Beau Brummell was the ultimate ‘dandy’, or well-dressed man. In the 19th century, he was a frequent patron of the tailors around London’s Cork Street. By 1803, some had moved to Savile Row in the West End. It wasn’t until 1846, though, that Henry Poole, the ‘Founder of Savile Row’, opened the street’s first ‘bespoke’ tailoring practice.
The term ‘bespoke’ relates to when the fabric for a suit was ‘spoken for’ by an individual customer. Famous clients who have frequented the ‘golden mile of tailoring’ include Prince Charles, actor Jude Law, Winston Churchill, Lord Nelson and Napoleon III.
Bespoke menswear is gaining in popularity and the latest figures show that around 7,000 suits are made on Savile Row and surrounding streets every year by Savile Row Tailors.
In 2004, The Savile Row Bespoke Association was founded to protect and develop bespoke tailoring in the area, with member tailors required to put at least 50 man hours into each suit. Mark Henderson, Deputy Chairman of Gieves and Hawkes, chairs the SRB, based at No. 1 Savile Row, on the Gieves and Hawkes premises.
Neighbors of Gieves and Hawkes on this prime piece of tailoring real estate include Henry Poole, Anderson and Sheppard, Hand and Lock, and Norton and Sons.
The principles of craftsmanship and service established by Henry Poole remain today and have been exported all over the world – from Hamburg to Hong Kong.
By the early 1990s, interest in the bespoke suits of Savile Row was on the wane. Tailors were having difficulty connecting with their audiences. But help was close at hand.
Three tailors began to breathe new life into the industry. Ozwald Boateng, Timothy Everest and Richard James broke from the Savile Row mould, a move that PR consultant Alison Hargreaves described as the ‘New Bespoke Movement’. The work of this new generation peaked in 1997 when they were featured in Vanity Fair.
The three tailors altered their shop fronts and used marketing and publicity to advance their cause. Their work challenged the traditional Savile Row styles and offered twists and a sense of color. The three men pushed the envelope of modern suit making to create more contemporary silhouettes and bolder fabrics.
Their aim was to attract celebrities and sell through supermarket chains, both nationally and internationally. They revitalized the tailoring industry, not only in London, but throughout the world.
In Asia, Hong Kong has numerous tailors who command as much respect as London’s tailors on Saville Row. Senszio is one of the leading traveling tailors of today, bringing its tailoring heritage to the wider world.