Picture a Savile Row tailor. Thinking of a well-turned out silver-haired gent with the tell-tale sign of chalk dust on his trousers? Well, just a few short years ago you would have been right. Once a prestigious occupation that represented hard work, dedication and mastery of your skill, during the tech boom of the 80s and 90s analogue professions like tailoring became rather unfashionable – leading to a dearth of new blood in the industry and once highly sought after cutting room careers going unfilled.
Happily, however, the past decade has seen a resurgence in interest in traditional craftsmanship and a greater appreciation for high-quality, clothing among Millennials who were brought up on fast fashion. Now, should you enter one of Savile Row’s storied workshops, you’ll find a hive of activity and more than a few fresh faces. We meet them…
John Baker - Creative Manager, Cad & The Dandy
Like many tailors, Baker discovered Savile Row through the refined older men in his family. “My grandfather drove a black cab for 30 years, always wearing a Savile Row suit, complete with shirt, tie and braces,” he explains. “This really sparked my interested in Savile Row and, while I was working as a scaffolder, I also made clothes at home for myself.”
After gaining experience at both big fashion brands and traditional men’s tailoring boutiques, Baker quickly decided the Row was the place for him. “It’s anti-fast fashion, it has sustainability and there’s an interest in the process,” he says enthusiastically. “It’s cool, niche, and quite a unique job. It is creative, very artisanal and in many senses quite glamorous.”
Now the Creative Manager at Cad & The Dandy, founded in 2008 as one of Savile Row’s newest additions, Baker explains that building relationships with clients is just as important to his role as his technical abilities. “My role as a tailor is to understand and interpret what customers want so we can make a garment reality based on an idea they have in their mind,” he says. “The other really important thing I’ve found is to have a truly in-depth knowledge of cloth, after all, it’s the foundation of everything we do.”
As for the future, Baker predicts the tailoring industry will move into more casual styles, with separates, layers and unstructured suits becoming a key part of Savile Row’s business. As a true marker of how perceptions of the industry have changed, Baker also recommends anyone looking to start a career in tailoring study at university. “Apprenticeships are hard to get as the competition is so high,” he explains. “I evolved my role internally by becoming more knowledgable with time but it’s important to make friends and be visible to get your foot in the door.”
Juan Carlos Benito - Head Cutter, J.P.Hackett
Coming from a family of tailors (his grandfather trained at Kilgour back when it was Kilgour, French & Staanbury while his father runs a tailoring business in Madrid), tailoring is not so much a profession as a way of life for Benito. “When I was 10 years old, I remember being in my father’s cutting room, pretending to be head tailor with the shears and tape measure! I never considered any other profession,” he reminisces.
After honing his craft at La Confianza in Madrid, Benito headed straight for London, landing in the UK in 2012. Following various tailoring positions at some of the city’s finest brands, including Oliver Brown, Benito finally got his big break on Savile Row in 2019, when we was appointed Head Tailor at J.P.Hackett’s new boutique at No.14. “Being on the Row has exceeded my expectations; walking into work everyday is inspiring and I feel privileged to be here. Some of our neighbours having been on the Row for over 100 years; there is tremendous tradition and I am learning more about it each day.”
Head Cutter – sounds important but what does it actually mean? For Benito, it’s running the full spectrum of bespoke Savile Row tailoring, from fitting clients to overseeing garment creation and developing Hackett’s house style to make sure it is at the forefront of the latest tailoring trends. “We need to constantly innovate and adapt to the world around us and be open minded to modernising traditions without losing respect for the past,” he explains, commenting that concerns about sustainability and a desire to know exactly where their clothing comes from has been responsible for a large number of new clients.
“Social media has been brilliant for showcasing the craft, skills and history of tailoring to consumers and opening up the community. The Savile Row committee has also been integral in offering apprenticeships to support new tailors,” says Benito. However, he cautions any aspiring tailor who might be having second thoughts, “You need to love what you do and have great passion for the industry. Everyday is a test and it takes years to build the skills to create beautiful garments.”
Thomas Pierre-Carr - Apprentice Cutter, Richard Anderson
While still just 23, Pierre-Carr has a lot of tailoring experience under his belt. Having learnt the basics of sewing at a local tailor aged 16, Pierre-Carr worked weekends at Dege & Skinner and Richard Anderson while studying before joining No. 13 Savile Row permanently at 18. But, he says, the learning curve was steep, “Savile Row wasn’t what I initially expected. I didn’t fully comprehend what went in to making a suit and the number of specialised people that are involved.
“I joined the Row just as I was transitioning into a young adult,” he continues. “Learning how to conduct myself and being in the working environment was so important, as was realising the value of a skill-based craft. I think it’s important to understand that being a tailor/cutter is a long-term commitment. You have to have a real love for the craft and a curiosity to learn, examine and understand more.”
It is clear, however, that Pierre-Carr has no regrets and sees himself having a long career on the Row – alongside a new generation of skilled tailors. “I think the volume of young people around me that are dedicated to learning and honing their craft shows that the prestige of tailoring and bespoke garments will live on. As long as we maintain the quality that is synonymous with Savile Row, then it will have a prosperous future.”
Thinking about ordering your own suit? These are the new rules of spring tailoring…
Join the Gentleman’s Journal Clubhouse here.