It smells of wood and fresh paint, there is noise from drills and hammers, boxes are everywhere, half of a wall is not yet wallpapered, protective film is laid on the floor, there is a lot going on. Workers who remove garbage from the building crowd past suppliers who lug champagne bottles and glasses into it.
Where there is still chaos on the construction site, 600 guests are to be welcomed in a few hours: Jeremy Hackett opens his first shop at 14 Savile Row in London. Sir Hardy Amies, probably the most popular tailor of Queen Elizabeth II, previously resided here. There is probably no more suitable address for the traditional British company for men’s clothing; The best tailors have settled here since the 17th century.
Jeremy Hackett and his team made sure that everything was in place in the multi-story building in time for the opening party. “I’m happy to be back on Savile Row after 40 years. Especially as an owner and not as a seller,” jokes Hackett, who worked a few house numbers for a tailor in his youth. In the meantime, he runs an international company.
The opening of the flagship store in a prime location shows that business is going well. Jeremy Hackett explains that the bulk of sales are made up by the ready-made goods, but tailoring is an important growth market for the company.
In times of sustainability debates, fashionable individualization and increasingly relaxed dress codes, one can differentiate oneself from fast fashion with custom-made clothing and suggest belonging to a privileged milieu that values quality. Whether high-priced bespoke or cheaper made-to-measure (see glossary below) – tailoring is flourishing.
Prashant Motwani, chief development officer of the Belgian company Senszio and son of the company’s founder, also sees huge business potential in tailoring. “The market has grown continuously over the past five to ten years and is far from saturated.” Senszio has also recently started offering its travel tailor services in Vienna.
One of the traveling tailors is on site every four weeks, customers can book appointments online. The meetings take place in a hotel room, in the office or at the customer’s home as required. There the tailor takes measurements, suggests fabrics and buttons. Made-to-measure pieces are ready after four weeks, in the Bespoke area the process takes several months.
At some locations, Senszio has fixed tailors, but “we will also keep the concept of traveling tailors. Customers appreciate that someone comes to them and they don’t have to go to an anonymous shop,” explains Motwani of the success of the sales model.
You can hardly speak of anonymity when you enter Rudolf Niedersüß’s shop. Since 1976 he has been leading Vienna’s first address for men’s tailoring, the Knize company. Furniture and paneling in dark wood with a charming patina, fabric wallpaper, carpet in moss green and creaking floorboards – the premises at Wiener Graben, designed by architect Adolf Loos from 1910 to 1913, convey the long tradition of tailoring.
A lot of court cutter decrees hang on the walls. Then as now, the international aristocracy belonged to the Knize clientele. The tailor has not been able to accept new customers for custom-made products for years.
“There is no shortage of demand, but rather of the workforce,” says the 84-year-old. The young people are no longer willing to perform today. He had tried repeatedly to train apprentices in recent years, but had to quit everyone early because they did not meet his requirements.
According to information from the WKO, the number of final apprenticeship examinations in Austria in the field of clothing design, as the tailor training is officially called, has been constant for years. 117 were completed last year.
The number of professional branch members is increasing continuously. While there were 1119 in 2010, there were already 1670 in 2019. A survey by the WKO among several regional guilds showed an increased demand for products from men’s clothing makers. As a result, more and more women’s clothing makers are also offering additional services for men or taking further training courses in this area.
High quality pieces
Wilfried Mayer works in Vienna, where he offers classic men’s clothing. The graduate of the fashion class of the Vienna University of Applied Arts has learned the manual skills self-taught. “I don’t have a master craftsman’s certificate, but I do master cutting and product development,” says the designer, who sees himself as the interface between customer and production.
Working with suppliers is not always easy for one-person companies. Producers often preferred larger companies because they guaranteed better capacity utilization and more easily met the high minimum quantities. Nevertheless, Mayer sticks to his one-man show: “I am my own boss, and being close to the customers enables me to respond flexibly to their needs”.
Custom-made products, both made-to-measure and bespoke, are his answer to fast fashion and seasonal collection thinking. He wants to sell high quality pieces that accompany his customers over a long period of time. However, ecological sustainability was never a firm premise in his company. It results from itself, says Mayer. For example, he buys fabrics from old stocks of local men’s outfitters and fabric suppliers, the production routes are short.
Jeremy Hackett also lives the idea of sustainability. When he was young, he already operated second-hand shops, and even today he still believes in durability through high quality. The bespoke products are manufactured in Great Britain.
In contrast, Senszio has production in Asia. For Prashant Motwani, transparency is important: “We run our own workshops, the local designers were trained by Italian men’s tailors, and we have been working with them for over 30 years. ‘Made in China’ has a bad image, but our jackets, for example, are full Canvas and not glued (see glossary). Some European producers cannot keep up with the quality. ”
Rudolf Niedersüß also perceives extreme differences in quality on the market: “What is called a tailored shirt or suit has nothing to do with the craft. There are offers in all price segments, but you can see the difference.” A Knize suit costs 8,000 euros, Hackett incurs at least 5500 euros, and Wilfried Mayer or Senszio has a bespoke two-piece set from around 1,500 and 1,249 euros, respectively.
Even large clothing chains are now involved. Peek & Cloppenburg does not offer bespoke, but made-to-measure suits in half canvas. These are priced between 499 and 999 euros.
Made-to-measure clothing is not suitable for conveying a high level of society. “It’s too reserved and unobtrusive for this. People who want to show their wealth are more likely to buy ready-made clothing from luxury labels. Custom-made products are for those who understand style and quality,” says Jeremy Hackett.
The classic gentlemen’s style can even have subversive potential. Hackett sees him as a rebellion of many sons against their fathers, who are currently trying to dress casually to look youthful. For Wilfried Mayer too, a tailored suit is not necessarily conservatively connoted. With such a piece, you break away from body conventions that would be enshrined in ready-made goods.
Incidentally, there was no special dress code for the opening party in Savile Row. Of course, the guests appeared in the finest thread, the outfits of the other gentlemen were observed very carefully. With all noble reluctance: The world of men’s tailoring is not immune to status thinking.
By Michael Steingruber Founder, Der Standard