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Robin Dutt recalls a stroll he took with Richard James down Savile Row. here, he reflects on James’ career as an undisputed master of style and cut.

Looking languid and comfortable in his eponymous shop, Richard James strikes a familiar pose. That air of natural ease and elegance has not deserted him in a quarter of a century since the company’s founding and even before that, when I initially encountered him as a chief buyer for the internationally acclaimed boutique, Browns.

At this time, Browns was a magnetic go-to for shrewd shoppers who wanted edge – not shock – and James was part of a team which really knew what was what. Their judicious choices made the shop eclectic and unusual and James played no small part in the appreciation of Sydney and Joan Bernstein’s idea of what a fashion store should be on that once natural London catwalk, South Molton Street.

But perhaps one in retrospect cannot be surprised that with his eye for detail and knowledge of cut, this graduate of Brighton College of Art would want an emporium of his own – a playground where the message is stridently serious. He is master of cloth and cut and in fact, has been described by writer and academic, Colin McDowell as ‘the best colourist working in menswear in London today.’

James is often referred to as the first of the ‘new establishment’ or ‘new bespoke’ of Savile Row. Even more than 25 years on, his beaming face and ready chuckle impart a sense of mischievous charm – boyish and high-spirited despite the travelled years and much hard work. The business runs smoothly and the knowledgeable staff, a definite cut (or more) above the norm. Everything exudes peace and civility. But like the proverbial swan which glides, one can conjure the purposeful action of the feet beneath the water’s surface.

James shows me some mannequins in the window sporting a selection of stage clothes for Sir Elton John, proudly pointing out the exquisite details and for a second referencing the splashes of crystals ‘each one applied by hand,’ he opines, even the seemingly most insignificant example. Then he invites me to consider the slicing exactitude of the company’s bespoke best. As he describes these garments, there is a undoubted sparkle of nostalgia and pride in his eyes.

Many commentators immediately refer to Richard James as a ‘celebrity tailor’ and whilst this may have more than a modicum of truth about it (customers include Mark Ronson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Craig, Jude Law, Tom Cruise and Bryan Ferry) this is not the only (however important) element of Richard James, the tailor.

Such clients as master couturier, Christian Lacroix, shoe supremo, Manolo Blahnik and designer, David Linley – fellow creators – have been more than happy to be measured up for that James silhouette. But it was not from day one, exactly plain sailing. In an interview with Gentlemen’s Journal, James says, “We were not very well accepted at the start. People thought that we were using the name of Savile Row to better ourselves. We just came into Savile Row to do things in different ways.”

 

Looking languid and comfortable in his eponymous shop, Richard James strikes a familiar pose

Savile Row is undoubtedly a family and like most families, not everyone pledges undying allegiance to all members. As a street of tailors it stands alone in the world – a rich seam of the uniquely precious knowledge and skill running through the mediocrity of fashion. But James would be the first to both celebrate its over 200 year past and court the contemporary – with taste. He recalls one incident. “Sir Hardy Amies was marvellous,” he says. “I well recall his chauffeur-driven car pulling up outside Richard James and Sir Hardy emerging like Lady Bracknell. He’d cast a lugubrious eye over the bright pink and acid green jackets in our window before shaking his head at us in mock disbelief. And then he smiled.”

As I know only too well, having interviewed Sir Hardy and enjoyed his company, the mischief is evident. This was typical Amies – with pomp and circumstance and a little show of cheeky disapproval from the man who set up his establishment in 1946, was Dressmaker to Her Majesty the Queen and had seen little change in the Row. But that mock disbelief and the eventual smile seem to carry with them some affection and regard for what a younger James was doing.

Deep, vibrant, jewel colours have always been part of James’ sartorial autobiography. In fact, three Richard James pieces, greatly loved and sadly loved by moths too, used to hang in my wardrobe – a royal purple cashmere jogging suit, a duck egg blue blazer with mother of pearl buttons and a two-piece suit in subtle candy coloured stripes. Moths are famous for choosing the best.

But there is more than a place for a classic navy blue suit – Richard James style. I was once consulted where to find such a suit for a special occasion and I immediately said James’ establishment. I accompanied the gentleman, the cloth was chosen, the form measured, the deal done and all in the space of what seemed minutes – though not rushed – with expert hands and eyes constantly vigilant. Then he took me for an overly extravagant lunch to celebrate.

Richard James takes his role as a creator on the Row seriously and feels that he has more than a responsibility to do so. He was a founding member of the Savile Row Bespoke Association and ever with an eye not to revolutionize the street but maximise its allure and charm, pioneered Saturday opening times. Perhaps one might imagine the sound of tailor’s shears crashing to the wooden floors in horror, initially.

It is also Richard James’ pioneering spirit which has seen some unusual elements of the business such as controversial advertisements, one was banned, depicting a sartorially perfect gentleman throwing himself off the top of a building, perhaps inspired by artist Yves Klein’s performance leap, ‘Into the Void’, the sharp camouflage suit – a uniform in its own right and the ‘Naked Suit’ in collaboration with mass nudity photographer, Spencer Tunick. The cheeky boy in James has always found outlets. There is seriousness, irony and humour in much of his work – larger than average window pane checks, outsize dot motifs and again those electric, fizzy sherbet hues.

And James certainly has been recognised for his talent and business acumen. In 1996, he was awarded the Evening Standard’s Eros Award as Retailer of the Year. He was Menswear Designer of the Year, awarded by the British Fashion Council in 2001. He won the Best Advertising Campaign for Autumn/Winter 2007. In 2018, he received an OBE. Real estate developer and film producer, Charles S. Cohen took a majority stake in Richard James in 2017 and assumed the role of chairman. Last year, Richard James opened on Park Avenue, New York.

James and I decide to take a stroll down Savile Row and he reminisces about the people he had known and knows and the changes which have come about. It is all too evident that he loves his home turf. Appropriately, we come to a stop at what used to be the House of Hardy Amies – a beautiful building which would make a stupendous town house. We both talk about the unrivalled salon shows held there – all gilt and mirrors – ‘Just like my bedroom!’ he laughs.
There seems to be a twinkle in his eye, as he looks at the old building again.

Robin Dutt recalls a stroll he took

With stores expected to begin reopening next week, the country’s top tailors have been preparing for life on what be a very different Savile Row, writes Richard Burton and William Field.

Given the almost unique challenges they face in a world governed by social distancing, many have had to rethink how they will do business. Some have already been adapting to post-Lockdown life by turning to virtual consultations and considering extended opening hours – including Sundays – to allow a safer flow of customers. Home visiting services may become another reality.

Virtual fittings have been taking place successfully at Huntsman for the past few weeks, particularly for overseas customers, according to Taj Phull, brand development manager, who points out that “the keen eye of our cutters will be more valued than ever”.

Kilgour and Lee Marsh have managed to diversify their business with the help of Zoom calls. Smaller shops such as Norton and Sons are planning to maintain their strict “one customer at a time” rule with staff in PPE and many will be offering fittings by appointment to manage footfall, offering hand-washing stations and providing staff and clients with masks. Huntsman is even advertising masks online in their exclusive house tweeds.

While conducting fittings online can be tricky, I am able to fulfill repeat orders, make garments – and educate students

Lee Marsh (pictured above) admits it’s been a challenge. “You need to feel the cloth during the fitting for it to be properly bespoke,” he says. “It’s not easy seeing colour on a phone or tablet.”

But he adds: “While conducting fittings online can be tricky, I am able to fulfil repeat orders, make garments – and educate students. That’s because we both work from the same jacket and cut from the same pattern. That way they can follow exactly what I’m sewing in the same places.”

Tools to the trade now stretch beyond shears, thimble and thread. Camera extensions for laptops or phones are essential for Marsh, enabling him to guide them through each stitch.

There’s another advantage. Not only can the students easily recall this information as all sessions are recorded, but such digital tutoring also trims-down the unnecessary travel time – and cost, something some students have found problematic in the past.

“I can also mitigate any unnecessary teaching time,” he said. “For example, comparatively traditional apprenticeships have the student doing pad stitching [a labour-intensive hand-stitching technique] for over five months before they move you on to the next stage.

“Whilst this is important for several reasons, technically, the student doesn’t need to be there if I’m supervising from the other side of the screen.”

Alex Lamb of Kilgour, which had been forced to close its flagship store shortly before the pandemic, said: “Online consultations are a great way to conduct multiple meetings, especially with existing customers based overseas. Customers have been happy to receive cloth samples by post following the online consultation.

“We’ve had great support from British mills who have been operating skeleton services so that they can continue posting out samples to customers on our behalf.”

Whilst conducting fittings in the middle of the shop isn’t ideal, we will encourage it if the customer feels comfortable in doing so

As for those first-fittings, Lamb adds: “We’ve bought a lot of PPE equipment, which is due to be delivered shortly, to enable us to get back in front of customers safely.

They have even crafted their own tailored overalls that will need to be changed between customer fittings, in addition to protective visors and masks.

“It’s been reassuring that customers have been purchasing vouchers online. They can put digital deposits down for bespoke suits which gets cash into the business – a bit like a bond. This helps the workshop keep moving too.”

William Skinner of Dege & Skinner, one of the last remaining family-owned independent shops on the Row, said: “From the word go we relocated coat makers to home and provided sewing machines and steam irons.

“Cutting is more challenging, as the table needs to be longer and taller. Our cutter has been coming into the Row occasionally to keep things moving by mitigating as much risk as possible, but trying to maintain a modicum of normality.”

This essential part of the process is then distributed between the coat makers working from home.

“Looking forward, we will be opening – as such, by pre-booked appointments only meeting one customer at a time. We will be actively adhering to all government guidelines, including our staff wearing PPE during fittings.”

Skinner adds that they will also be operating a skeleton service of team members in support of maintaining a safe distance.

“Whilst conducting fittings in the middle of the shop isn’t ideal, we will encourage it if the customer feels comfortable in doing so. As a family-owned business, we pride ourself on looking after our staff and customers. These are challenging times, but we will come out of it.” Others have been using the Lockdown as a time for reflection. Richard Anderson has been looking at new Autumn designs and Henry Poole is working on releasing an “entirely new concept” that will diversify its collection. Simon Cundey tells visitors to his website: “I will be back in touch very shortly with exciting details and news of superb offers on our new range of lightweight summer fabrics and our online swatch service.”

Cad & The Dandy are operating a strict diary system to control the flow and plan to take advantage of their dual entrances and have even repositioned their cutters’ and sales staff’s desks to ensure distancing. They will be sharing parking locations ahead of bookings as they expect many customers will be travelling by car.

Both tailors have been aiding the Covid-19 effort by having their cutters produce PPE equipment following requests from hospices, ICU nurses and GP’s general practitioners.

Others have been using the Lockdown as a time for reflection. Richard Anderson has been looking at new Autumn designs and Henry Poole is working on releasing an “entirely new concept” that will diversify its collection. Simon Cundey tells visitors to his website: “I will be back in touch very shortly with exciting details and news of superb offers on our new range of lightweight summer fabrics and our online swatch service.”

Shaun Brennan, a local tailor, adds the final word, echoing a sentiment shared by so many of his colleagues: “If there’s one fortunate thing to come out of this global pandemic, it’s the shift in spending habits”, he adds. “There’s a renewed focus on long-standing value, local buying, and sustainability”

With stores expected to begin reopening next

Kilgour has closed its flagship showroom on Savile Row. Passers-by were surprised to see equipment, including sewing machines, on the steps of the flagship store as it was being emptied at the end of last month.

This week, the doors remained locked with a sign telling visitors to contact the law firm Critchleys for further information.

The company blamed “challenging trading conditions in the bespoke clothing market” and cited, specifically, “supply-chain issues affecting the delivery of garments to and from markets in the Far and Middle East that seem unlikely

But it insists it will continue to operate and is contacting customers to make arrangements to fit and deliver clothing orders currently in hand and to take orders for new garments.

It is known as a heritage brand with strong values and not one scared to take on a modern approach, writes William Field.

A streamlined ready-to-wear aesthetic made the old school way using proper materials, including British wool (supporting British textile industry and campaign for wool), they have also been great supporters of the BTBA (British Tailors Benevolent Association) and have coached numerous apprentices through their careers, including the current cutter of Huntsman “Campbel Carey”

The company’s roots can be traced back to the 1800s although in more recent times its reputation has been shaped by its links to Hollywood’s best-dressed.

Recent modern patrons include: Benedict Cumberbatch, Jason Stratham, Luke Evans and Daniel Craig. It has been Hollywood go-to outfitter since the golden days.

Originally known as Kilgour & French when tailors AH Kilgour and TF French united in 1923, its biggest claim to fame was providing the tailcoat for Fred Astaire in Top Hat in 1935. The likes of Louis B Mayer, Rex Harrison and Cary Grant followed.

Kilgour has closed its flagship showroom on

The multi-faceted Ibiza-style venue that is IT found itself a Mayfair home just before Christmas, offering a multi-faceted venue with bar, restaurant and private-dining options in what was a former art gallery in Dover Street.

Next month (March) it moves into a new phase when it officially introduces its weekly brunch menu with the backing of its Michelin-starred chef Gennaro Esposito whose influences are clearly entwined into its authentic Mediterranean style.

The menu will be served across different stations: a rich salad bar with a wide variety of eggs, cold cuts, cheese and other typical Italian classics, meaning it’ll be one of the few places in London where you can find one of the popular Southern Italian’s delicacies frittata di pasta.

But at the heart of it lie the sort of family ties that typify a London IT brunch. The upstairs private lounge will be transformed every week into an oasis for children who will be entertained by magicians, karaoke or games sessions.
Founder Alessio Matrone describes IT as having “given the city a totally different experience where fine Mediterranean cuisine meets the Balearic beat of Ibiza”.


The experience is augmented by the restaurant views guests enjoy; those that entail the chefs cooking in the kitchen, the pizza oven station and the IT fish market counter which boasts a range of fresh produce.
As well as the bar and restaurant which can accommodate 150 seated guests, there is a 36-seat private dining room, featuring a dramatic skylight and an upstairs private lounge with a 3am late licence.

The multi-faceted Ibiza-style venue that is IT

Malcolm Folley with David Coulthard in Monaco

Award winning sportswriter Malcolm Folley gets under the skin of motorsport’s most fabled race in his new book, Monaco – Inside F1’s Greatest Race. The book is not a conventional history but rather a companion of stories and shared memories from those most intimately associated with Monaco such as Sir Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Damon Hill, David Coulthard, Ross Brawn, Martin Brundle, Nico Rosberg and many more, including the most unlikeliest winner of all, Frenchman Olivier Panis.

The day Lauda had Senna in his sights

The entrance to the Automobile Club de Monaco is located on Boulevard Albert 1er, barely 100 metres from the first corner of the circuit, Sainte-Dévote.  In the foyer is a portrait of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II and his wife, Princess Charlene; indeed, portraits of the ruling monarchy are omnipresent throughout the principality. Poignantly, before you reach the ground-floor restaurant, there is a painting capturing the alluring beauty of Prince Albert’s mother, Oscar-winning actress Grace Kelly, which is a reminder that her marriage to Prince Rainier III, in front of the world’s media in April 1956, elevated the monarchy of Monaco to the global stage as she became Princess Grace.

Beyond the reception desk is a corridor leading to the library. On the right-hand wall is a photographic gallery of winners of the Monaco Grand Prix. A photograph of the late Ayrton Senna is prominently displayed, his rightful privilege as the man who has won a record six times on these streets. Another man whose history is reflected on this wall of fame is Niki Lauda, a victor twice. The careers of the men overlapped as Lauda neared the end of his pre-eminence in the paddock and Senna made his introduction.

Lauda recalls their earliest encounter as though it occurred yesterday. He was in pursuit of his third world championship – with McLaren then – after winning two titles for Ferrari. Senna was in his first season in Formula One in an uncompetitive Toleman. Only Senna knew – knew for certain – that greatness beckoned. It was 1984: in this scene Lauda is Big Brother.

“I was on a quick lap on Thursday . . . and I came round a corner to find Senna driving in the middle of the road,” says Lauda. Back in the pits, Lauda went in search of Senna. His question to the young Brazilian was typically brusque. “Are you one of us?” he demanded.

“What do you mean?” replied Senna. Lauda explained the fundamental requirements – and respect – expected from a new arrival on the most elevated stage in motor racing. “You can’t sit in the middle of the road in qualifying,” said the Austrian. He had a manner that did not invite debate.

Senna was unusually self-assured, though. “Niki,” he said. “This is the way I am.”

Lauda left without another word. In qualifying on Saturday, he knew his moment would arrive. “I did my quick lap and stayed out,” he said. “I was looking in my mirrors and waving drivers through. Then I saw Senna approaching from out of the tunnel. I stopped my car in front of his. After Senna stopped I took first gear and went. In the garage I waited for him to come to me this time. He did.”

Senna began to make his feelings known, when Lauda interrupted him. “Ayrton,” he said. “That’s the way I am.”

Great rivals Niki Lauda and Ayrton Senna showing some mutual respect

The Austrian, these days a driving force behind Hamilton’s acceleration to greatness with Mercedes, has never compromised his individuality in a sport that long since surrendered its personality to corporate conformity. Lauda has never been measured for a team uniform.  “Senna had a belief that he was right, but I told him that I could do the same if that is what he wants,” he explained. “From this moment, we never had a problem.”

To trace the winners at Monaco, from Juan Manuel Fangio to Stirling Moss, to Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart is to follow a lineage of motor-racing aristocracy which runs through the labyrinth of these streets to the barons of the sport these past 40 years: Lauda, Prost, Senna, Schumacher, Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel and Nico Rosberg, all world champions bar Sir Stirling, and all multiple winners at Monaco.

Hamilton always claims to feel the spirit of Senna infiltrate the soul of his driving when he is negotiating the swift changes of elevation, and tight, twisting corners around the harbour after screaming on the rev-limit through the artificial light of the tunnel. The first of his two victories, in 2008, the last win in Monaco for the once invincible McLaren team, evoked an outpouring of emotion from Hamilton that perhaps will never be surpassed no matter how many times he wins the world championship.

Monaco mattered because of Senna, yes; but, more, because of its historical significance to all who have driven a Formula One car on these streets normally governed by a 50kph speed limit, or less.

 

When every night was party night

Michel Ferry is a link to the past and more pragmatic present in Monaco, where a Grand Prix has been held uninterrupted since 1955. Beside his desk in the inner sanctum of the ACM is a photograph of him with Prince Rainier, and another with his son Prince Albert II. Ferry, aged 72, a silver-haired, debonair Monégasque, who is Commissaire Général of the Monaco Grand Prix, has held office within the ACM since 1962.

He recalls with fondness the days of Stirling Moss, who won three times on these streets, and Graham Hill, who wore lightly the epithet Mr Monaco, given him for winning five times between 1963 and 1969.  “It was another time, a different way of life, a lot of fun,” says Ferry. “Every night there was a big party with the drivers. Graham was at the Hotel de Paris on Friday and Saturday nights. Drivers were playing cards and drinking.”

Stewart and his wife, Helen, were an exception, says Ferry. “The couple were very close with Princess Grace,” he explains. “They were received at the palace and stayed there, more than once, during the Grand Prix.”

Jackie Stewart opens a bottle of champagne rather more sedately than usual, much to the amusement of fellow Formula One drivers Graham Hill and Jim Clark, and Provost John Campbell of Dumbarton

In contrast, the late, colourful James Hunt never knowingly missed a party in the Seventies. Remembering them was another matter. “James smoked drugs – everybody knew that,” says Ferry. “Lots of girls were around. The access to the track was free. You could approach the drivers, you could touch the cars. It is finished like this today: the cars arrive in the pits and the teams close the doors. Today you need to ask ten people to apply for a pass!”

For some years it has been evident that the only people not partying in Monaco until after the flag has dropped are the drivers. With car manufacturers Mercedes, Ferrari, Honda and Renault investing at least $1 billion in Formula One between them, that is the least surprising factor of Monaco over a grand prix week.

Each year the armada of ocean-going yachts and floating palaces that motor into the harbour becomes larger and more ostentatious. Often these boats are registered in tax havens. It is rumoured – but never openly admitted – that oceans of money exchange hands to claim a prime berth on the quayside during the grand prix weekend. It is the race every Formula One driver most wants to win; and for those with power and influence it is the race to be seen at.

Celebrities from down the ages, including Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Bing Crosby, The Beatles, Sylvester Stallone, George Clooney and Brad Pitt, have been seduced by this motor race by the shores of the Mediterranean.

As veteran broadcaster and PR executive Tony Jardine suggests: “Monaco is the glittering prize because everything associated with Formula One is epitomised in Monte Carlo: boats, champagne, success and excess.”

 

Monaco: Inside F1’s Greatest Race by Malcolm Folley is published in hardback by Century, available to buy from Amazon or any good book store now, priced £20.00

[caption id="attachment_4252" align="alignleft" width="300"] Malcolm Folley with