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Recently, Houseplant Appreciation Day was celebrated reminding all about the positive influence that plants can have in a domestic environ, writes Robin Dutt. Some might say that they’d be lost without their giant cheese-plant or that winding, trailing Ivy. Prince Charles is known to talk to his green friends and George Orwell reminded us of practically every Victorian and Edwardian musty hallway with his, ‘Keep the Aspidistra Flying’. I recall my Mama’s love of vibrant and vast blooms of red and white Geraniums, reminiscent of the Houses of York and Lancaster and a little similar since, apparently, the red hates the white – and vice versa!

This year we learn that Orchids have been identified as the most popular houseplant to include in an interior scheme. And as everyone knows, you can pay top dollar for a spindly example lavished with premium wrap from some joint in Chelsea or try your luck at Marks & Spencer where regularly, you can buy a pair of statuesque examples which will cost just over £15.

For readers of Savile Row Style, it might be worth remembering that whilst our little strip is universally, reassuringly expensive, they might find a little inspiration in surrounding themselves with plants that seem linked to all things monetary – Rubber plants (financial luck), the Lucky Bamboo (no explanation needed) and then why not consider a Pachira Money Tree. Who said that money and trees don’t go together?

It’s a quick hop, skip and a jump to your nearest nursery, my friend…

Recently, Houseplant Appreciation Day was celebrated reminding

ART – A Festival of Light and Stone by Nicolas Moreton

Nicolas Moreton is one of those truly gifted sculptors who revels in his love of past giants who wielded the chisel, writes Robin Dutt. ‘Making a Mark’ is a fine retrospective show of the creator’s signature style – whether gargantuan figures, cosmic or mythical symbolism, experiments in pure shape – or stone, bleeding halogen light. He began stone carving in 1985 but his output is so prodigious and ambitious that he made up for what anyone might call ‘other pursuits’. Purposefully sensual and sexual in content, these large male and female forms are suffused with a brooding, primeval energy and when, in some rarer cases he utilizes silk, paint, gold leaf, metal or Cedar Cones, he explores what is possible when conveying expression in unusual ways. The silk and stone are immediately evocative, for instance helped by the vividness of the chosen blood red hue of the silk. This piece is purposefully called, ‘Transition’.

The temptation might be to recall the magnificent work of such masters as Epstein or Moore and Moreton, pictured above left, would probably not disagree but he has certainly made a particular brand of sense, sensuality and sexuality his own. Many times, he presents his figures without faces – or if they have ‘faces’ then these might be embellished instead of detailed with eyes, nose, mouth or in one case, ‘Sunflowers (Man and Boy)’ he presents the reality of a guardian generation, the father with his son – both figures sporting the dense seed network of a rough, circular sunflower bloom.

This may not be the weather to want to spend too long outside, instead of dreaming of roasting your nuts by an open fire, but that is exactly what Moreton wants to encourage. The show is at New College, The Cloisters and Ante-chapel where so much of the work has been set in the context of the natural world. It is a harmonic union for the very material he uses can trace its origin to beneath the earth or as outcrops from marble cliffs. These materials such as Kilkenny Fossil Limestone, Ancaster Weatherbed Limestone, Clipsham Blue Limestone, Corremie Pink Granite or Portuguese Marble all have their distinct characters and qualities and Moreton is intimate with all their personalities.What is right for one construct is surely not so suitable for another. He respects and adores what nature has given him to play with but as a very contemporary worker in stone, he has some very contemporary ideas of production, too. As Miles Young, Warden, New College, Oxford points out – lest we do not know or are apt to forget, –

…’Moreton is no slave to tradition. He is a consummate craftsman
with a highly developed skill in direct carving into the stone, but he uses
tungsten carbide reinforced tips for his chisels and polyurethane for
his mallets which gives him the advantage over Michelangelo, and his
diamond sponges enable him to polish the surface of his stone carvings
to a brilliance which Henry Moore would have envied’.

Moreton attracted the attention of such enthusiasts as jazz singer George Melly and strident, brilliant critic, Brian Sewell who both had pieces in their private collections and Lord Archer is also a fan.

And showing his eager hand when it comes to experimentation in this type of sculptural work, he presents in this latest show, a selection of his tactile, almost hypnotic and atmospheric pieces such as ‘Chrysalis’, ‘O Joyous Light’, ‘In the Beginning’ and ‘Catherine Wheel’ where he makes use of lights, whether LED or Halogen. These might certainly take the chill off a winter visit to the show. The latter in particular adds a surprising element to his work where the light appears to mimic trapped molten lava. Or in the case of, specifically, ‘In the Beginning’ the structure is flagrantly sexual in its shaping and meaning, the crack of light, glowing within as an invitation and a reminder from where all life starts. It might of course, be read as a simple shape, an element of space, a potent decoration from a science fiction mansion and more – but knowing Moreton’s touch, the link with creation is too strong to ignore. It looks like an egg cracking open, the beginning of a stellar journey.

And it is back to the fecundity of nature which gives life when Moreton himself says of ‘Catching Nature’s Gift’ (a nude female with hands raised)

‘She sits, waiting, expectant. Her hands are raised ready to
catch the fertile waters of life from the sky. When the rains come, they
cascade down her fertile core and then into the earth beneath her. Her
stone pedestal represents the earth and the rivers of our world’.

Making a Mark – A Retrospective Exhibition of Sculpture by Nicolas Moreton is at New College and Ante-chapel, New College Lane, Oxford, OX1 3BN

ART - A Festival of Light and

BOOK REVIEW – Walk this Way! – ‘A Visual History of Walking Canes and Sticks.’

Anthony Moss is a rabid rabologist, writes Robin Dutt. Now, that word might conjure images of something biological, chemical or certainly dangerously esoteric. It might suggest someone with an expert knowledge. It may also to some minds, convey the idea of the kind of character typified by Hannibal Lecter. But if this might also be a question of passion and voraciousness in general, then one comes close to the mark, for a rabologist is the distinct word, or term for a collector of walking sticks.

Some only three hundred years ago, gentlemen wore swords at their hips as marques of distinction and choice (not just for street fighting or to defend honour) and of course, were representative of their spending ability. In many ways, the walking stick replaced the sword just as in the 20th century the walking cane would be superseded by the umbrella – a device that provides two functions yet at a push (quite literally sometimes) could still be deemed as a weapon of first defence. Umbrella point and eyes or privates of attacking thief? No contest if it is in the right hands – like someone with some fencing experience. And indeed, the umbrella itself – a relative of the stick – has now been replaced by and large…by nothing. Sartorial justice.

In his very entertaining tome, ‘A Visual History of Walking Sticks and Canes’, Anthony Moss, pictured left, also an esteemed collector of first editions, fine furniture and unusual stationery items, takes us on a fascinating historical journey of this one-time sartorial and purely functional implement which only a hundred years or so ago was a daily feature not to say, a must. The functional stick or cane is one thing, such as a sturdy walking device or something with a curved end held in the hand of a shepherd boy, so to speak and Moss covers some of these examples. But what is most fascinating is the sheer indulgence represented by sticks and canes which were the ‘pointe finale’ when it came to fine dressing for a gentleman or a lady. They really were the finishing touch and betrayed much detail about the wearer (the correct term – for you don’t carry a cane) and also of the quality of the usually commissioned item. In the final analysis, an elegant cane was not simply for the joy of the wearer it was for the admiration of the discerning. And the covetous.

Naturally, a couple of centuries ago there were cane shops, rather like ready to wear clothing stores much later on, where those without the means but with dreams of being, could give a semblance of the elegant look. If they were imaginative and tied a silken ribbon around the stick’s collar, for example, or even go further and apply some sort of paste jewel themselves (it must have happened) well, all to the good. At least it was personalized. But the world of the commissioned cane is quite another affair.

Moss is keen to point out that the stick or cane is far beyond ‘a mobility aid’, unless of course, one thinks of that mobility classic of old, the hooked hospital stick for the injured young or the otherwise healthy old with NHS burned into the handle. Ironically this could look like a person’s initials but quite unlike the curlicue swirls or strident block lettering commissioned by the owners themselves. I recall that it wasn’t so long ago that a certain eccentric of London’s Harrow Road used to appear from time to time with a radio perched on his shoulders blaring a Reggae tune and his battered top hat and long black cane festooned with flashing lights. It was his sceptre, his staff of office. A symbol of sorts. And indeed, what was a pharaoh without his sceptre? Can Parliament itself be called to order, when the occasion demands, without Black Rod?

Moss’ knowledge is devastatingly wide – explosively so – and his passion unbridled. He is probably one of the most important cane collectors in the world and this book surely represents his life’s real work. And it all started when his delightful poetess wife, Deanna presented him with a couple of sticks as a present one day so long ago in their 56-year marriage. Did she know then what she was doing? Probably. For the A&D Collection is one of the finest to be enjoyed and within the covers of this book can be appreciated by all, enthusiasts and the curious. The trouble with curiosity is that it can sometimes lead to collecting. Ask Mr Moss.

Illustrated with over 800 full colour superbly considered photographs by Gayle Bromberg who was, at first meeting with Anthony, ‘bowled over’ by his passion, one might reasonably expect a visual feast. So here we have all types of sticks and canes, from canes with provenance to shooting sticks, rat catching canes to map canes, defence sticks to decorative essentials, hollow structures that conceal folding violins or ones that harbour poisons. Then, there are ‘squirter’ canes – devices filled with water to titillate or annoy ladies in the music hall. Others are set with watches, compasses, matchboxes and so the list races on… Perhaps today we might set one with a Sat Nav or a step counter or a device to keep up with the latest data on the Omicron strain? Mayhap the past had its version of all of these things.

Exquisite carving of exotic heads in wood or in ivory, such as the spectacular example of Napoleon, silver ladies resting leisurely as nymphs on horizontal handles (perfect for a grasped hand) and suggesting poetic verse or pure sex, round balls of smooth marble or glowing amber and the fantastic bejewelled examples from the studios of long gone artists of such rare talent – all will delight and amaze.

Mr Moss has done more than a good job. You can’t take a stick to him.

‘A Visual History of Walking Sticks and Canes’ by Anthony Moss is published by Rowman & Littlefield. £58.

BOOK REVIEW - Walk this Way! -

By Daniel Evans

It is always easy for the armchair expert to say every effort needs to be made to attract new customers into the heartland of British tailoring though quite another to put such ideas into action but that is exactly what the entrepreneurial James Sleater is doing at 7-8 Savile Row.

James, the driving force behind Cad and the Dandy, the tailoring outfit he set up with Ian Meiers in 2008, is positively brimming with excitement as he shows me around the two floors of his expanded operation, aimed at the ready-to-wear market.

“It’s such an exciting project and it’s good for Savile Row to have a shop that’s busy and buzzy,” says James. “A shop that absolutely has its roots in tailoring but is not really competing with anyone else because it is offering a completely different thing. It’s a unique shop for the street and hopefully one that will attract the customers of the future, offering them what might be their first foray into the world of Savile Row. Obviously, we hope they buy their suits from us but the street wins if they go on to buy bespoke suits from anyone else. That’s got to be the thing – the continuation of Savile Row. No one tailor on it is bigger that the street, the street is bigger than all of us.”

James is delighted with the reaction to the new venture. “It’s been absolutely brilliant,” he enthuses. ”We’ve been caught by surprise as to how successful it’s been. We sold out of dinner suits in the first three weeks and we’ve sold out of morning suits even though it’s not the wedding season so now we need to up our production again. We need to recruit dozens more tailors, in essence, to make our ready-to-wear suiting. We now have a much more global reach and can see many more of our suits rocking the world. In fact, we’ve landed a few movie contracts all because a couple of our wicked overcoats in our ready-to-wear range were spotted online.”

Not surprisingly, James and his team developed the idea for expansion during the pandemic. “Covid threw a lot of balls up in the air,” he explains. “We still had all the staff, all the skills and all the talent but not necessarily as many orders as we were used to getting. We knew we needed to keep busy so we might as well start making some ready-to-wear and the more we got involved in the process of doing so, the more it made business sense. And what we have done hasn’t taken away from our bespoke customer – it’s been attracting a different type of customer. We haven’t stolen people away from the bespoke process but added another string to our bow. Now, we are looking at doubling our turnover in 2022 compared with 2019.”

James is keen to highlight the differences between the new ready-to-wear operation and the original tailoring business a few doors further up the Row. He explains: “In our tailoring shop, we need to look and feel like a tailor’s – you’ve got the cloth bunches, you’ve got the patterns, you’ve got the nuts and bolts of the process of making suits so it has to inherently be a tailor’s shop. The ready-to-wear shop has to look like a ready-to-wear shop. The atmosphere is totally different. They are both representative of the modern tailoring companies but one very much looks and feels like a high-end ready-to-wear shop while our bespoke still looks like a bespoke shop. It’s fascinating now operating with a foot in both camps.”

The new shop will have a wide selection of knitwear, lots of separates, safari jackets, worker jackets, the casual jackets you’d go to watch a game of rugby in and also core work suits, wedding suits and dinner suits – even cashmere baseball caps. “If you are not wearing a suit every day, you actually need more clothes,” says James. “If you wear the same casual jacket every day, people are going to notice. But it you wore a blue suit every day, no-one’s going to say ‘It’s that blue suit again!’…. but if you wore the same checked jacket, someone will say: ‘Hey mate, time for a change.’ The reduction in the working uniform means you’ll need to have more clothes and you’ll need to give it more thought.”

Looking ahead, James is keen to bang the drum for the street where he has worked for the last 13 or so years. “I’m super optimistic about the future of Savile Row as long as there are some fundamental changes and new customers are attracted to come here,” he says. “Restoration Hardware (a high-end American home furnishings company) opening up in the old Abercrombie and Fitch building is amazing. Hopefully the old Kilgour shop will be turned into a restaurant – these are things that will make Savile Row relevant because you are not just coming here for an appointment. You might be coming here for lunch and that might encourage you to look into other shops as you walk by. It’s bringing new potential business into the street.

“I’m not one of those people who says Savile Row is a street of tailoring and can only be for tailors. I think that’s incredibly old world. The coolest streets in London are the ones with great mixed businesses. We need to protect the tailors who are here, without question. We need to have protective rents because tailors can’t afford luxury Bond Street premises. But we can afford to be on this street if we have enough customers, if we can make enough garments to make our businesses a going concern. To make sure, at the end of each month, there is enough money in the bank so we can continue working. Rents only become a problem if we don’t have enough customers. We’ve got to get people onto this street, walking up and down, getting their eye in for a future purchase. That’s really what we need to do.”

By Daniel Evans It is always easy for

The history of motoring and Savile Row clothes to partner glamorous driving is well known, writes Robin Dutt. Driving suits, driving coats and also car interiors have often had their origins in the Row, demonstrating that sartoria is not simply a matter of essential elegance but performance too. In the same way that tailors here are not strangers to sports clothes and the demands they make (riding, golf, yachting and so on) the hallmarks of driving garb are no different here.

This exhibition is really a concentration on all the varied crafts which combine to create a harmonic whole, each component playing its carefully considered and executed part. This show asks the viewer to consider just how many diverse talents are required in the pursuit of the single entity be it a garment or a component. And then of course, the years of training that have gone into this. It also highlights the converging and divergent marques of each tailor who can write very singular and yet ultimately linked autobiographies. For each tailor is unique but united by the single entity of Savile Row itself. The phrase ‘history of tradition’ is not out of place on this internationally renowned street.

In association with Hot House Media which specialises in automotive and luxury lifestyle, the exhibition features a selection of tailors displaying previous collaborations with car manufacturers – showing the link between them, with the emphasis on performance and individuality. Cad & the Dandy, Dege & Skinner, Huntsman, Henry Poole and Norton & Sons are the names involved which Julian Stocks, property director of the Pollen Estate feels will give, ‘an insight into the significant relationship between Savile Row tailors and luxury car manufacturers.’ And Geoff Love, the managing director and co-founder of Hot House Media, says that this display, ‘reveals the meticulous work behind the bespoke experience that consumers receive on Savile Row.’ For those used to being fitted for their suits will know, one simply appreciates the efficacy of every thread and its placing – a craft which turns the customer into an enthusiast from the first fitting. The same might be said of the ‘garb’ for a motor vehicle – slick leather panels, or perfectly fitted compartments.

Cad & the Dandy X Bahrain McLaren for example, displays a driving jacket made from a wool and cashmere blend and Henry Poole & Co X Range Rover (with 50 years of Range Rover in mind) shows the sleek quality of a smart grey-black dog’s tooth and Tuscan blue window check lambswool. Also included will be a range of mediums – art, prints, posters and photography.

This exhibition is an introduction to the Concours on the Row in June 2022. Visitors can view the exhibition at The Service, 32 Savile Row, W1 between 8.30am and 4.30pm daily, until 15 December.

The history of motoring and Savile Row