Anderson & Sheppard Coat Part I
So, I think I’ve cracked this bespoke thing.
If you’re into clothes, you’ll understand the ‘look’. That stare followed by the occasional comment when in company of other garment obsessives. The “where’s that coat from?”
Stood in bespoke? “Mate, you look really well”.
And that, is it. The meaning of clothing life. Because bespoke clothing when executed properly turns you into the best version of you, rather than a walking advert.
Now, we could stop there, but where is the fun in that? So over the next couple of weeks and at points in the future, we will, to the disappointment of my accountant, bank manager, & any future offspring, be dissecting and working out this phenomenon of bespoke clothing.
We will apply some science, but not aim to blind you with it, focusing more on the art and craft and all the other fun stuff.
As such, this initial foray is split into three: the craft & process; the finished product; and to start, why bespoke and in particular why Savile Row bespoke?
Growing up, there were several things I really wanted to do: from scoring the winning goal in the cup final for my beloved Swansea City; a try for Wales against England; and a century against the Australians.
As I grew a little older, whilst the Wales try remained and I still think I’d get a game, the Swansea winning goal was replaced with the goal of owning the club. Now this was when we were in League 2 and facing oblivion. The past 10+ years that dream has thankfully been pushed far out of reach by Swansea’s success, although the way things are going at the minute…
I saw the club ownership as part of a grand plan. A piece of my man about town portfolio. I’d have the 70’s Ferrari, perhaps an art gallery, country pad, bijou pied-à-terre in town, few racehorses, retreat in the South of France. You know the score.
Oh, and I’d wear bespoke, from Savile Row/Old Burlington Street.
Bit of an odd 13 year old really...
The football, houses, cars etc they’re all emotional and fairly obvious desires. The Savile Row thing? I mean, I can kind of see where it comes from - my old man is partial to a bit of bespoke. But, this was such a clear image in my head and it wasn’t the bespoke of the public’s perceived view of Savile Row sensibility. It was me pushing against the idea of conforming, of having a proper job, a stable future, a bland life.
I’m a little older now and unfortunately no more realistic in my ambitions. It’s ingrained in my DNA to push against the expected and to always question.
It wasn’t the chicken, nor the egg, it was the “why?” that came first in our house.
“Yes, but why?”, is a constant, before, during and after the fact.
So, why bespoke? Why indeed?
Before the pros & prose, let’s examine what some would call the rationale & their supposed cons.
The argument oft proposed is, that the majority of those in the position financially to buy bespoke, have their name above the door and can wear what they want to work and to play, and they’re those who think bespoke is only for suits and squares.
As well as that, whilst life’s milestone events from funerals and weddings are rightly tailored occasions, the high street can cater, & my bank manager will see me in a Swansea shirt if needs be.
Of course there are occupations in which full fig is expected. You would be annoyed if your brief, banker or babysitter wasn’t suited and booted. That said, look at the growth of the contrast stitched buttonhole, just look at it. Seriously, take it off son. It’s a midlife crisis in a too short coat.
Then, for those looking for a more nuanced suit wearing experience, there is the rapid improvement in all aspects of MTM tailoring. With vast improvements in cloth choices, cut, make, and finishing.
Finally, my friends tell me, the public’s perceived – if incorrect - Savile Row image problem which to many veers from the overly sartorial, stick up the arse boring, to a bizarre boys club of “suits you”, floppy handkerchief’d, Alan Partridge-esque leg posing, one hand clasping your half smoked cigar, the other a never to be finished pint of ale.
Well, why do anything?
Why buy a Land Rover 110 pick up, when a Mitsubishi Warrior will cover the same Waitrose car park terrain?
Why drive half way across country in said Land Rover to eat at some hot new restaurant when it’s curry club Thursday at Wetherspoons?
Why lust after the Mclaren 675LT knowing one squeeze of the throttle is a guaranteed 3 points?
And why go through a 10 week process when you can just walk into stores in any town and buy something serviceable?
Because if we don’t do these things, lust after these items, invest in our and our loved one’s happiness when we can, then who are we?
Let’s be honest, none of this stuff is essential, if won’t cure any ills, nor prevent tragedy.
Which means when you do engage with it, then it had better be good. Great. The best.
As for the name above the door and it’s lack of expected office dress, well for every sweatpant’d billionaire, there are those who enjoy the freedom of enforcing their own personal dress code; of making your own choices about your clothes, rather than picking from the choices of others in a store.
And well, isn’t that the point? As well as being the best bespoke, it is about freedom.
Oh and as for those sweatpants, worn with a splash of bespoke and loafers, you telling me you don’t own the manor?
So that’s bespoke, but why Savile Row bespoke? Why Anderson & Sheppard?
Let’s start with Savile Row.
One of the easiest ways to explain and understand Savile Row, is to view it as a hand made, manufacturing hub, in the expensive middle of one of the world’s most diverse cities.
This brings both challenges and rewards. The diversity makes Savile Row the opposite of its perceived image, instead it is one of the most forward thinking centres of artistic creativity, it just happens that the art is cloth based. The area’s expense, well, financial challenges and competition keep businesses keen and progressive.
In a tradition that remains unchanged since the tailors moved into the area, the vast majority of garments are made on site, or within walking distance. Outside of Savile Row bespoke clothing and London’s bespoke shoemakers, where else in a major city can you walk from a meeting and see that item you’ve ordered being made on your lunch hour? Where else, outside of the confines of house style and practicalities of make, are your options limitless?
By now, in any other industry all of this would have been outsourced. Financial accommodations would have been made. Systems streamlined. Manufacture mechanised and options decreased.
This wouldn’t work with Savile Row. It’s a brand unlike any other. Yes, you are buying into the name, but it’s more than that. It’s an idea of craft, art, tradition and quality.
The artisan talent that is drawn to London & Savile Row simple cannot be outsourced, and the future of the craft is Savile Row’s apprenticeship model of training, something which wouldn’t work remotely.
So why Anderson & Sheppard?
I must confess, I’m a close friend of the house of Anderson & Sheppard and over a number of years we have worked together on a variety of different projects. That being said, I haven’t informed them of this piece, and these are purely the opinions of a man who was a customer a long time before he was a collaborator.
What Anda Rowland, Audie Charles, and all the team at 17 Clifford Street have achieved is extraordinary. There is no other brand of this size on earth which has the sheer impact upon, and connection with, the world’s most influential people. To build this from a completely standing start would be an achievement for the ages. To do it, whilst running arguably the world’s finest hand made clothing company, well, no one else has done it.
One of the things you learn when getting your hands dirty working in the fashion industry is that often business overrules craft. In the short term this can be highly profitable and in many respects, depending upon what type of brand you are and your assumed position in the market, the correct course.
For a select group – most of whom we feature, because this website is an exercise in finding, discussing and celebrating the best – that would be a mistake. Your long term viability and success comes from an understanding that the craft and the art must come first. You lose those, the customer moves on.
This is at the very core of the Anderson & Sheppard. From bespoke through to socks.
That aside? I’m picky, very picky. The craft is one thing but the garments need to stand up to my exacting standards and for me, Anderson & Sheppard, regardless of my connection, was the house which fitted me and my way of life best
Whilst all bespoke fits, each house cut has pros and cons. For me, I need something which I can throw on and forget about. Something I can wear, rather than it be a style statement, Something I can treat like a tool and use hard.
I’m out and about a lot, be that walking through London contemplating life, or in and out of the car questioning the future. I’m constantly on the move and hate to feel restricted, or that I’m wearing something too fine, too precious to actually wear and use.
And frankly, I dislike costume. Instead I’m fascinated by products which work and manage to be beautiful.
Now, that A&S drape is renowned, although sometimes misunderstood. For me it’s a comfort meets ‘elegance’ thing. Something which looks smart yet unfussy, whilst allowing me to work. Think of it as akin to wearing your favourite jumper, the one you save for those moments when only comfort will do. Then remember that you can wear it to meet The Queen, something the jumper would never allow.
Actually can do pretty much anything in it. I’ve driven all over the UK in it. Taking photos, a cinch, that sleeve head and the ease of arm movement sorts that. Fancy putting your back out attempting to ape Fred Astaire / Lionel Messi / Stephan Curry in it? All in a day’s work. Heck, I’m even writing this article wearing it.
This comfort, this elegance comes from the process; the cut and the make along side the vitally important choice of fabric, and as that is a separate article I’ll save that for then…
In the meantime, if you’re looking for a decent reference point for perhaps how men ought to wear tailoring and at the same time avoid the dreaded pastiche, one of the best places to start is the A&S book ‘A Style Is Born’. A book which manages to avoid the pitfalls of many ‘brand books’.
I remember the first time I read it. Alongside the clear, concise history, what struck me was the lack of peacocking. The final section is a collection of present and recent bespoke customers, Royalty through to industrialists, actors, artists, ambassadors, designers and every other field in between. What unites them beyond the very beautiful clothes, is that they all look comfortable. Whether in stills from films, publicity shots or more candid ones, there is a flow and ease about the way everyone stands and moves. There is no weight about the shoulders, lack of padding, everything cut skilfully to enhance rather than restrict the wearer.
And that’s it.
Because, if bespoke is about freedom and Savile Row bespoke is about art, craft and beauty, then surely you pick the tailor which offers all of those and more?
In Part 2, I’ll walk you through the process From the cut & make through to the journey from day one crossing the threshold, fittings, aftercare and beyond.