Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Savile Row returns to its roots

Over the Holidays I paid a visit to my former colleagues and masters on Savile row. Am pleased to learn of their return to handcraft tailoring. During my own apprenticeship on the Row I was taught to pad the lapels and collar by machine rather than by hand. The lining too, in part was machine sewn. After my training I reverted to the traditional method taught to me by my professors at London College of Fashion, hand stitching the collar, lapel and facing, just as I make my clothing today. It was explained to me why and when the change came to Savile row. Why the coat makers and trouser makers replaced many of the hand techniques with modern machine methods. During the recession of the '70's and '80's there was a mass exodus in the trade, driven by lack of work many talented men and women sought work outside of tailoring. A coat maker at Henry Poole turned in his thimble and shears to become a bus driver on the streets of London, picking them up again in the '90's when the trade recovered. When the economy hit the downturn in 2009 the governors vowed not to make the same mistakes as their predecessors. During the last recession the apprentices where the first to go. Many of the tailors relied on their apprentices to carry out the time consuming tasks of padding lapels and serging the raw seams of the trouser leg. Machines such as the overlocker (serger) and padding machine (blind-stitch) took their place. One of the main differences now is the help offer by government to support the companies by offering funding to these houses to help maintain the training. It was a battle hard fought by the governors of Savile Row to secure investment. Once the flow of new orders slowed to a trickle, tailors where encourage to train their apprentices in the traditions of Savile row tailoring. Considering the age of many of the masters, over 67 years, it was not a skill lost through time. The young tailors take pride in their work and wish to preserve the reputation of the row and maintain it in its rightful place as the mecca of tailoring in the world. As the economy recovers so to has the trade and am pleased to hear that although times have been hard, the order books has started to fill up again with new clients who wish to be dressed by the best.


  1. Dear Rory,
    I am a first generation tailor who can relate to what the Savile Row tailors experienced, born and raised in Nashville, TN. I learned the art of tailoring through unemployment in the 80s. Although my love was for tailoring men's suits I was forced to do women's clothing to make a living and finally forced to enter the job market to make ends meet and sewing when I was able to find someone willing to pay for my services.With the massive number of made to measure makeshift tailors ( suit salesmen) it has dimenished the appreciation for a fine handcrafted suit such as yours in this area. I had a choice to join the made to measure crowd or do something else, well! With my love for the craft I chose to do something else; however, I am approaching retirement and I itching to pick .y thimble back up! Over the valentine weekend I made my wife a dress and she looked stunning! I have been watching your you tube video series and would love to one day meet you and dust off my skills and Rep Polish them! I would love to get a contact of the vendor where you buy your supplies so that I too can get that authentic Savile Row look and finish! If you would please contact me at bioced2@gmail.com
    And keep mastering the art!
    P.S. Maybe one day instead of the old teaching the young, the young could reteach the old! LOL

  2. My mother was a workshop seamstress in the 60s until the 80s and she said that in the 60s and 70s cutters and tailors from pedigree backgrounds turned up (to Burtons and other places) for work. It was continuous work and probably better paid, with less effort too.

    How many of these felt like they were diminishing their skills is only guesswork.