Timeless suits from London's Savile Row back in fashion

LONDON Wed Feb 20, 2013 6:48am EST

A man passes a Savile Row sign, in London August 21, 2010. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

A man passes a Savile Row sign, in London August 21, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

LONDON (Reuters) - With a blazing fire, leather sofa, and a half-empty bottle of single malt whisky by the door, London bespoke suit-maker Anderson & Sheppard feels more like a gentlemen's club frozen in time than a 21st century luxury retailer.

At the back of the shop a number of impeccably dressed tailors cut cloth on wooden work benches much like they have been doing for the last 100 years. One can almost imagine past customers like Charlie Chaplin, Pablo Picasso or some faded Victorian gentleman turning up at any moment.

This Savile Row tailor, where first names are banned and customers are always "sir", may feel like a museum to Britain's faded imperial glory but the bespoke menswear business on "the Row" is enjoying a remarkable resurgence.

Anderson & Sheppard is just one of the names on London's most renowned street for high-end tailors.

Alongside Gieves & Hawkes, Dege & Skinner, Henry Poole & Co and others, tailors on "the Row" have been dressing royalty, aristocrats, statesmen, great warriors and the wealthy since British dandy Beau Brummel first introduced trousers to fashionable London society at the start of the 19th century.

Behind the fusty facade "the Row" is attracting a new generation of less exclusive young clientele despite suit prices starting at 3,800 pounds with a combination of client discretion, a subtle online presence and absolute attention to detail and quality.

Anderson & Sheppard had a 2012 turnover of 4 million pounds and growth has been over 13 percent every year since 2009.

A number of other houses on Savile Row have also enjoyed over 10 percent growth in recent years with total revenue for the informal group of suitmakers now estimated to be 30-35 million pounds.

"We're doing very well actually. We've found that business has picked up in the last few years, and we couldn't be busier," Anderson & Sheppard manager Colin Heywood said as he showed Reuters around the shop.

RENAISSANCE

The renaissance of classic British menswear is a dramatic turn-around for an industry that was left on the ropes by the rise of decent quality ready-to-wear suits and shirts in shops during the 1970s and 1980s.

Clothes that were then dismissed as old fashioned, over-priced and going the way of bowler hats, are now the subject of renewed interest reflected in sartorial blogs and forums from India to the United States.

"We've noticed that we get a lot more younger customers coming in. I think that's particularly the result of the internet. There's so much more written about bespoke tailoring now in books, magazines and online," Heywood said.

The celebration of Savile Row's handcrafted suits in online forums, top men's magazines and promoted by its own association on the Savile Row Bespoke website