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March 18, 2005

high street or heritage?

(The entrance to English Heritage)

Last week I had the misfortune to witness various pieces of old but graceful furniture being removed from Anderson & Sheppard's former home on the Row. And although I know they’ll be as successful in their new home, it was still sad to see.

Given that Anderson’s are one of the most prominent tailors in the world, what is frighteningly obvious is that they’ll not be the last to move from Savile Row, either. This could be almost acceptable if bespoke tailoring was a dying trade, but it’s not.

Certainly, the business has ups and downs like any other, but there is still a huge demand.

If the tailors on the Row are guilty of anything, is that we have failed to inform people about what bespoke is. We've not communicated the good information properly.

It’s a double edged sword- Savile Row isn’t about changing; and why should they? They're in the suit business and they make the best suits in the world. In the past when the world was a much bigger place, Savile Row was security. A man of standing was always impeccably dressed. So customers were introduced to the Row by family and trusted friends, as existing customers knew their kith and kin would be in the the most competent hands, to sartorially prepare them for all of life's pleasures and trials.

The world is a much smaller place now. Global travel and communication is a wonderful thing, however the fact is we're now open to much greater influence, both good and bad. Our friends and children don’t feel the need for bespoke, nor want such personal advice. They can get supposedly it themselves, without the help of experts, and this is where the media has been quick to take hold with a vice-like grip. This is where we’ve failed on the Row. We need to use proper, modern communication to let our steel shears prise open the misinformed market within that vice. Certainly, the ready-to-wear marketing skills are impressive, but their product is generally not.

The bespoke marketing skills are dire, but the product is peerless.

And aside from Savile Rows chronic undermarketing, there is another enemy, namely, various Westminster leaseholders and Westminster City Council. 'Enemy' is probably too strong a word, but they don’t make life any easier for the tailors. I know they're in business and they deserve the going rate. However, I do think the institution that has clothed most of the world's most influential people for the best part of two hundred years deserves Heritage Status. And it doesn't have it. Unofficially it does, of course. But officially it doesn't.

We have an organization here in the UK called English Heritage; as the name suggests they look after all that’s dear and special to this green & pleasant land. They protect everything from ancient monuments and city parks. Also they help to maintain historical artifacts like old coal mines and waterwheels for future generations. Now what about the tailors? Don’t you think they're part of English Heritage?

I certainly do, and I think if there are any grants going to help combat the huge rates and other assaults from the heavy-booted march of progress, then the heritage-packed Savile Row will gladly use it well and honourably.

And wouldn't you know, funnily enough, the main office for English Heritage is Number 23 Savile Row, London. Dear Ladies and Gentlemen of English Heritage, please have a look out your front window and open your eyes.

Posted by tom at March 18, 2005 10:11 AM

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