This past weekend, I went to London on a mission to absorb and learn as much as I could about fashion. As a fashionista in training, I arrived eager with curiosity and a wide-open eye for beauty. Though I went to two fashion exhibits (of which I’ll blog about in future posts), my favorite learning experience was touring Savile Row, the famed London street where the fine art British tailoring still thrives.
Accompanied by my friend Richard Mkoloma (who used to be a tailor himself before he became a fashion designer), I had the privilege of walking down Savile Row with a very knowledgeable British gent who knew a thing or two about what it takes to make a great suit. I’m really big about lists these days, so I’ll share my Savile Row lessons in list form. Below is a short list of what Richard taught me:
- Open up suit coats, and feel the textures of the materials. Then look at the details of the item.
- A great quality pant has adjustable waistlines, so that there would be no need for a belt. (This is a sign of fine menswear).
- Suit pockets inside the jacket are key details, and they change according to present day needs (ie. There are now pockets for a smart phone, etc.).
- Wool is hands down, the best material for a suit, but is made in various weights & material combinations depending on the season.
When I went into the shops, I was thrilled at how generous the shopkeepers were about sharing their information. Most of them appreciated being asked about their brand’s heritage, and gladly talked with me about their work with contagious passion. Here’s a list of all the great things I learned while visiting Ede & Ravenscroft, Gieves & Hawke, and the ever eclectic Alexander McQueen:
- When shopping for menswear, there are three main categories: ready to wear, made to measure (adjusting RTW to fit the body), or bespoke (fully custom made). All bespoke suits are still made by tailors in the shop basements. They do not leave Savile Row.
- Though many materials are sourced in and from England, many Savile Row shops manufacture from the island of Mauritius, where British tailors train local workers on traditional methods.
Royal Seals at Ede & Ravenscroft
- At Ede & Ravenscroft, I learned that the brand was established in 1689 and began tailoring for the royal family by making coronation capes. They still have the royal seals and are officially commissioned to tailor for the royal family today.
Gieves & Hawkes
- Gieves & Hawkes also has the royal seals and continues to make suits for the royal family. They began their history by tailoring military wear for the British army.
Daring Suits at McQueen
- Expectedly, Alexander McQueen has the most daring suits on Savile Row. Made with skull and floral patterns of velvets, silks, and mohair, they are not for the faint of heart. Most of their manufacturing happens in Italy.
The only regret I have about my trip down Savile Row was not being able to explore the Ozwald Boateng store, the first store on the street to introduce vibrant colors (magentas, aquamarines, oranges, emeralds) to menswear. Nevertheless, it was such an enriching cultural experience and I appreciated learning so much.
Stepping into all this knowledge certainly “suits” me. 😉
Fabric Swatches with my name on it. They must have known I was coming.
By: Ruby Veridiano