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Dege & Skinner is the only Savile Row tailor to provide its own one stop bespoke shirt making facility. Cutter Tom Bradbury tells Daniel Evans about learning this rare craft.

If it weren’t for his grandfather, Tom Bradbury would probably not be talking to me now, front-of-house at Dege & Skinner, explaining the intricacies of bespoke shirt making and the enjoyment he gets from being involved in such a specialist craft.

Like a lot of young people, when he was 16 Tom began his A levels but decided it was not for him – “I don’t know why I tried. I hated doing tests,” – so he ended up spending a fair amount of time with his grandfather, David. “He was a joiner so every Thursday I’d go and work with him, to learn his trade and skills,” Tom tells me. “We’d just do stuff together as I’d always enjoyed doing practical things with my hands. I told him I was interested in fashion and had been looking for work around Carnaby Street and he said: ‘If you want to be in the clothing industry then get yourself down to Savile Row and work with the best’.”

“I’d never heard of Savile Row and didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. It was never mentioned in school.

You have all these career advisers but they never discussed the clothing trade and that the height of luxury was to get a suit made in Savile Row. You just don’t get taught that sort of thing at school.”

So, armed with his grandfather’s advice and his own CV, Tom came up from his home in Orpington to London and went in and out of the shops on Savile Row. Tom, now 24, takes up the story. “I came into Dege & Skinner and talked to the person by the front door. ‘Can I speak to the MD?’ I asked. ‘That would be me,’ said the man.”

Tom was not to know that the person by the front door was, in fact, William Skinner, Dege & Skinner’s managing director. “We began to chat and he was asking me lots of questions,” remembers Tom. “It was like an interview which you hadn’t prepared for. We stood in the front shop for quite a long time. He showed me around and introduced me to people, including the head cutter Peter Ward and others in the back room. William then asked me if I was doing anything the following week and whether I fancied coming in to do some work experience. Of course, I said yes.”

Over the moon
“I spent the whole day cleaning the shop. I was too scared to take my jacket off. It was the middle of June and I was absolutely sweltering. At the end of that day, William asked me whether I wanted to work for the rest of the week. I said: ‘Yes, of course’. But, at the time, I only had one smart shirt so, every day, I had to go back home, wash my shirt which was black from dusting, dry it overnight and iron it in the morning before coming back in. At the end of the week, I was offered a job. I was over the moon. I also got some money for the work I’d already done so I immediately went out and bought myself a few more shirts because I didn’t want to be doing the one shirt thing for too long.”

Soon after joining, Tom got to know Robert Whittaker, the veteran head shirt cutter at Dege & Skinner, and was keen to learn from him.

“I knew I wanted to ask him whether he would take me on as his apprentice but was too nervous,” recalls Tom.

“I had it in my head that I would talk to him about it but bottled it every single day and then, as we were going home one Friday, I found a bit of confidence and asked him.”

Tom was understandably
delighted when Robert agreed and began his apprenticeship. “Robert has taught me everything I know about shirt cutting,” Tom says. “I started from scratch. I’d never picked up a set of shears in my life. I’d never done anything like that.

Robert moulded me into what he wanted me to do, which was good, rather than picking up bad habits. He’s a bit of a character. I found him quite intimidating to start with but he always looked out for me and gave me stuff to do. I’ve got so much respect for Robert. He took the time to teach me and I could well see myself passing on that knowledge to others in the years ahead. I can’t thank him enough.”

Now Tom spends his time as a bespoke shirt cutter at Dege & Skinner, the only establishment on Savile Row which offers such a service. “It’s a proud thing to say,” says Tom. “We measure a customer up, ask some questions about how they would like the fit, what type of collar shapes they like. We make all sorts of shirts, from business shirts to more casual ones.”

I ask Tom to tell me why people should invest in a bespoke shirt. “Because it’s made just for you,” he says without hesitation. “It’s individuality – the fact you have put your ideas into it.

The fit, the elegance. It’s hard to explain until you’ve had one made and then you are never happy with anything else. We have had so many customers come in who have been given a bespoke shirt as a present, for a birthday or for Christmas, and who have come back a few years later to order some more because nothing else compares. Once you’ve had one, you can’t go back.”

Huge variety
“There is a huge variety of shirts you can have – the choice is unreal. You may just want a white shirt but then you think about what type of white shirt – if you are at a business meeting with 20 people in white shirts, you want to be wearing the best white shirt in the room.”

Although the classic white shirt remains the most popular choice, Dege & Skinner has plentiful options in collar styles and the softest Swiss, Italian and British two-fold 100s to two-fold 300s cottons, with either double (French) cuffs or two-button single cuffs.

Typically, it takes between two or three fittings for a single shirt, which will be turned around in eight weeks. This shirt will be used as a template for multiple orders. The tailor has a minimum order of four shirts, but some customers order two dozen at a time.

Prices start at £285 plus VAT for a simple handmade shirt but can run into the thousands.

“The most unusual shirt we had was an Egyptian-printed African style like you see in Nigerian headdresses. The only problem is that you have to match the patterns up, which is a long old job,” says Tom.

The job involves a fair amount of travel – Tom goes to America three or four times a year for two weeks at a time – but it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. “I remember Robert telling me that it was good fun and that I’d enjoy it but that it was hard work – and he was right,” he says. “Some of my friends say it sounds like a bit of a jolly but it is pretty tough going.”

Tom’s grandfather died less than a year after his grandson started at Dege & Skinner but not before he came to London to see him at work. “He did come up a few times and we enjoyed a pint in the local pub, which was nice,” recalls Tom. “To be honest, if my grandfather hadn’t told me to come up to Savile Row in the first place, I probably still wouldn’t know where or what it was.”

Dege & Skinner is the only Savile

Canada Goose is taking on the new season with a fresh look, partnering for an exclusive collaboration with Savile Row tailors Henry Poole. The brands have come together to produce a down-filled blazer for men and women and a unisex merino wool scarf.

Driven by a constant commitment to authenticity and the desire to create best-in-class products, the collaboration fuses the tailoring expertise of Henry Poole with the deep knowledge of down-filling from Canada Goose. The pattern was designed and cut in partnership, and was made in Canada by Canada Goose sewers.

The seemingly unexpected pairing of the Canadian performance luxury brand with the English bespoke tailors in fact drew on many commonalities between the two companies; from being pioneers in their categories, to a functional approach to design, through to their shared tactical heritage.

“When our teams met they were excited about our common threads. We’ve played pioneering roles in our categories; Henry Poole founded Savile Row and invented the Dinner Jacket, my father invented the down-filling machine back in the 1970s which revolutionised the way we make outerwear, as well as now being recognised as Canada’s only true luxury apparel brand,” said Dani Reiss, President and CEO of Canada Goose.

“I like to surprise people with collaborations, but it has to be about collaborating with the right people. It has to make sense, there needs to be passion, and it has to be fun. Our W1 blazer is made from a medium flannel, which – together with the goose down – makes it a warm jacket and we all want something lightweight, practical and warm, especially when travelling,” said Simon Cundey, Managing Director, Henry Poole & Co.

The W1 blazer, named after the area of London in which the Henry Poole tailors shop and the Canada Goose London flagship store are based, is available in three colourways – red, navy and graphite. The quilt-through wool blazer features the iconic Canada Goose disc in black on the arm and Henry Poole house buttons.

The Selvedge Scarf is made from 100% super fine merino wool, it is dark green in colour with a herringbone finish and features the Canada Goose and Henry Poole wordmark logos along the edge.

Similar to Canada Goose jackets in the Lightweight Down category, the W1 blazer is rated as a TEI 1 on the brand’s Thermal Experience Index and provides lightweight protection for active pursuits at temperatures between five and minus five degrees Celsius.

The W1 blazer drops on 18th January 2019 in selected cities including London, Toronto, New York, Boston, Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong.

Canada Goose is taking on the new

Richard Anderson has worked on the Row for 36 years. He started out at Huntsman, where he became head cutter, before launching his own house in 2001. His innovations include bespoke suits made out of Japanese denim and sequinned suits, and his customers include Bryan Ferry.

What makes Savile Row quite so special?
Savile Row is an iconic destination and we’re still the best in the world.

How would you describe your role?
I’m a tailor’s cutter. I’m like the architect overseeing the tailors who are the builders.

How did you become a tailor?
It was really an accident. It was my father who saw a tiny advert in the Daily Telegraph for an apprentice cutter and he frogmarched me up to Savile Row. I was clothes conscious as a teenager, interested in street fashions such as Punk and Mod. I walked into Huntsman on a snowy day and the bustling and fabulous ambience of the place was like walking into another world. It had a great energy to it even though the whole of Huntsman was an intimidating closed world. I was running around, being spoken to in a very derogatory manner.

Why did you set-up on your own?
I inherited Huntsman in 1994 as head cutter and we had two years to turn a loss-making company around. For the previous eight years the old management hadn’t put the prices up at all, so we were running at a slight loss. First thing we did was introduce our own fabrics, increase output by 20 percent and also put our prices up by 20 percent. Customers loved what we were doing. We doubled the volume of suits sold from 600 to 1,300 suits in one year. Unfortunately, our Japanese owners decided to sell us to a new group of American investors. I was 36 years old at the time and I could see the writing on the wall. I thought, it’s now-or-never to do it, and I was proved right, although everyone at the time thought my business partner and I were mad.

Tell me about the early days
Shops in Savile Row don’t turn up every five minutes. So for the first few months, I converted my garage into a cutting room. We went out to America taking orders and doing a trunk show. It was a really tense period though, trying to get a shop on Savile Row. Luckily nine months in Hackett had tried doing bespoke, but it hadn’t worked out so No 13 came up. We were lucky that its premises came up because we wanted to be on the sunny side of the street. I thought, well, 13 is a lucky number and we got handed the keys on Friday the thirteenth!

What was the difference between Huntsman and your own house?
We wanted Richard Anderson to be less intimidating for people my own age – in their late thirties – than Huntsman where it was very much, ‘Lord this, Sir that’. We had white walls and modern art and we also liked to play rock ‘n’ roll. What struck me was how much friendlier our clients were to us than they had been in Huntsman, which had a negative no-can-do attitude at times. That was something we wanted to change.

How would you describe your house cut?
Our house cut is a strong influence on Savile Row. It’s a mixture between a riding coat and a dinner jacket. We cut the armholes quite high to get a nice long movement through the side seam. It’s really to give people the illusion of being taller and slimmer than you are. It’s a clean look.

What’s been your worst moment as a tailor?
Once we had an order for a dozen pairs of bespoke white trousers (white is always difficult) and unfortunately a couple got marked while we were making them. So, my business partner took them home and put them in his own washing machine and hung them out to dry on his clothes line. During the night, foxes took them down and ate them. In today’s money, that would have been a Ford Focus worth of trousers.

What keeps Savile Row relevant today?
Savile Row is thriving but you have to be relevant to today. We’re known throughout the world for our quality. As long as we maintain that style, make and service, we’ll thrive. And we’ve got so many young people who want to come in to the trade, which was unheard of 20 years ago. The problem is that we haven’t got the places for them. A bigger problem though is the rents, which is what we’re up against.

Richard Anderson was speaking at the Fashion and Textiles Museum on 29th November. His new book Making the Cut is available to buy now.

Richard Anderson has worked on the Row

The journey of Royal Paris coffee maker began in the late 1850s. Emperor Franz-Joseph and his wife were to host a spectacular Royal banquet that their guests would never forget

Coffee was growing in importance as a bespoke statement of refinement and style. The Emperor commissioned what would become one of the most exquisite coffee machines still making a bold and remarkable statement today.

Our desire at Royal Paris is to recreate this imperial experience for the most discerning palettes and those who love to live well. Luxurious living well punctuated by the aroma and glittering statement of the Royal Coffeemaker bringing demi-tasse par excellence to the world’s finest homes and estates.

The dazzling elegance of serving coffee made “the Royal way” conjures up images of the Orient Express, the Great Gatsby, and places where beauty and style rule.

Royal Paris coffee maker is more than a statement of extraordinary taste, it is a commitment to making every moment of your life extraordinary and celebrating with those you love.

It isn’t just about brewing the finest coffee or being the celebrated host. It is about elevating every moment and celebrating life at the highest level. It is about honouring tradition and creating a new legacy.

Royal Paris invites to create your moments of imperial pleasure.


The journey of Royal Paris coffee maker

Savile Row has responded to climate change with lighter fabrics and reducing its carbon footprint. In fact, the Row was sustainable decades before the word was invented, says SRS.

Making textiles from plant-based fibres is nothing new. In fact, the very first fabric produced in England during the Bronze age textiles was made from the bark of lime trees.

Today, cloth merchants which supply Savile Row are experimenting with plant-based fabric in keeping with the drive towards sustainability.

Savile Row tailors, mindful of climate change, are working with ever-lighter cloths while keeping an eye on their carbon footprint, sourcing material from within Britain from merchants which can prove their ethical credentials.

The fashion industry accounts for 10 percent of global carbon emissions and remains the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil.

Cotton production is particularly damaging to the environment if not done properly with untreated water poured back into rivers.

People’s shopping habits have changed. Online customers order cheap clothes only to throw them away months later – so-called “fast fashion”.

Of course, Savile Row is the opposite of fast fashion. By its very nature, working in a bespoke manner and using limited amounts of cloth, a sturdy tweed suit made in Savile Row can be handed down from father to son.

Simon Cundey, managing director of Henry Poole, says: “Rather than fast fashion ordered daily over the internet, a Savile Row customer will order just twice a year, typically a pair of suits and a couple of sports jackets.”

Geoff Wheeler of Huddersfield Fine Worsteds agrees: “It’s fast fashion that’s doing the real damage. Bespoke is the way forward because it’s a purchase that you keep for a long time. Making a garment that lasts is the best thing for the environment compared to the damage done by throwaway garments.We wouldn’t consider the products we make to be ‘fashion’, so they’re not thrown away into landfill once they fall out of favour,” says Emmanuel Guegan, head of accessories at Purdey. “What’s durable is sustainable.”

Because Savile Row deals with bespoke, the amount of wastage is far less than you get with fast fashion.

Again, the drive towards using natural fibres in Savile Row is nothing new: Awareness of natural fibres such as wool, linen and cashmere has been part of the Row’s DNA.

It’s not only suit materials in Savile Row that are sustainable but the way suits are made – with interlinings stitched together and not glued as with cheaper suits.

One thing that Norton & Sons has been thinking about is what to do with offcuts of cloth that are left over. Although New York-based Fabscrap that recycles offcuts and reweaves fibres from tailors such as Kozinn + Sons or uses it to stuff furniture, mattresses and pillows, this is a trend that has yet to arrive here.

Younger customers are increasingly interested in authenticity, quality and provenance – all of which fits in neatly with the Savile Row ethos.

“In the last decade, there’s been a drive towards sustainability,” says Cundey. Wheeler believes there will be a reaction to our throwaway culture, with customers unafraid to spend more on clothes with durability.

Changing climate
Every cloth merchant that Savile Row Style spoke to agrees that customers want lighter fabrics to cope with our changing climate. What would have been considered a sturdy tweed jacket would have been standard suiting back in the Fifties. Thirty years ago, 9oz was considered lightweight but today people wear 8oz cloth all year round. The latest generation of Italian Super 200s weigh as little as 6oz.

Norton & Sons says that when fathers accompany their sons into the tailors, often the parent will opt for a heavier 15-16 oz cloth while the son will stick at 11-12ozs. Predominantly this is because the British climate is changing.

“All the American market wants is rather nasty lightweight cloths because they move from air conditioned car to a temperature controlled office, which suits the ‘non-climate climate’ they live in,” says Dugdale Bros managing director Simon Glendenning.

Tailors, he says, dislike such lightweight cloth because it’s so difficult to work with.

Innovative fabric
That as is maybe, cloth merchants have had to respond with innovative lightweight fabrics.

Huddersfield Fine Worsteds recently launched a bamboo bunch at a 9oz weight in 34 colours. Clients include Henry Poole and Norton & Sons. Touching the swatch book, the bamboo cloth has a lovely feel, like lightweight cashmere. Wheeler had a blazer made up in the material that he calls “the best jacket I’ve ever worn, so soft feeling yet warm”.

“I’m a great believer in this range,” says Cundey. “It gives the impression of a relaxed linen look as a suiting or a dress blazer with distorted fibres or a white tuxedo.”

“Bamboo is no different from a linen range,” says Glendenning. “The fact is that it’s been brought to the West recently and it’s a bit unusual.”

Dugdale Bros makes the point that traditional wool is just as sustainable as newfangled super lightweight cloths. In fact, the traditional heavyweight wools are greener because, unlike, say, new Italian superfine wools, they are much more hardwearing.

The irony is that even something handmade in Savile Row using superfine wool will only last for a decade compared to generations for a robust suit.

Someone who needs a lighter weight cloth because of climate change buys something that doesn’t last as long and will ultimately been thrown away sooner – adding to the landfill, only increasing the problem.

Ironically, the best customers for Dugdale’s proper characterful English cloth are to be found in Italy – the home of the super lightweight textiles English cloth merchants compete against.

Corinne Metcalfe, a clothing designer at Purdey, used to work in the sailing industry and has noticed the same drive towards lighter, more breathable fabrics when it comes to country sports – partly as a response to our warmer, wetting climate.

Metcalfe says that customers want lighter and more breathable fabrics. Purdey launched its first synthetic membrane into its technical shooting range this autumn. This technical tweed is 30 percent lighter than standard sports jackets “which allows you to move more freely when you’re out on the moors and you’re doing more active shooting”.

Sympatex was chosen for the membrane because, being made of recycled materials itself, it is more ecologically forgiving than other brands. Not only that, but when Sympatex reaches the end of its lifecycle, it too can be recycled.

This new technical shooting range has been so successful that Purdey will extend it to womenswear in A/W19.

Elsewhere, Purdey has used the common nettle for its range of holdalls and gun sleeves. Nettles were first used around a century ago in Switzerland to make the iconic Swiss Army Rucksack – cotton was scarce and nettle fibres are actually stronger.

“Nettles grow in the wild and don’t need to be treated with insecticide. Nettle combines with our ethos of durability and sustainability,” says Guegan.

Ethical sourcing
Another trend making inroads into Savile Row is provenance and what Huddersfield Fine Worsted calls ‘traceability’. Just as people want to know where food is sourced from, they want to know that yarn has been gathered ethically. Savile Row has to assume that the actual sourcing of the yarn is conducted ethically by its mills.

Dugdale Bros has an ethical code of conduct when it comes to sourcing yarns. Dugdale says that some of the larger wool growing countries have, in the past, used questionable practices – such as cutting into fly-infected sheep in a practice known as ‘mulesing’, which has been called cruel and inhumane.

HFW is in the process of being able to trace where its cloth comes from, right back to the exact sheep in Australia – tracing the journey from shearing to yarn spinners to Chinese brokers. It’s the same as proving the provenance of a work of art.

Small footprint
Where Savile Row can really show its green credentials is by using British mills manufacturing locally. This shortens its supply chain and avoids the energy spent importing from China and the Far East. In short, reducing its carbon footprint.
Dugdale Bros sources its wool from local yarn suppliers, mills and finishers within a five mile radius of Huddersfield, which similarly reduces its carbon footprint.

Alexander Lewis, brand and business director at Norton & Sons, says: “We do think about this a lot. As a house, Norton & Sons prefers to work with British-made cloth. We only use foreign-milled cloth if there’s something we cannot get from a producer-weaver in the UK”.

“Bespoke tailoring is at the very top of sustainable fashion producers in terms of the footprint it leaves behind. The effect that it has on the environment is very different to say, a big fashion brand.”

“Keeping our carbon footprint small is a luxury that a high-end brand such as Purdey can afford. Sustainability is very much in our ethos,” adds Guegan.

Savile Row has responded to climate change