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David Ward, below, a well-established Savile Row tailor, on why getting a custom-made bike is very similar to ordering a bespoke suit

Once upon a time, the process for acquiring a high-end road bike would be to approach your nearby custom frame builder and have something made by hand. It’s an occupation now seldom seen on most UK high streets and the demise of this once true citadel of British craftsmanship has been run out of town by an evolution in consumer habits that have changed greatly. We now live in an age where the accessibility to purchase anything we want, at any time we want, is merely dependent on the strength of an internet connection and a hand within reach of a computer or smart phone.

The age-old trope of “popping to the shops” has become a long-forgotten phrase and an abandoned practice for many. This technology has granted cyclists retail liberation and it’s never been easier to purchase a new complete bike or frame, from a variety of manufacturers anywhere in the world. With the rapid development of e-commerce backed by a huge array of companies willing to quench the appetite of any consumer, the delivery of a new carbon frame to your front door is now effortless.

Although still largely made in China (but embarrassingly sold as ‘designed somewhere else’), this new competition has made cycling more affordable. Also, the quality of bikes has improved dramatically during the past decade and the specification of their accompanying group sets has followed this trend. But with this advancement to make cycling more economical and accessible, this has sadly induced the collapse of the British custom frame building industry, once noted as a paragon of craftsmanship throughout the world. We now see fewer and fewer local bike shops providing a service where you can have a bicycle made by hand as well as picking one up off the shelf.

British frame builders of the mid 20th century were part of a golden era of craftsmanship. It was a time of exceptional artistry, only rivalled by Italian frame builders. Frame builders such as Jack Denny of London, Harry Quinn of Liverpool and Hilton Wrigley from Yorkshire, were men who could apparently size anyone up for a bike just by looking at them. So where did all the bike builders go? Many as we would expect, like the names already mentioned, have sadly left this life, but if you are in the know, there are still a few of these savants amongst us, still upholding the beauty of this wonderful craft; you’ve just got to know where to look!

Prior to my first cycling tour across America, my bike needed a bit of tweaking to become a tourer and was missing rear bosses (threaded holes) at the top of the seat stays to accommodate a rack for my panniers. My local bike store mentioned that I should give Winston Vaz in Hither Green in south London a call. “He used to be the custom frame builder for Holdsworth and Roberts,” two names that I knew had pedigree status in British frame building history. I called him and introduced myself and my problem, and a friendly voice told me to pop along to his workshop and he’d take a look.

Sometimes in life, if we’re very lucky, we might chance upon an old curiosity shop filled with the contents of a particular vice we might obsess over. But this description could not illuminate what I was to discover inside a dusty old warehouse that had clearly seen better days, settled amongst the residential back streets of Hither Green, just off London’s busy south circular. Complete with a broken window that had been patched up with a piece of plywood and adorned with mysterious exterior relics that at some point in its history had had a use, stood an old, weather worn building, looking quite bleak and dog eared. I knocked on one of the large heavy doors that guarded its contents and shuffled inside.

Amongst an array of debris and tools that were unrecognisable to me, I was eventually able to focus my eyesight in the darkness and my surroundings. The workshop space was a little messy, cluttered, and chaotic. The interior walls that were starved of natural daylight suddenly came into focus and I could now see that they were garnished with an array of beautiful old steel bicycle frames that would have any cycling enthusiast salivating with the slightest glance in their direction. The names Roberts, Holdsworth, Hetchins, Pinerello, Colnago, Peugeot and Basso lit up the shadows. Standing amongst the disorder with a disarming smile was Winston Vaz and he welcomed me with a warm and friendly “Hi Dave”.

Leaving school at 16, Winston Vaz found an apprenticeship at Holdsworth, which was then situated in Anerley in South London as a frame filer. At the time, his brother Mario was the foreman of the Holdsworth spray shop, which had helped Winston’s transition into full time employment. A frame filer’s job was to smooth out and clean up newly made custom frames, a necessity to learn before moving on to more technical aspects of the work such as brazing bridges and lugs. After nine years of repetitive toil to amass a skills set to become confident in all aspects of constructing a frame from scratch, Holdsworth was sold to a rival company and Winston was out of a job. Fortunately, his unemployment coincided at a time when Roberts cycles, under the helm of legendary Chas Roberts, were looking for another frame builder to join its ranks, and Winston was recommended for the position. He had been used to the higher volumes of bicycles being made at the Holdsworth factory, but the process for frame building at Roberts became more of an individual pursuit. At Roberts, a frame builder would work on single client custom order, which afforded Winston the time to fine-tune all of the skills he had learned at Holdsworth. His work had now become a secluded activity and he was now constructing individual frames for the gourmet end of the industry.

At Holdsworth, he had become the company trouble-shooter and could rectify any problem in the frame building process due to his proficiency in all areas of the job, and at Roberts, this wealth of knowledge was being sharpened. During his time at Roberts, Winston ended up being one of only two custom frame builders in the company, eventually becoming in his own right, very much part of the rich reputational heritage of frame builders in the UK. When I asked him if he still enjoyed the process of making bikes after all these years, his response couldn’t have been more enthusiastic in its delivery. “I still love it,” he explained, “I still get a kick out of being able to create something that I feel is unrivalled in quality and having my stamp positioned upon a finished frame, it really is something special”. Winston can still recognise the Roberts and Holdsworth frames that he built all those years ago as he crafted very minor subtleties into the frames that gave his work a recognisable distinction and signature.

In spite of the abilities to understand the nuances of the human anatomy when it is wrapped around pieces of steel in the form of a bicycle, the standard procedure to measure someone for a hand-built frame hasn’t changed much over the years. It is still a reliable practice to take individual body measurements from a customer, and then build those measurements into the frames construction. An inside leg measure, torso, forearm, femur, shoulder width, shoe size, height and weight are all noted and then used to create a one-off bicycle for the individual out of high-quality steel tubing. Steel was and still is the material of choice for a custom frame. Like the development of bicycles, steel has also seen advances in its construction over the years, and now new alloys offer weights that are much closer to that of aluminium, yet unlike aluminium, it is more stable over time and suffers less from fatigue and is incredibly durable.

Having a bike made by hand is a process and not a straightforward transaction like picking up something off the shelf or online. It is labour intensive craftsmanship and might well take two months to complete a frame from start to finish, with the necessary fittings to achieve that Goldilocks moment. Time scales are irrelevant while every idiosyncrasy of the individual’s proportions are considered and expertly built into your new order. Like a pair of bespoke shoes or the enshrined pedigree of Savile Row suit, the synergies with custom frame building couldn’t be more similar. It’s a pure indulgence of passion for the cyclist to attain that illusive hand in glove feeling in the form of brazed steel and Winston Vaz is an elder statesman in this vocation.

In spite of the demise of this once incredible industry, cyclists in the know, who appreciate quality, preciseness and the beauty of having something made by hand, are still knocking on the big black doors of Winston’s workshop. The enduring reputation of Roberts frames amongst the UK’s cycling fraternity, still holds an awful lot of sway and Winston Vaz was their master frame builder for 28 years, up until the company closed in 2014. A couple of years before Roberts cycles closed down, he had decided to join his brother Mario and go it alone, making hand built frames under his own name from the workshop in Herne Hill. He chose the name Varohna for his company, that combined the two surnames of his Goan parents: Vaz and Narohna.

“I still get a select few clients coming through the door who still have a reverence for lightweight steel, road and touring frames made by hand, there will always be a market for things made by hand and made well”. His clients include cyclists who have graduated their cycling experience and progressively bought better quality frames, to people with deeper pockets who will order a hand made frame from Reynolds 953 stainless steel. Winston regularly ships his frames internationally to clients who seek him out. This incredibly modest man is renowned, globally. His brother Mario, who is also one of the most respected frame sprayers in the country, is still part of the process and his spray shop is sprawled out on the top floor of the building and is an extension of the beauty that is downstairs.

On my tour of the US, whilst sitting in a particularly deserted diner in small town called Craigmont in the depths of Idaho, an elderly gentleman approached me after hearing my accent and seeing my bike parked outside and introduced himself. He then proudly informed that he had recently purchased an old custom Holdsworth frame. “I’ve always just loved British steel bicycle manufacturing because of its renowned quality and heritage” he explained. When I told him I lived near where the Holdsworth factory had been in south London, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. When I told him I knew the person whose hands had probably built his new pride and joy, he stared at me open mouthed for what seemed like a minute.

British bike buildings appeal and legacy, still has a far-reaching audience. We can only hope that people with the skills and pedigree of Winston Vaz are still plying their wonderful skills in years to come and sharing that knowledge. It would truly be a shame for this fine land to become void of individuals like Winston and the artistry for which he is famed for. He is truly an artisan with few to rival his abilities and expertise. But what would be most unfortunate, is if I was the last person to share such a beautiful story and make the day of an elderly gentleman, in a rundown restaurant, in a far-flung corner of north west America who had a deep affection and love for all things made incredibly well in the United Kingdom.

David Ward, below, a well-established Savile Row

David Gandy, Stewart Lee, CEO of Savile Row Gin, and Jeremy Hackett, founder of Hackett, attend official opening of London’s premier gin experience

Leee John from Imagination enjoying the party

Savile Row Gin held a stylish party to announce the launch of The Savile Row Gin Experience, where the art of bespoke gin-making meets hand-crafted sartorial flair. It was a night of elegance and taste as Mayfair’s newest event hit the ground running. Looking ahead, the immersive, joyful, three-hour experiences will take place on Thursday and Friday evenings and Saturdays from June 9 at the world-famous destination for fine British tailoring – Savile Row.

Stewart Lee, Savile Row Gin founder and CEO, commented: “We have enjoyed hosting many events for the historic tailors in Savile Row. Now we are looking forward to welcoming all lovers of gin, and style, and those that just want a fun night out, to Savile Row. Our team has developed a creative and truly unique experience, with a touch of magic, that is sure to titillate the taste buds and make for a memorable social occasion.”

Jeremy Hackett and David Gandy with the new Aston Martin DBX

Savile Row Gin’s co-founder and Global Ambassador David Gandy added: “It’s incredibly exciting to bring together the art of making gin, history and culture to create an imaginative and fun gin adventure. This is a great showcase for Savile Row and the best of British bespoke in all its forms.”

Stewart Lee with singer Vangelis Polydorou





The Savile Row Gin Experience will start at the entrance to No 1 Savile Row, the former headquarters of The Royal Geographical Society where famous explorers of yesteryear heading for Africa and the South Pole gathered to plan their trips. Then it’s a stroll along the Row, past the iconic window displays of Huntsman, Dege & Skinner and Henry Poole & Co, to No 14 Savile Row, formerly the headquarters of Sir Hardy Amies, dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II for over 50 years, and now JP Hackett’s global flagship store. Here, guests will be welcomed by a perfect Gin & Tonic in the Pink Room and enjoy an insight into the art of fine bespoke tailoring.

Jeetendr Sehdev and Luke Reed

Then it’s over to the Green Clubroom, and it’s Gin time! This stylish and welcoming space was created by JP Hackett for customers to enjoy with its own cocktail bar and where guests will be guided through the process of making Gin – choosing botanicals, learning about the different flavours within them, and what is likely to suit individual tastes. Once the botanicals are chosen, it’s time to make Gin in a mini copper still, all overseen by expert Gin stylists and Savile Row Gin’s head mixologist who will be serving up Gin cocktails throughout the experience. Come prepared to enjoy some stunning drinks…


What’s included:

• A talk on the history of Gieves & Hawkes kickstarts The Savile Row Gin Experience at the world famous No 1 Savile Row.

• A short walk down Savile Row looking at the iconic window displays of the Row’s most historic tailoring houses including Huntsman, Dege & Skinner and Henry Poole & Co.

Jeremy Hackett with Chanel Haynes

• Come into the home of Savile Row Gin, No 14 Savile Row and a short talk on the art of bespoke tailoring, all while sipping your first drink of the day, a refreshing G&T. We won’t give too much away about the décor of the building but expect to be impressed.

• Distil your own Gin on Savile Row and enjoy some delicious cocktails! Each Savile Row Gin Experience serves up a welcome G&T plus at least three cocktails.

• Your own 70cl personally labelled bottle of Gin distilled and bottled in Savile Row.

• A goody bag for all ticket holders. We love our goody bags on Savile Row!

• A personalised certificate of your visit to Savile Row and The Savile Row Gin Experience.

On Saturdays, the venue switches from Green Room to the first-floor drawing room, with views over Savile Row and the space that was once Sir Hardy’s private showroom for his customers.


David Gandy, Stewart Lee, CEO of Savile

Cindy Lawford catches up with Edward Sexton, back in business on Savile Row

There is a thrill to be had these days for suit lovers walking down the west side of Savile Row for the first time in many pandemic months. It comes at the sight of the name “Edward Sexton” above the door of number 36. He’s back, the legendary cutter that dressed everyone cool, famous and glamorous at Nutters on Savile Row. “Once [Savile Row] is in your blood, it’s in your blood,” says Sexton, sitting in his new shop and dressed immaculately as ever in suit, tie and rose-gold tie-pin. After an absence of more than 40 years, Sexton declares the street without hesitation “my birthplace”. His desire to do something new and do it impeccably well is undiminished at age 79, as is his tailoring reputation. “I love what I do,” says Sexton, who has no interest in retiring. “I have this huge passion for it. I love being in the workroom. I love a challenge.”

A working-class lad living in Elephant & Castle, Sexton first entered the workroom in 1957 when he was in his early teens. He soon found himself making riding coats for Harry Hall in the day and taking tailoring classes at Barrett Street Technical College by night. In the early 1960s, Sexton would serve an apprenticeship at Savile Row’s Kilgour, French & Stanbury, before becoming a military cutter for Welsh & Jefferies. In 1966, he arrived as the new cutter at Donaldson, Williams & Ward in Burlington Arcade. There Sexton found himself faced with an entirely conservative approach to suit construction and, by way of extreme contrast, a handsome young man working front-of-house whose personality was finding him wide favour among movers and shakers in London’s social scene. Possessed with a flair for design, Tommy Nutter shared Sexton’s disenchantment with the DW&W’s staid approach and, over afterwork pints, the two became convinced that together they should find a way to make a new kind of suit.

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, with a guest list that included Paul McCartney and Twiggy. 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,” recalls Sexton.

They had to admit it even though in many other ways Nutters was doing things differently, most obviously with their window displays on a street where all the other curtains were firmly down. In his book House of Nutter, Lance Richardson records Peter Sprecher’s memory of passing by Nutters’ window and becoming suddenly fixated by “this crazy suit: navy blue, pink lapels, with flared trousers in a box plaid”. Then there is the anecdote of Hardy Amies at a cocktail party pulling out his tape measure to examine the width of the lapel of Tommy Nutter’s suit. Face-to-face with the upstart, Amies then pronounced that lapel “extraordinary”. “We started afresh,” says Sexton, “and [the other tailors] could not fault our designs, even if they were much more extravagant than theirs.”

It’s worth remembering that back in 1969, when the boutiques of Carnaby Street and the King’s Road were selling all kinds of ephemera to the hip and the young, Nutter and Sexton together were conjuring up their own new possibilities, suits made to last that were unlike anything seen before in their colours, fabric combinations, trimmings – lapels and pockets often in dizzying contrast to the fabric of the main body of the suit jacket – and, most importantly, in their fit and shape. Dubbed “the wizard with the scissors” by the clientele at Nutters, Sexton incorporated his training as a tailor both of military and riding wear to create trend-setting new shapes, building on the long coat and the wide skirt of the traditional hacking jacket. Then, as now, Sexton’s suit structure is “achieved in the foundation”, Sexton says. “I don’t make suits, I build them, stage by stage.” His relish for exploring variations in contour remains undiminished. “I like strong architectural lines in my clothing,” he adds. “My cut is very unique, it’s very recognisable.”

Sexton’s creative director Dominic Sebag-Montefiore points out that this famous cut has never stood still, continuing to evolve with the master cutter’s changing tastes. To this day, Sexton is ever ready to create a new pattern for an old customer. “You’ve got to be current,” he says. The constants of Sexton’s style remain the strong shoulders and peak lapels with a high-cut armhole. “You stay with your signature lapel, your signature sleeve head,” Sexton says with well-deserved pride. “It’s all got your signature.” Sebag-Montefiore is happy to state the obvious to his boss, “You’ve always liked the peak lapel. It’s always been not on the narrow side.”

Sexton is particularly known for his double-breasted suits. According to Simon Crompton in a post for Permanent Style, “The big sweep of the bellied lapel is wonderful, particularly when married with the wide, roped shoulder and long straight edge below the waist button.” For Sexton, “You get the emphasis in the shoulder, and the hip, and everything in between the shoulder and the hip is fluid.” When asked why he remains a fan of the double-breasted despite the formality often imputed to it, Sexton is quick to say the double-breasted blazer travels easily, “You can dress it up or dress it down.” Nor does he hold to the view that those with wider waistlines should avoid it. “We can make a fat man look slimmer and we can make a skinny guy look more beefy. I like the security of double-breasted, personally.”

From the start, Nutter and Sexton’s new shapes were in part inspired by the lapels and Oxford bags of the 1930s and 1940s, often ventless jackets that were closer, sexier than the draped ones of 1950s and 1960s. In those latter two decades, Savile Row had found itself standing in stern reaction against the flamboyance of the working-class Teddy Boys, who had dared to presume they could imitate and improve upon the neo-Edwardian looks of their social superiors. By the end of Swinging Sixties, Savile Row’s conservatism was leaving more than a few of its customers bored and disenchanted, ready for something new. Cecil Beaton famously opined of the tailors: “They really should pay attention to the mods… The barriers are down and everything goes. Savile Row has got to reorganise itself and, to coin a banal phrase, get with it.”

“Men could not express themselves” with the suits then on offer, recalls Savile Row tailor Joseph Morgan of Chittleborough & Morgan, who worked under Nutter and Sexton. Morgan’s is a telling phrase, indicating that the zeitgeist of the late 1960s encouraged some to question their elders in the clothes they put on their backs even to go to the office. Tailor and designer Timothy Everest, who worked for Nutter for five years, says Nutter and Sexton presented their clients with “subversive tradition”, lifting and wholly reimagining style aspects of suit history to challenge the status quo and bring exquisite tailoring to a younger audience – be they the bankers in search of suits anything but solid grey or navy, or the more adventurous pop stars. A large number of Nutters’ early customers were gay like Nutter himself and willing, says Sexton, “to suffer to be beautiful. They were quite happy with something very close fitting, where they couldn’t move as easily.”

At Nutters, both City men and celebrities could have made snug jackets with defined waists, bottomed by widening trousers too tight in the hips to hold any pockets that were nevertheless great for dancing in. Gradually, the shoulders at Nutters became much larger and heavily roped. Tommy Nutter would rapidly sketch out the pictures in his head, confident that Sexton could bring them to fruition with a skill that impressed everywhere. As Everest remarks, “Without Edward, you could not translate Tommy’s ideas”. Both Sexton and Nutter were aiming with their suits for a kind of beautiful precision that would work uniquely for each customer. Morgan remembers that, though many hours might have been spent creating any particular suit, “They would pull it apart if it was not to their standard” and begin the work all over again. “It was their integrity to style. That was the element that fascinated me.” Cutter and coatmaker Henry Humphreys, who went to work for Nutters in 1970 and now works for Morgan, admits that he “learnt loads of things” from Sexton, who was “generous with his time and himself”. Indeed, Humphreys recalls Sexton saying to him, “Come and work for me and I’ll pay you more than anyone else.” And he was true to his word.

The most perfect model for their creations was, in Sexton’s words, the “very handsome” Nutter himself, widely seen on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1970s as one of the world’s best-dressed men. All those celebrities who flocked to 35a expected that Sexton and Nutter could make them stand out as their grandest selves, with suits more individualistic than they had ever dreamed possible. Two top highlights must include (as a “pure coincidence”, claims Richardson) McCartney, Lennon and Ringo Starr all wearing Nutters for their famous walk across Abbey Road in 1969; and Mick Jagger in an eau-de-nil suit for his 1971 wedding to Bianca, who herself became a regular customer. Justin de Villeneuve and his girlfriend Twiggy swaggered in the suits, as did Eric Clapton, Yoko Ono, Peter Sellars, Lionel Bart, David Hockney, Leonore Annenberg, Tommy Tune, Nancy Reagan and the Duke of Bedford. Many of the most daring were worn by Elton John, who would buy twenty suits at a time.

By the early 1980s, Sexton had decided to work under his own name on the Row, and in 1990 he left the Row to work in Knightsbridge, where he still makes his bespoke suits today. The celebrities have never stopped coming, with Annie Lennox and David Gray both wearing his suits for their 2009 Full Steam video; Mark Ronson in a white double-breasted for his 2011 wedding; and that same year Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Yasmin Le Bon and Eva Herzigova all decking out in his suits as they mimicked a rock band for the Duran Duran video, Girl Panic. Naomi was in the centre in flaming red. Well worth an internet search is Harry Styles in a pink Sexton suit performing on the Today show in 2017. Sexton, however, cannot afford to be awestruck. “I’ve personally never been impressed with celebrities,” he says. “You have a job to do with them, same as anyone else.”

Perhaps some of the greatest compliments have come Sexton’s way when top fashion designers and tailors have openly taken his ideas. For his Purple Label, Ralph Lauren adopted the ventless jacket that Nutters made popular and that Sexton is still fond of making. Tom Ford, Ozwald Boateng and Richard James have all been inspired by him. He has been asked to create ready-to-wear lines for Hardy Amies, Chester Barrie and Bill Blass. Rick Owens and Stella McCartney (whose mother Linda Sexton dressed for years) have both turned to him for advice, with McCartney so pleased by his tutelage that she got him to design for Chloé when she became its creative director. “She went to Chloé and Chloé came to me,” Sexton says. Chloé’s look was all soft and flowing, so at first the brand “couldn’t identify with what we did”, that is, structured tailoring for women, a process which Sexton then translated into factory production. Many tailors “tend to make [women] look like stormtroopers”, Everest notes, while Sexton is without doubt “one of the best women’s cutters in the world”.

The wizard with the scissors is very pleased that, having designed clothes for so many other fashion brands, he can now offer his own ready-to-wear line at his latest Savile Row premises, including knitwear and silk evening shirts. Yet his suits will always be the main attraction. “Our response to Covid and everyone wearing athleisure is to do bold, strong suits,” Sebag-Montefiore says, “because the people who are going to be buying a suit this year want a real suit.” Also available at the shop are rare 1970s pictures of Tommy Nutter, models and celebrities, taken by his brother, photographer David Nutter. So much history travels with Sexton’s name, valuable history. Morgan speaks for the entire Row when he says, “It’s great to have him back.”

Cindy Lawford gives tours of Savile Row, Jermyn Street and other menswear shops. Visit to find out more.

Cindy Lawford catches up with Edward Sexton,

It’s not often that one of the world’s finest actors pops in to do some work on Savile Row but that’s exactly what Academy Award-winning Mark Rylance did as he prepared to appear in The Outfit, a crime drama set in 1950s Chicago which is now out and playing to rave reviews.

Huntsman, which had already supplied clothing for The King’s Man, was approached to see if they could repeat that success with The Outfit so Rylance met up with Huntsman’s creative director Campbell Carey who showed the actor the secrets of bespoke suit-making. Rylance spent a week on the Row and certainly impressed Carey.

“He was a great pupil who spent the first couple of days watching what I was doing, watching what the tailors downstairs were doing and taking notes. On day three, he started asking all the right questions and really got into what’s involved,” Carey told the Robb Report. “We had him cutting out random bits of cloth, and also learn how to hold a thimble and needle properly. We really had him practice the action of cutting, sewing and chalking as well. And we showed him how to measure someone, and that was great fun.

“He took in all the things that are seen in the film, like when you hold your tape measure, or when you play with your lapels, you’re always checking the garments to make sure they’re looking their best. The clothes were everything for this movie.”

In the film Rylance plays Leonard, a Savile Row-trained tailor – though he insists on calling himself a cutter – who makes suits for the best gangsters in Chicago. He does his best to avoid the gangland intrigue but his workshop becomes central to the film.

It’s not often that one of the