much is clear, but which influences the other the most is far vaguer. It seems that time has a crucial role to play in any garment/trend/style’s progression from experimentation to establishment, along with personal/cultural influence and wide-spread appeal – but Savile Row has certainly stood up to the test of time.
Although Hackett have never officially set up shop on the illustrious Row, the brand’s eponymous owner, Jeremy, has his roots firmly entrenched in its history after originally working on Savile Row as a salesman and becoming a connoisseur of the formal wear produced.
So perhaps it is only fitting that no other collection quite relayed the new Savile Row approach of blending tradition with modernism like Hackett’s recent Gatsby inspired SS13 offering. Infused with pops of preppy colour, making up the more current element of the show, the models wore wider trousers and an array of complimenting three piece suits with slim fitting jackets and preppy footwear.
These outfits showed a change in ethos at Hackett, whose chief designer confesses modern-lifestyle often passes him by. And if this is what we will witness in the coming years, then long-may Jeremy Hackett continue to adapt to 21st century life:
Another eminent name in menswear, Patrick Grant is the director and owner of bespoke tailors Norton & Sons of Savile Row and its ready to wear subsidiary label E. Tautz. He certainly thinks that Savile Row lost its edge over recent years:
“Savile Row used to be progressive; those tailors showed the world how to dress and pushed new shapes and silhouettes. We came full stop and ground to a halt. Post-peacock generation it stops, it retreats. Savile Row lost its confidence.”
No doubt things are brighter and bolder under Patrick Grant’s leadership, with his focus on “simple pieces, made by hand in the U.K.”, attempting to fuse “Savile Row cutting with sporting and military traditions”.
Designers and tailors alike scour the globe to find inspiration and source new fabrics, as shown by Ozwald Boateng’s recent AW12 collection focused on tailoring with an Eastern twist.
Said collection was particularly muted and dark, far removed from his traditionally vibrant work. Without losing sight of the ethos of aforementioned Savile Row tailors and designers, Boateng’s motives are to combine traditional British elements with something completely unprecedented, in his own words “to create something new, something directional.”
There is no denying that he has been successful in his efforts, and while getting on a little in age, Mr Boateng consistently provides an exciting, youthful spin on tailoring in the most sophisticated of environments. In my humble opinion, he can be regarded as the biggest influence in the evolution of Savile Row:
By Adding A Vibrant, Youthful Spin To Classic Tailoring, Ozwald Boateng Should Be Considered One Of The Biggest Influences In The Evolution Of Savile Row
There is great emphasis on identity in Savile Row. Some places exude a youthful vibe, complete with fitted trousers and suits, skinny lapels and an array of colours befitting the cliché exuberance of youth, ala Ozwald Boateng.
On the other hand, places such as Gieves & Hawkes will attract customers who still want to retain the classic shape of a British Savile Row suit, which hangs from the shoulder (not the waist) with a fuller chest and a straighter-legged trouser. The first look below gives you the choice of both.
As ever, a quality, timeless pair of Oxfords matches the reserved aesthetic of the suit. Similarly, a handkerchief that compliments your colour choice of suit will add gentlemanly detail that will never be appreciated enough. A trilby or fedora is optional, but at least gives an extra touch of class that can easily separate you from other foppish gents:
This second look is very much the antithesis of the first, and resembles the changing of the guard, so to speak. Colour is at the heart of many of Ozwald Boateng’s collections, and is sure to make an instant impact on those who see you. Why not pick from this season’s autumnal palette of burgundy or olive, and contrast these colours with accessories to create a truly memorable appearance.
On the other hand, you can tap into the creations of the inspired British menswear designers seeking new cuts and extra detail to revolutionise traditional suit attire. Zips and asymmetrical cuts can be found at almost every price range and are a great way of standing out for all the right reasons. Teaming such modern concepts with equally zestful shoes, or luxurious velvet slippers is an envious way of looking suave from head to toe:
With many Savile Row shops and designers becoming brand names within their own right, it is now easier than ever to own your own personal slice of British Sartorial Heritage. Ready to wear garments from the likes of E.Tautz, Hardy Amies and Chester Barrie are readily available to buy online and in some department stores across the country, whilst traditionalists such as Gieves & Hawkes also offer a range of clothing on their official web store.
However, perhaps the biggest indicator that times are changing is Richard James’ new collaboration with high street store M&S, bringing Savile Row type quality and cutting to the everyday male at much more affordable prices:
Style evolves far more than most people realise. And so it must, for otherwise it loses its timeless body. While in some aspects this seems contradictory, style’s inner core survives on its ability to adapt and evolve, and just like humans, does so subtly and assuredly, which gives the impression of seamless transition to the untrained eye.
The most recent progression of Savile Row style makes it a quite formidable force in the international world of fashion, placing it back up there where it rightly belongs.