The tailoring on Savile Row has always been the best in the world, but when I began, I wanted to apply it to now, to the moment, to make it relevant. Savile Row has been behind a lot of innovation in men’s style and fashion, from Beau Brummel who completely changed the way men dress to Tommy Nutter, who I have always admired, in the seventies. But it was a staid place when we first opened shop here in 1992. The other tailors were going about things in their own time-honoured way. People told us that Savile Row had had its day when we opened, but we respected its history and craft and thought it was time it had it again. We believed in it as we believed in ourselves.
It was never our intention to break with convention, but rather to subvert it
It was never our intention to break with convention, but rather to subvert it. We weren’t rebelling against practices or traditions, more turning them on themselves. We produced bespoke Savile Row tailoring from day one. But we just did it our own way. We made our first camouflage suit for a customer who loves going to the opera but hates wearing suits, which, of course, he is obliged to wear to the opera… I think that suit sums up a lot of what we were and still are about.
I remember when we first started to get a lot of personal recommendations. Word was getting around … Suddenly suits were sexy again! That was when we sensed we were doing something right. Then Elton John and Gianni Versace came in and each bought one of everything in their size. And then the style press arrived. They’d always held Savile Row in high regard and still got misty-eyed about Tommy Nutter doing his own thing there in the seventies, but we gave them a reason to come back and write about it again. And then, with the help of some of the more traditional tailors on the street who were a bit put out by all of this, the mainstream press arrived. “Scissors At Dawn” was one headline. “Parasites who don’t know one end of a needle from another.” “They call us the fuddy-duddies.” “They won’t last more than five minutes…” That was when we knew we were really on to something.
There were a few things that set us aside. We cut denim and camo suits. We installed plate glass windows so people could see inside and we opened on Saturdays, both of which were unheard off and a little disturbing to certain of the then denizens of Savile Row. And we marketed ourselves, memorably by showing a very quickly banned commercial at the cinema of a beautifully dressed man throwing himself off the top of a building with the caption “Richard James: Menswear for every occasion.
Savile Row is now seen throughout the world as a centre of men’s style as much as a centre of men’s tailoring. And it’s in great health. That really pleases me. More specifically. the bright blue – or strong blue, as we put it – suit has been much mimicked. The use of camouflage in menswear is commonplace. And socks … It’s now the norm for men to wear a bit of colour with their socks, but when we started it was a statement. Our founding philosophy was and remains to produce classic clothing of unbeatable quality and push the boundaries through colour, cut and design. I’m a big fan of colour and I’m very happy that men are no longer scared of it. [colphon]