Savile Row – the birth home of bespoke tailoring
If you are the tiniest bit interested in men’s style, then you would have no doubt heard about Savile Row, aka the ‘Mecca of men’s fashion’. This street in London’s West End has been synonymous with highest quality craftmanship in men’s tailoring for a few hundred years. In the world of tailoring, its legacy is as famous as the iconic men who frequented the tailors on the street: think the James Bonds, or the Cary Grants of old Hollywood.
How did Savile Row get to be the centre of the tailoring universe? Glad you asked – we reflect on it after our recent visit there.
Where it all began – the golden mile of tailoring
In the 18th century, after the French revolution, the beating heart of men’s fashion moved from Paris to London, where tailors and artisans started opening shop in Savile Row, to be close to the wealthy and fashion savvy clientele in Mayfair. The street became known for bringing exquisite tailoring to the rich and powerful. Apprentices from Eastern Europe, Cyprus, Italy and the Caribbean spent arduous hours perfecting their skills in measuring, cutting, stitching and padding.
The first shop was opened in 1846 by Henry Poole, who is credited as the founder of Savile Row.
The dandies of Savile Row
Not only was Savile Row the place where you could find the best skills and techniques, it was also where the dandy craze originated from, the place that set the tone for men’s fashion worldwide. Savile Row tailors fitted and made clothes for royalty, politicians, sport and arts celebrities in their elegant showrooms.
When you hear dandy, you might think of the top-hat, elegant cane and three-piece dinner suit. Or maybe the colourful, eccentric tailoring you see on the streets of Florence during Pitti Uomo.
Dandy is as much about attitude as it is about style. Beau Brummel is thought to be the first of the dandies, an 18the century man who rejected the traditional dress code, went for full instead of knee-length trousers, and embraced a love of fashion. Beyond the stereotype, a dandy is certainly someone who values personal grooming and style as a way of expression, and Savile Row tailors have been associated with the suiting perfection dandies demand.
Bespoke – what it really means
Bespoke tailoring is what Savile Row is known for, but the term bespoke was first used to describe cloth that had been spoken for. Back then, fabric was much more expensive than the labour process. Agents sold lengths of fabric exclusively to one tailor, and customer reserved their desired cloth – they spoke for it.
Later, the term came to also encompass the superior craft and techniques involved in making a suit. About 60 measurements are taken for a bespoke suit, and they take into consideration much more than the usual ones: they consider a men’s posture, stance, their movement and any physical distinctive characteristics. No wonder bespoke suits are famed for being a luxurious personalised piece of tailoring art.
Savile Row craftmanship in Sydney
It was a no-brainer that on our last European trip we should stop by the famous street: to take the pulse, to pay respects to the tailors who paved the way. It was a great reminder of not only where it all begun, but of the level of craft and passion we hold ourselves accountable for.
Like many Savile Row businesses, Zink and Sons started as a family business; opened in 1895, it remains a family business today. Tailoring is one of those crafts that becomes almost infectious if you grow up around it. The painstaking measurements, the construction of a pattern from those measurements, the careful cutting of the cloth and bringing it all together in a garment that perfectly fits only one person and no one else. There is something incredibly powerful about creating such unique, long lasting pieces, and making such a tailored experience possible. There are many crafts around that can do that for a person anymore.
Not only that, but, like Savile Row tailors, we take pride in welcoming our clients into a beautiful heritage showroom. History, culture and style all at once – it’s quite an experience.
Going back to Savile Row this year reminded us why we’re in this business. We invite you to experience the bespoke experience for yourself. Make a booking now.
Fun fact: A plaque at No. 3 Savile Row honours the Beatles – the address is the former headquarters of the band’s Apple Records and the site of their last live performance on 30th January 1969.