Inside legendary tailors on the Savile Row tour
My favourite thing in a city is to stroll around without much of a plan, exploring interesting streets, stopping for a coffee and people-watching.
Last autumn in London I decided I’d like a more focused approach, so I searched online for an guided walk. Out of the myriads on offer, Cindy Lawford’s Savile Row tour was by far the most appealing.
Gieves & Hawkes – and Michael Jackson!
The tour began in front of the impressive white facade of Gieves & Hawkes. We were a small and varied group, including fashion students, people on a monthly ‘get out of the office’ jaunt, and a judge from New York with a passion for English ties.
Cindy began by giving us a short history of the Savile Row area and of men’s fashion, illustrated with photos on her iPad. Then we went inside the shop and were led into an inner sanctum, to inspect military uniforms and the outfits worn by the gentlemen of the Queen’s Royal Bodyguard.
Displayed in the store is a tailcoat with epaulettes and braiding, like the one famously worn by Michael Jackson. Apparently he spotted it while being driven past the shop. He stopped the car and ran in, grabbed the nearest assistant by the lapels and excitedly said ‘I want one of those’ pointing to a richly embroidered military coat!
What does bespoke mean?
The next stop on the Savile Row tour was the basement shop of Ray Stowers, where Ray told us about cut, fabric and fittings, and showed us some extraordinary bespoke garments. I didn’t realise before that there is a difference between made-to-measure and bespoke!
Made-to-measure uses an existing pattern, the fabric is cut out by machine, and then adjustments are made for each customer. Bespoke means the pattern is cut for each customer and the garment fully handmade. Prices start from about £800 for made-to-measure and £4000 for bespoke.
After a look inside the shop of Oswald Boateng, known for bringing bright colours to traditional dark menswear, we retraced our steps down the Row, as insiders call it, and crossed to Sackville Street.
Lurex tweed for the city gent
Guy Hills of Dashing Tweeds was wearing the tweed plus fours he favours for riding his bike around the city. Traditional tweed is worn in the country, and Dashing Tweeds are urban wear, he explained, and have yarns like lurex, rubber and silk woven in. Plus reflective yarns for the city cycler!
The Savile Row tour took two hours, but I would happily have carried on all day! I would never normally dream of going into a shop on Savile Row, not needing to buy anything, and they’re not the kind of place you wander in to just browse.
Cindy’s tour means not only do you go in, you are welcomed by the owners and staff, who obviously take great delight in sharing their knowledge and love of cloth and tailoring.
And Cindy herself is just bursting with information and enthusiasm for her subject. It’s a fascinating entrance into a world most of us know nothing about. Anyone with an interest in fashion, clothes, sewing, design, London and/or history, or just the plain curious, will love the Savile Row tour. Oh, and I believe Cindy has negotiated some discounts if you are inspired to go back and buy!
I read recently that luxury brands are providing special experiences for Ultra High Net Worth Individuals. For example, if you buy the clothes of a particular designer, you might be invited to a dinner with them, or to see their atelier. This is exactly what Cindy is providing for MLNWIs (Much Lower Net Worth Individuals) like you and me!