By Daniel Evans
Edward Sexton, the tailor who shook up Savile Row with his bright colours and daring styles, has died at the age of 80 following a short illness. Sexton, always immaculately dressed whenever he went out, was one of the key driving forces of change on Savile Row and, so much did he love the trade, he never retired. Most famously, Sexton combined with Tommy Nutter to bring a touch of rebellion to the traditions of Savile Row. Nutter was the public face and Sexton the tailoring genius behind Nutters, the fashion house which ripped up the rules of Savile Row in the late 1960s.
When I caught up with Sexton a few years ago, it was his work at Nutters which brought a sparkle to his eye. “When I got together with Tommy, Savile Row was a really staid place,” he told me. “It was boring. There were curtains across the windows – all very intimidating. But we were two young guys who wanted to make a living and create our own look. When we put our garments in the window, it shocked Savile Row to the core. People said: ‘We’ll give them six months’.
“The turning point came when the clients of other tailors looked into our window and then went into their tailors and said: ‘Could you please make my lapel a little bit wider? Could you please make my trousers a little more flared?’ Gradually, Savile Row started to change. The curtains came down, the heavy oak doors were left open and you would start to see models appear in (other) windows as well. We were a breath of fresh air.”
Thanks to the financial backing of Beatles manager Peter Brown and Cilla Black among others, Nutter, 25, and Sexton, 26, opened the doors of their tailoring house at 35a Savile Row on Valentine’s Day 1969. From the moment their first suits were put on show that evening, the house became known for clothes with a cutting-edge style that were beautifully made – without the slightest compromise of the Row’s high standards. “All the tailors had to admit that, respect that,” recalled Sexton. The pair went on to make the iconic white suits Mick and Bianca Jagger wore, as well as those worn by Paul McCartney and John Lennon on the cover of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album. Sexton once explained: “I don’t make suits, I build them, stage by stage.”
Sexton’s never-ending enthusiasm for tailoring was reflected in an interview he did with Cindy Lawford for Savile Row Style Magazine last year when he said he had no interest in retiring. “I love what I do. I have this huge passion for it. I love being in the workroom. I love a challenge. Once Savile Row is in your blood, it’s in your blood.”