Take a walk down Savile Row and peer through the windows of any number of the 17th-century houses that play host to the iconic tailors and you’ll see a similar pattern emerging: dark wood panelled walls and low slung leather chairs and sofas – like a traditional gentleman’s club – reserved only for the most prestigious of members. Look into No. 13, however and you’ll find an altogether more modern spectacle.
A long corridor-style space with white-washed walls, a bright parquet wood flooring, jackets in a plethora of fabrics sitting neatly beneath framed modern art prints and black-and-white photographs of notable customers. While, at the end of the space, the cutters work away in view of each customer. It’s inviting, bright and above all, modern. This is Richard Anderson. Opened in 2001, 2016 sees them celebrate their 15th year on The Row.
To some, it is something of a maverick on the traditional Savile Row. To others, Richard Anderson is another indicator of the changing face of London’s sartorial street. But as co-founder Brian Lishak points out, the root of the business is still the same as any of the others – a true love for bespoke and all that it entails. ‘I fell in love with the whole concept of bespoke clothing, the quality of what we were doing and the customers.’ Brian Lishak is lamenting back on his formative years on the row. 2016 was a special year, not just for Richard Anderson Ltd, but for co-founder Lishak, who is celebrating his 60th year on Savile Row. Brian and Richard both began their careers at Huntsman & Sons, Brian at the tender age of 16 and Richard at just 17.
Everything the two men learnt here has brought them to where they are today: co-founders of Richard Anderson Ltd. The idea was to give life back to the arguably dated institution that is Savile Row. To pull back the velvet curtain of the so-styled members’ clubs and invite new and old customers into the modern way of tailoring, while retaining a passion for what it means to have a name above the door on this street. Their story is one of shared experiences and loves.
To some, it is something of a maverick on the traditional Savile Row
The first time they met was while Brian was sales director at Huntsman and a 17-year-old Richard Anderson came through the doors to begin an apprenticeship. Both men have worked on The Row their whole working lives and have, as a consequence, dressed every nationality, rank and personality imaginable.
‘We’ve tailored for Gregory Peck,’ Brian says, ‘he came to me in Beverly Hills to have his last ever three suits made.’ Peck was doing his last theatrical production in Portland, Oregon, at a small theatre where he began his career. Richard cut the suits for him, one of which was the black velvet cord one he wore on stage.
Brian recalls another great story: ‘I had a cable from a customer that read, “Brian, I’ve got an unknown Egyptian actor who’s been filming in the desert for the last 18 months, the film has been nominated for the Royal Command Performance – would you dress him as a gentleman should be dressed?” The young Egyptian actor was, of course, Omar Sharif and the film Lawrence of Arabia.’
In 1983 Brian left Huntsman, but rejoined in 1996. By then Richard was a cutter working under Colin Hammick and Brian Hall (two of the most revered names in tailoring). Brian recognised Richard’s talents instantly: ‘I saw that Richard was a talented person. When we make for somebody, it’s not just a question of fitting their body, it’s a question of making them look a better figure than they are. You’ve got to make a man look his best, that’s what he’s coming to you for. That’s an aesthetic rather than a technical thing and Richard had a natural eye for that.’
When Brian was appointed managing director, he made Richard head cutter and a director of the company, and the two of them ran the company together until it was taken over and the two men took a leap of faith. ‘The new owners wanted to make changes and I was not of the same mind. I’d always loved the business and suddenly I found that had totally gone, so Richard and I decided to open on our own.’
With Brian’s skills as a salesman and Richard’s tailoring abilities, it was a match made in heaven. As with any new business, it wasn’t easy. When they started, they didn’t have a shop — this, in itself, took six months of negotiations. They made a shortlist of properties that they would like to get into, all of course on Savile Row, and No. 13 was top of the list. Richard got a friend of his to put up a cutting board in his garage and Brian rented a desk in a friend’s office just around the corner in Old Burlington Street and they would go out to see customers at their hotels or home until they finally opened the shop four months later. Part of their early success came from the support of old customers.
With Brian's skills as a salesman and Richard's tailoring abilities, it was a match made in heaven
One in particular, Brian recalls, ‘was the second or third customer that came along. He said to me: “Oh hi, boys,” and put his arm around our shoulders and said, “I know how tough it was when I started on my own, come on – I’ll give you some orders to get you going.’ Another previous customer in San Francisco ordered garments from and that, Brian claims, was the start of it.
‘When Richard and I opened here we obviously wanted to go ahead and produce the quality that we’d always produced, but we decided we wanted to have a much more friendly, warm atmosphere.’
Which accounts for the different feel that No. 13 offers anyone who enters. It’s not ‘typical of the Row’, but it works. It’s not just the interiors that buck the trend here, though. Their innovation goes as far as making bespoke jeans from Japanese denim and they even made the first bespoke black-sequin dinner jacket (two of which were bought by Bryan Ferry).
‘When walking along the road you’ll see most of the tailors have grey and blue suits, but here we do something different,’ says Brian. When Brian started many years ago there were between 40 and 50 bespoke tailors on Savile Row. Now there are only 12 or so tailoring houses. No. 13 shows no signs of bowing to the pressures of others, but continues to march to the beat of its own drum, and with Brian and Richard at the helm there’s no doubt their luck is here to stay.