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The New Face of Savile Row

London's famed street of tailors is shedding a bit of its haughtiness in an effort to expand its customer base
Jack Bettridge
From the Print Edition:
Kurt Russell, May/June 2006

(continued from page 5)

He believes he caters to a new generation of younger-feeling older men. "The age gap is getting smaller. People are mature at 25 and youthful at 65. The golden rule for the mature is that we can all look good and get a pretty girl without having to scream."

Like Hollywood and Broadway, Savile Row has become a state of mind that is not limited or defined by the borders on the map. Many of the young tailor/designers driving the new English dandy look with exquisite bespoke clothing have chosen to do it off the Row. One such person is Timothy Everest, a disciple of Tommy Nutter who has set up shop in a house in the Spitalfields section of London on its East Side, a former light industrial area that is reviving much like the SoHo section of New York City did back in the 1970s.

Everest greets a visitor in the faithfully restored sitting room of this house that was once owned by an artist, saying, "Welcome to the eighteenth century." He feels that the location in a neighborhood that had once been a bit dubious is a plus for his clients, who have included the likes of Mick Jagger, David Bowie, David Beckham and Tom Cruise. "Sometimes it's good for a customer to feel 'I discovered it,'" he says.

His intense training gives him a solid appreciation for the values of the Savile Row craft. "We are tailors who design, not designers who discovered tailoring," says Everest. He is also interested in making the sometimes daunting experience accessible for the customer. "We don't say, 'What side do you dress on?' or 'Don't you know what blue serge is?' We make it easy for them."

Everest is also keen on raising consciousness about the craft. "British tailoring was a bit undersold. People got the idea: Those Italians, they make better suits. We make equally fine suits with different handwriting. Instead of apologizing about the tailoring, we put the table right out in the middle."

While it's hard to ignore the celebrity of some of his clients, Everest doesn't feel that is what bespoke is about. He would rather fit into everybody's lifestyle, he claims, and pegs characters like Wyatt Earp and James Bond rather than rock stars as spiritual role models.

He describes his look as a "business suit that becomes a cocktail suit": it's an Edwardian look, with three-button coat, hacking jacket pockets with high lapel notches, high armholes, the soft Kilgour shoulders and folded-over cuffs. "But I can't get into that anymore," he adds with a rueful look to his paunch.

Another shop that offers the Savile Row sensibility is Alfred Dunhill, which is located on nearby Jermyn Street, a stretch better known for its shirtmakers. Famous for its cigar shop, Dunhill offers a small clientele bespoke service in a small shop within the store.

While the main part of the store displays Dunhill's ready-to-wear line (in which suits can be bought as separates) and there is also a made-to-measure service, Martin Nicholls, formerly of Dormeuil and Hackett, runs Dunhill's bespoke service. He gained tailoring fame by outfitting Jude Law, Orlando Bloom and Heath Ledger in tuxedos that brought recognition on the red carpet at the Oscars. His domain is a fitting room off the main floor that is equipped with a special lighting system designed to mimic different environments, which helps ensure accurate color selection for garments.

The current Dunhill look includes a strict silhouette with slanted pockets, high gorge and double vents. Of course, a bespoke customer needn't stick to that. Nicholls preaches the customized lifestyle philosophy of founder Alfred Dunhill, who made a business of creating tools and objects to meet the needs of an Edwardian gentleman's life. Some of the intering remnants of that day are displayed in a museum-like setting in the store, such as the clip Dunhill produced to hold a cigar while driving one of those newfangled automobiles.

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