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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

BOOK REVIEW – ‘A Portrait of The Tree’ by Adrian Houston

It might be fair to say that not one of us can ever actually hate a tree, writes Robin Dutt. We admire them for their longevity, the amount of time it takes to grow that wood, those time circles within the trunk that betray years passed, their symbolism and that so tangible spread of branches like alveoli which apparently mimics the spread of the unseen – the top flourishing in light and dark but the roots in perpetual night. Jethro Tull released ‘Songs from the Wood’ decades ago and cleverly showed a stylus and pickup resting on a sliced trunk. ‘I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree’ wrote Joyce Kilmer, for the tree, is an architect of its own grandeur and expression. Somehow it terrifies us to imagine the axeman, the saw man felling, whirring with steel-alacrity – even though we might at this moment be reclining on a wood-framed chair, or sitting at a wood-topped desk or even reading the daily paper made from wood pulp. Do we value trees enough? Do we consider the wooden salad servers or pepper mills?

I have a true story which many will appreciate and be saddened by. Some years ago, the house in which I lived was suspected of suffering from subsidence. The relatively obvious cause was the nearby Victorian railway station, created at about the same time that the house was built. But it was the miniature Japanese Prunus tree in the front garden that was immediately blamed for the hairline cracks appearing slowly but surely on the top floor. How its delicate pink blossoms informed the spring. How its iron-winter branches tapped on the window as if a reminder of its presence. And so, said tree was deemed the culprit and had to come down. My letters of protestation were of no avail and half an hour after the municipal butchers arrived with their whirling saws, the tree was gone. A measuring gauge had been installed some time before to track the progress of the subsidence. It continued to move. The tree was after all, not to blame. But the tree was gone.

Adrian Houston has amassed, in this handsome book, portraits of trees and subtitles it, ‘A Celebration of Favourite Trees from around Britain’. So, here we have the familiar English Oak (Quercus robur) to the Copper beech (Fagus sylvatica f. purpurea); the Cedar (Cedrus libani) to Sycamore (Acer pseudoplantanus). Captured in the glory of day or the drama of oncoming dusk, he immortalizes these giants of nature as sculptural entities, their by turns, frenzied and harmonic branches etching variegated skies.

A host of names have been called upon to lend their words and views regarding trees and it is plain from these alone, just how much trees effect our admiration and appreciation. ‘My passion is conservation’, says Houston, ‘and I have been lucky enough to have travelled to some of the world’s most unexplored and inhospitable regions. All of these places have given me a true sense of perspective on why it’s so important for us to take care of nature.’

And he is so right. At this time when the issues surrounding COP 26 are so much at the forefront of discussion and debate, Houston’s book is a timely reminder of how we, as supposed custodians of the planet could or rather, should be thinking our way out of that box of restrictions and destructions. ‘We all need to do our part to protect them and our planet,’ Houston says of our congregation of varied trees.

There is no doubt that trees anchor the soil, are lungs, homes, nature’s umbrellas – and so much more besides. As part of woodlands or forests, they are part of a community and some even believe that they can communicate with one another. Judi Dench regards her trees as ‘part of my extended family’. Joanna Lumley calls Houston’s book ‘beautiful and important.’ Nicholas Coleridge feel ‘blessed’ to have managed to save his holm oak after a lightning strike. It seems that we must be custodians, indeed. The slow, painful (perhaps) growth, year on year of wood, the springing of leaf and blossom…It is a miracle.

One learns so many fascinating facts about certain species, here. The Yew, steeped in myth and lore and a constant presence in many churchyards, can live up to 3,000 years. The Ash in Norse mythology is known as ‘The Tree of Life’. Sculptor, Antony Gormley recalls a friend climbing a tree and asking who would join in calling the spirits. In Houston’s book we can read views by amongst others, Jasper Conran, Alice Temperley, Alan Titchmarsh and the Reverend Lucy Winkett.

Celebrity chef, Raymond Blanc recalls a tree at his renowned Le Manoir. His greatest memory is of when the Queen Mother visited with her entourage and drank champagne and Dubonnet under its spreading shadow.

It is said that nothing could be simpler that planting a tree for the next generation. Why don’t we all do it?

‘A Portrait of The Tree’ by Adrian Houston is published by Greenfinch. £30.

BOOK REVIEW - 'A Portrait of The

Art Preview – Fashion designer, Nicole Farhi among the artists for 2021’s ‘Discerning Eye’ Exhibition

Now in its thirtieth year, the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition has become something of a London landmark on the art scene, writes Robin Dutt. Over 500 artworks will be on display and this year the organisers received more than 7,500 entries from all over the UK. Actor Russell Tovey along with fellow curators, Adelaide Damoah, Anna Brady, Peter Brown NEAC, Roland Cowan and Tony Humphreys went through the open submissions, to handpick the shortlist.

There are pleasures and problems regarding the organisation of any group show. Whilst the initial idea might be to try and aim at a kind of harmonic balance, in reality, this is neither necessary nor desirable. The object is to show variety – sometimes contradictory and uncomfortable – the better to prove the point regarding the nature of the creative process. Rare it is when you can say you love everything. Rare it is that there is not something you love intensely and may buy – if you could. Often this method of display is called a Salon Display (a la The Royal Academy at the Summer Show) where the eye is assaulted (regaled might be a kinder word) by a baffling splash and spray of different genres, styles – and abilities. But it’s a ‘something for everyone’ approach, of course – very levelling and all-inclusive. The sheer number of works on display here at the ING hang makes it possible to dismiss any attempt at visual harmonics and simply open up wide the firework paint box or consider the once anonymity of clammy clay, finding form.

Russell Tovey says… ‘I am drawn to colour and figuration in a big way – and dogs, I always love dogs, so my selection was looking for the most dynamic and exciting artists exploring the figure and colour saturations – and of course, dogs. I’m excited to see my selection hung together’.

And colour (and dogs!) you will find a-plenty.

There is a sort of funfair, circus ‘feel’ to this show, where at once you might see a beautifully rendered classical portrait in oils, fine drawings on paper, a minimal experimentation with plane and angle or other diverse and atmospheric expressions. Jessica Harrison’s dark and beautifully sinister, ‘Coalport grand finale’ presents a ball-gowned lady, entirely in eerily magnetic, glossy bitumen-black. There is irony and tongue-in-cheek regarding the colour and the history of such a traditional figure. Callum Eaton’s ‘Overloaded Plug’ shows a construct we are all familiar with, perhaps and have been guilty of having in the home or office and the artist conveys that very real sense of immediate danger with the request that one considers the beauty of these individual shapes, forced together to make a composite whole.

Fashion designer, Nicole Farhi, still remembered for her slicing simplicity of line and form in her clothes for men and women, presents ‘Cybele’ a partial torso reminiscent of the Willendorf Venus and yet with an abstract suggestion as well. Farhi has been sculpting for thirty years – throughout her career as a fashion designer. Doubtless, one discipline fed and informed the other. Many creators might agree that all aspects of the works of hands, however diverse might be described as ‘art’. She says…’My aim as an artist is to stir up hidden emotions – to remind people of feelings which maybe they’d forgotten they have.’

There really is something for everyone, here – even that person who falls in love with Linda Hubbard’s ‘Toasted Burger Muffin’ featuring a portrait of Donald Trump. You see what I mean?

ING Discerning Eye 2021 Exhibition, Mall Galleries, London

Art Preview - Fashion designer, Nicole Farhi

Exhibition Review – ‘A World Within Worlds’ – The Art of Derrick Santini

Over the past few years, indeed pre-Covid, Timothy Oulton has ramped up the aesthetic voltage of World’s End, Chelsea in no uncertain way, writes Robin Dutt. I was at the initial vernissage several years ago, now and his hallmarks of exquisite displays and ironic contents remain the same – although of course, those objects and trinkets long gone. But the ethos is true to form. Oulton specializes in amassing paraphernalia together – whether a tranche of Victorian and Edwardian cutlery – all mismatched – glassware and sports memorabilia to give ideas to commissioned interior designers or those brave enough to make costly mistakes when not settled by the right hand in the correct context.

It looks easy to style a place. It isn’t. Oulton is nothing but eclectic (a much overused and misappropriated term for many) and has a roving, travelling eye for things which shouldn’t be married together but when they are look perfect. The sleek or shaggy-pile couches and chairs all around can cost a fortune and are balanced by irony and ecstasy of experimentation. Cliche although it may be, Timothy Oulton really is the consummate magpie. Uniforms on mannequins guard the inspiration, rugby balls remind of a very British tradition. There’s also a space ship-esque fluffy-seated bar crash pad just to keep things fizzy and cushions galore for spinning heads.

His latest find is Derrick Santini, left, whose ‘A World Within Worlds’ exhibition opened to much enthusiastic comment and curiosity. Santini is a devotee of the Lenticular – a technology in which sheet lenses are used to produce flat images with the illusion of depth and movement. It is a form of optical illusion and artists have been pursuing different ways of ‘fooling the eye’ for hundreds of years. Some would say that this is a sort of trompe l’oeil. Others might not. In one sense some may also say that words on a page but to a far less dramatic sense have also been experimented with, where the shape of a poem echoes the title. Or blocks of words suggest brusque, even angry intent as in say Concrete poetry of the 1960s. But with Lenticular photography it brings every subject to life, made evident when the viewer passes by and sees, say the expression of a face change or even mouth…’I love you’. How very reassuring especially after a difficult night!

This very ‘vivant’ presentation may recall for those of a certain age, special souvenir cards which were lenticular, ranging from postcard seaside holiday slices to dinosaurs which moved on the surface. Of course, the idea of a Lenticular work might be reminiscent of say a triptych where a story is told and developed over three sections. The Lenticular fuses different poses, expressions, feelings on an admirable flatness and still fascinate and look magical, even though one understands the tectonic science when it comes to how they are achieved. We look at these images with an almost child-like wonder. The same kind of wonder, perhaps when on Bonfire night as children, we might have signed our name in the night sky with a sparkler.

It has been observed that certain portraits created hundreds of years ago and still today, had the facility of the eyes following the viewer around the room from almost any angle. With Santini’s work, they certainly do and one feels somehow also something of an object as opposed to the authoritative audience. The captured, magnetic gazes and movements encourage a moving from side to side, a shifting of rocking feet, then a stroll past and then a stroll back…

‘For Silver’, for example sees a playful Phil Daniels in a clearly stage-like setting, dressed in almost period costume (but not) a mix of steely greys and charcoals, standing on a vivid chessboard tiled floor. There is something Dickensian about him. Somehow, despite the suggestively Cockney spoons which one can imagine being used to accompany a crowd pleasing street song, a la Dick Van Dyke in ‘Mary Poppins’, there is also something Shakespearian about it, too. It is a soliloquy in motion, a speech without words. And Santini reminds that in this ultra colour world we live in, black and white imagery still possesses power which is not just about a yearning for the nostalgic. Would it be too much to say that it always will? I don’t think so…

Fashion designer, Pam Hogg has also been captured by Santini in a shower of gold tones with disturbingly cobalt, although luscious, clearly Warholian Marilyn Monroe lips, her tousled hair a waterfall of sand, olive oil and treacle hues.

Derrick Santini has photographed amongst others, Adele, Lady Gaga, Alexander McQueen and Idris Elba and his work is in the private collections of Damien Hirst and Lakshmi Mittal.

Derrick Santini, ‘A World Within Worlds’ is at Timothy Oulton, Bluebird, 350 King’s Road, London SW3 5UU until 18 November.

Exhibition Review - 'A World Within Worlds'