The Perfect Gentleman: The Pursuit of Timeless Elegance and Style in London by James Sherwood
For the man who has everything, and for the luxury industry trying to seduce him: a rich insight into what makes a product endure and bring pleasure to all who possess it
In an age of globalization with fashion trends that change by the day, the quality and workmanship of the great British luxury brands endure and flourish like never before. Valued for their craftsmanship, superlative quality, exclusivity, and the status they confer on their owners, these “heritage houses” have been synonymous with the finest production for hundreds of years. This lavish publication celebrates the gentleman’s search for the perfect sartorial detail or the ideal accessory. It features six historical chapters, from the Regency period to the present, each of which presents classic British marques, including shoemakers, jewelers, shirt and tie makers, cloth makers, perfumers, hatters, and vintners. The final chapter showcases the new generation of designer-artisans who are redefining notions of quality and handwork in the era of globalization and digital technologies. A reference section presents the London gentleman’s social world, from the shopping arcade (Burlington) to hotels (The Savoy) and the member’s clubs and antiquarians in between. 350 color photographs
Author, broadcaster and curator James Sherwood has written three Thames & Hudson books: Savile Row: The Master Tailors of British Bespoke (2010), Fashion at Royal Ascot: Three Centuries of Thoroughbred Style (2011) and The Perfect Gentleman: The Pursuit of Timeless Elegance & Style in London (2012). Both Savile Row and The Perfect Gentleman are published in French and Italian editions.
His relationship with Savile Row began in 2007 when Pitti Immagine Uomo invited him to curate The London Cut: the first celebratory exhibition of British bespoke tailoring at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. The exhibition travelled to the British Ambassador's Residences in Paris and Tokyo. He curated the Archive Room at No 1 Savile Row for Gieves & Hawkes (2008-2010) and is now archivist for Savile Row founding father Henry Poole & Co and consults for Anderson & Sheppard on the house's new shop at No 17 Clifford Street.
Sherwood broadcasts on royal fashion for ITV This Morning's Luxury Lookback and commentated for the BBC and ITV at the royal wedding and HM The Queen's Diamond Jubilee. He is the editor-at-lagre of men's tailoring bible The Rake who christened him 'Guardian of Savile Row' and writes The Rake's Notes From The Row column. He contributes to the Daily Telegraph and The World of Interiors and writes a weekly online diary Letters From Bloomsbury Square. He is currently working on a novel and consulting as creative consultant for the cabaret at Brasserie Zedel. Sherwood is the Savoy hotel's Savoy Museum curator.
The Downton Effect: The least likely fashion trend has given London's luxury brands a shot in the arm
By JAMES SHERWOOD
PUBLISHED: 21:00 GMT, 13 October 2012 | in The Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk
In the Golden Age of Hollywood, film was the greatest advertisement for bespoke tailoring on Savile Row.
Silver-screen idols such as Rudolph Valentino, Fred Astaire, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Gary Cooper and Cary Grant wore immaculately tailored British bespoke both on screen and off.
We live in a more cynical age, where fashion houses pay big money to provide the wardrobe for characters such as James Bond (Tom Ford) and the Duke of Windsor in Madonna’s W.E. (Dunhill).
So who would have thought a TV costume drama could revive the Row’s fortunes in the U.S. market today?
The LA Times has called Downton Abbey ‘a pop culture phenomenon’, while Variety hailed it as ‘mesmerising television… old-fashioned but not unsophisticated’.
Such is the appeal stateside of the English-country-house soap opera that its second series garnered 16 Emmy nominations, with the finale attracting 5.4 million U.S. viewers – double the ratings for the most recent series of Mad Men.
Though Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess of Grantham steals scenes effortlessly with her acid put-downs, it’s Hugh Bonneville’s benevolent paterfamilias, the Earl of Grantham, who anchors Downton Abbey.
I met Hugh when he was touring with the RSC 20 years ago and we became reacquainted more recently when he took me aside and explained that he found the hired ‘frockage’ for Downton distinctly uninspiring when it came to getting into the character of the Earl.
After a telephone call to historic Savile Row tailor Huntsman (est 1849), Mr Bonneville was fitted for immaculate period white-and black-tie attire for the second series.
This traditional English evening wear has starred in every episode of Downton Abbey and continues to do so in series three.
Bonneville at Savile Row tailor Huntsman. The actor initially found the hired 'frockage' for Downton distinctly uninspiring when it came to getting into the character of the Earl
Downton’s dress codes have now become something of a fashion phenomenon, not least in the U.S.
Pop magazine dedicated its cover and a 20-page feature to Downton style.
The makers of gentlemen’s requisites in Mayfair, Piccadilly and St James’s report a boom in American trade not seen since the onset of the double-dip European recession.
America accounts for around 60 per cent of Savile Row bespoke-suit sales; prices start at around £3,500, though they rise dramatically when ordering formal dress in the style of Lord Grantham.
‘Downton Abbey is the Brideshead Revisited of our times, with a comforting return to nostalgia and tradition,’ says bespoke tailor Timothy Everest, who’s based in east London.
‘I think the appeal for modern men is nostalgia for the days when rules were followed and, in dress terms, made life a little less confusing.
With the economic outlook so uncertain, some people do find comfort in the past.
But interestingly, they’re being a little playful in their choices, as they’re investing, not spending, so they want something special that’s individual and timeless.’
Downton Abbey is as much an advertisement for the best of British craftsmanship as it is a reminiscence of an age long since passed.
Luxury-goods houses in Mayfair, such as stationer and leather-goods purveyor Smythson, high-end emporium Asprey and jeweller and antiques dealer Wartski, loaned pieces to dress the cast and sets of the show. These firms were all trading in 1912, when the first series begins.
For the U.S. market, it seems, there’s something incredibly satisfying about buying a little piece of Downton from craftsmen who would have served the English Royal Family and aristocracy.
And London is at the epicentre of a luxury boom; a recent report revealed that £3 billion a year is being spent by shoppers in the city’s luxury quarter, including Bond Street, Savile Row and St James’s.
Jermyn Street has been synonymous with English gentlemen’s bespoke shirtmaking for over 200 years, though its oldest shirtmaker, Turnbull & Asser, didn’t move to its present address until 1903.
Turnbull’s head cutter David Gale is in no doubt as to the impact of Julian Fellowes’ award-winning drama. ‘In the Edwardian era, shirts were very much “one tent fits all”.
Today we sculpt shirts so much more precisely. Tastes have also become bolder. So the customer coming for an Earl of Grantham evening shirt will be getting a better cut in 2012 than the Earl did in the Twenties.
How the Duke of Edinburgh became an unlikely style icon
I believe men in general have learnt to dress a little better, and well-dressed programmes like Downton inspire them to dress correctly.’
Shoemaker Foster & Son (est 1840), also on Jermyn Street, has made biannual trips to the U.S. since the Fifties for bespoke shoe fittings. Chairman Richard Edgecliffe-Johnson says, ‘There’s no doubt we’re seeing a major shift back to more classic shoes and a rising interest in the Downton Abbey period, including art deco.’
Bespoke shirtmaker Emma Willis is in agreement.
‘Our American business is strong at the moment, particularly in evening shirts for the black-tie look.
'The demand is for very traditional Marcella-front dress shirts, with double cuffs, a rounded bib front and buttons on a band so chaps can wear dress studs should they wish to (and they should).
'I would credit the revival of interest in pared-down, classic ivory silk evening shirts to the Downton effect – as with the demand for classic country-house dressing gowns in navy-and-white silk spot or Prince of Wales check flannel.’
Willis has also seen a renaissance in bespoke shirts and shooting socks knitted on Victorian looms in her Gloucester townhouse factory.
‘The other week I had two American chaps coming in to be kitted out for their first grand shoot.
'When I suggested lilac shooting socks and a French lavender flannel shirt, they asked to be reassured that they wouldn’t look foolish.
'I assured them that I’d been making dozens of the exact same shirt for an English duke for the past five years and he certainly didn’t look foolish.’
Downton episodes continually explore the tension between life upstairs and downstairs, and audiences at home and abroad have grown to adore the show’s cross-examination of the British class system.
Americans in particular enjoy the ‘posh boy’ appeal of shopping at exclusive London establishments that have traded for centuries and invariably hold royal warrants, awarded by the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales.
‘I think it’s because our handmade, historic craftsmanship is still seen as the benchmark of quality throughout the world,’ says Timothy Everest.
Fox Brothers & Co (est 1772) makes the internationally renowned Fox Flannel cloth favoured by Savile Row tailors, and worn by such iconic figures as Winston Churchill, Fred Astaire and Cary Grant.
‘The Downton effect for us is a global appreciation for fine English tailoring, with British milled cloth the gold standard of understated elegance,’ says managing director Douglas Cordeaux.
‘Fox has seen a real surge in demand for authentic cloths, with special interest in weights from the Twenties to the Forties.
'Fine British cloth is important for creating future heirlooms that can be passed on to your children and grandchildren. It’s built to last.’
Despite this recession-beating rise in business, however, London’s male-luxury-goods landscape is at present under siege.
American casual-sportswear brand Abercrombie & Fitch – already ensconced in Queensbury House on the corner of Savile Row and Burlington Gardens – has signed the lease on No 3 Savile Row (Beatles record label Apple’s former offices) and will open a children’s store on the premises in late 2012. It’ll join other luxury ready-to-wear brands such as Lanvin and – shortly – Alexander McQueen.
Meanwhile, The Crown Estate has unveiled smart but expensive redevelopment plans for Jermyn Street and St James’s Street that will likely add to the upward pressure on rents in the area, home to such heritage houses as shoemaker John Lobb (est 1849), hatter James Lock & Co (1676) and tobacconist James J Fox (1787). It’s firms such as these that make this historic quarter of London unlike anywhere else in the world.
As the popularity of aristocratic exports such as Downton Abbey (now shown in over 100 countries) makes clear, London’s greatest asset is its history, tradition and craftsmanship.
Visitors from countries such as China, India, Brazil and Russia don’t come to London for the Louis Vuitton flagship stores and Starbucks outlets they can find on their doorsteps.
The historic luxury-goods houses of Mayfair, Piccadilly and St James’s offer a view of old London through rose-tinted spectacles: a world of ‘sir’ rather than ‘mate’, where fast fashion is anathema and a gentleman understands that a quality item, be it a bespoke pair of shoes or a finely tailored suit, is an investment – and you get what you pay for.
Anda Rowland, vice-chairman of Golden Age Hollywood’s most prolific tailor, Anderson & Sheppard (est 1906), puts it most succinctly: ‘The fundamental values that lie beneath what we do – skill, authenticity, durability and strong human involvement – place the well-financed mass-luxury culture of the past two decades in sharp relief.
'We are on Savile Row for the long term and for a fundamental reason: a sincere love of beautifully tailored men’s clothing.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-2216312/Downton-Abbey-Effect-The-likely-fashion-trend-given-Londons-luxury-brands-shot-arm.html#ixzz29lOT72IN
THE RAKE : "The Guardian of Savile Row". James Sherwood safekeeps Sartorial History.