Georgie Lane-Godfrey talks to head cutter Davide Taub about why the British tailor’s apprenticeship programme is a hotbed for new talent.Read More
Georgie Lane-Godfrey talks to head cutter Davide Taub about why the British tailor’s apprenticeship programme is a hotbed for new talent.Read more
Olympic gold-medal-winning rower Lieutenant Pete Reed, OBE talks to Richard Mellor about tailored suits, Royal Navy caps and his enduring love for Gieves & Hawkes.Read more
The modern incarnation of the bomber jacket is key for Spring / Summer but has its roots firmly set in the military, and sporting attire, writes Mansel Fletcher.
Men’s clothing owes a huge debt to military uniforms, even when the connection is hard to discern. Bomber and blouson jackets, key items in Gieves & Hawkes’ SS 2018 collection, are a great example of this. Should a man arm himself with a lightweight jacket this spring, war is unlikely to be uppermost in his mind. However, without the innovations made by the designers of military apparel in the early years of the 20th century, contemporary blousons wouldn’t exist. And it’s fitting that a tailor such as Gieves & Hawkes, with deep connections to military tailoring, should draw inspiration from the bomber jacket for its latest collection.
When men first began to spend time in airplane cockpits they created a need for a new kind of garment. The long coats that cover a man’s backside in cold weather when he’s riding a horse, or walking around, weren’t very useful due to the ergonomics of a pilot’s position in a cockpit. The history of the flying jacket is a complicated business but its form was established by the early A-1 model, which was standardized by the United States Air Force in 1927 as a summer flying jacket. A quick look at the A-1 reveals the debt owed by all modern bombers and blousons to a leather jacket designed over 90 years ago. Its simple shape, which follows the line of the body and is gathered at the wrists and waist, hasn’t changed much because it so perfectly combines form and function.
Not that things have stood still. Since 1927 the materials have changed, mainly because the durability of capeskin leather (which originally came from goats for the A-1 jackets) is no longer a requirement. Instead softer, more flexible materials such as nylon are used in order to give the wearer the fullest possible range of movement, and the lightest possible garment. In fact, the only weight in the latest blouson jackets is the weight of the associations that they carry. Clothing historians might quickly spot the link to the old A-1 jackets but there are other more contemporary references, from the preppy style of 60s America (as recorded in the legendary 1965 book Take Ivy) to the late-90s heyday of Damon Albarn and Blur.
Contemporary blousons represent another step in the evolution of the bomber jacket, which for nearly a century has been the outerwear of choice for men in need of a sporty and functional garment. As is clear from Gieves & Hawkes’ SS18 collection, the jacket’s spirit persists even if these days they’re more likely to be worn over a lightweight sweater or a polo shirt on the way to the gym than with a flying suit on an airbase.
Josh Sims discovers the advantages of a peaked rather than notched lapel, and when to wear one
Visit a bespoke tailor and one of the questions a customer is likely to be asked is notch, shawl or peak? Said tailor is referring, of course, to the lapel shape, but it's an esoteric inquiry all the same. While all styles of lapel have their moments in the fashion sun, traditionally the shawl collar has been the preserve of dinner suits and cocktail attire, while the notch lapel has become by far the dominant form, pretty much standard on the vast majority of suits.
That leaves the peak lapel – in which the notch, where the fabric of the collar meets the fabric of the lapel, juts out with an extended, triangular point towards the shoulder – somewhere in between. In service with the men's wardrobe since the early 19th century, when it first appeared adorning the dress tailcoats worn by British Army officers, the peak lapel has neither the pedestrianism of the standard notch, nor the flashiness of the shawl.
What it does arguably have is just the right touch of dandy – and, after popularity during the 1970s through to the mid-1980s, probably fell from grace during the more dressed down times that followed, when dandy was more a dirty word. Gieves & Hawkes has, as it were, assailed the peak for its spring/summer 2018 collection – its tailoring taking inspiration from the wardrobe of one Prince Charles, a man known to favour the peak lapel himself.
But Gieves & Hawkes has also sought to break with tradition. The peak lapel has, over more recent decades, typically been found on double-breasted jackets. For the new season the company offers peak lapels on a soft-tailored jacket in a chocolate glencheck for example, or on a navy hopsack blazer. Gieves demonstrates how it works every bit as well on a single-breasted jacket – enter its three-piece with peak lapel in a mid-grey sharkskin
Indeed, wearing a peak lapel on a single-breasted suit is something of an old, forgotten idea. Gracing the roomier, high-waisted cut of the tailoring of the time, it was commonplace during the 1920s to 1940s – check out Jimmy Stewart in Rope or Edward Steichen's early publicity shots of Gary Cooper. Their wide lapels suited the wider ties of the time but also served to better frame the face and – with that deep, slimming V-shape through the chest – to emphasise the width of the shoulders. The more clearly signalled masculinity that resulted, was ideal for movie stars, naturally, but also for more ordinary men seeking to make an impression.
Of course, that also means getting the proportions right: too big and a notch lapel can look self-consciously retro, too skinny – or worse, too short – and they suggest the jacket really belongs to a maître d' or boy-band member. The more you make of a lapel, it seems the more finesse is required of its tailoring.Read more
This season, Gieves & Hawkes’s ready-to-wear collection is inspired by the glamour of the English summer sporting season and its unique sense of style. The easy, rugged elegance of aristocrats, royals and young sporting gentlemen forms a starting point for a collection that channels a particularly British sense of cool.
It's hard to think of a more quintessentially British setting than a pebble beach. White sand and palm trees may imbue a sense of wanderlust, but there's something equally and indisputably special about a British beach in summer. In spite of the unpredictable weather, there's always a determination to make the most it with friends and family; to pack up a picnic and play an impromptu game of cricket before retiring to the local pub.
It is this uniquely British charm along with the spirit of the English sporting season that forms the foundation of Gieves & Hawkes' spring/summer 2018 campaign. Heritage sports such as rugby, cricket and polo have a discernible sense of style that manages to be both playful and elegant; accessible yet refined. The new season collection references this unique aesthetic with a palette of fresh, confident colours alongside classic sporty shades such as polo red, racing green and buttercup yellow.
The SS18 collection is designed to cater to all occasions for the Gieves & Hawkes customer, from formal business meetings to leisurely weekends away and elegant evening attire. Suiting and tailoring once again forms the heart of the collection, with designs inspired by a young, sporting Prince Charles. Classic navy, beige and tan are contrasted with earthy checks with a retro quality, while beautifully cut neutral linen and practical tailored chinos offer a relaxed alternative.
New season casualwear also references recreation, most notably in block stripe T-shirts reminiscent of horse racing, polo and rugby teams. The cricket jumper, a perennial British sporting favourite, has also been revisited in playful chunky-knits in unexpected colour combinations. And subtle monogram patterns – as well as a not-so subtle pheasant motif – on chinos, polos and knitwear also nod to classic British sportswear.
Even the new-season eveningwear channels this central theme, with silk jacquard smoking jackets in blue and bronze and linen dress trousers that take inspiration from the dress codes of post-match champagne receptions and garden parties.
The SS18 campaign was shot on location in the picture-postcard seaside town of Aldeburgh, the historic home of Benjamin Britten. The acclaimed composer founded the Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts in 1948, and the town has long been renowned as a cultural and creative hub. In contrast to the rugged pebble beach, Britten's erstwhile home on the outskirts of Aldeburgh served as a more formal, albeit charmingly bohemian setting for the campaign shoot and film. As eloquent, polished and quintessentially British as Britten's compositions, the Gieves & Hawkes SS18 collection is a contemporary ode to English sportsmanship and sartorial sensibility.
Stephen Doig explains why a velvet evening jacket is a sartorial choice worth embracing for the season’s social occasions
As we settle into winter mode, there’s a curious duality in the traditions of how we dress. One is functional; swamping silhouettes, weighty knits and solid boots to fend off icy climes. The other is this pragmatic gent's opposite number; the need for a touch of razzamatazz as the festive season approaches. And for a man, that means evening attire, with a slick tuxedo first and foremost as the hero piece to see you through cocktails to carriages at dawn. The rules of how we dress have shifted seismically in the last decade, with a greater degree of informality in even the most ceremonial of settings, but there’s something to be said for opting for an exceptionally made evening jacket when a touch of masculine glamour is called for, and no jacket is more darkly elegant than one in velvet.
The detractors of velvet bemoan its retro, almost costume-like appeal, redolent of the 70s and a tad theatrical. And while it’s true that badly-cared-for velvet can look tufted and lacklustre, one only has to look at the gentlemanly attire in the season’s biggest film, Murder On The Orient Express, and all the 1920s glamour it evokes to see it in all its glory; lustrous, refined and appropriate when it comes to setting the mood to after-dark. There is also, as Gieves & Hawkes’ AW17 collection proves, something comforting in the substantial nature of the texture. A black velvet jacket might look relatively simple, but up close it ripples and catches the light in its fine threads, while rich jewel tones such as burgundy and teal complement the subtle gleam of the surface beautifully.
The smoking jacket, a mainstay of a Victorian gentleman’s wardrobe, was crafted in velvet to create a more fluid, less stiff, starched and upright kind of blazer. It went on to act as a lynchpin of the new tuxedo style, which according to legend was introduced to the masses courtesy of Edward VII, who commissioned Gieves’ neighbours Henry Poole & Co to create a more informal kind of evening dress, one with a shorter “seat” than the traditional tailcoat.
The dinner jacket evolved, introduced to American society when a guest at Sandringham returned to his native upstate New York, and country club Tuxedo Park, heralding his modern sartorial innovation. Since then, velvet has become a natural material of choice for evening; textural, rich and sumptuous. Its heavy nature – the tiny fibres are woven to stand ‘outwards’ as opposed to flat – makes it a happy companion to winter too.
Whilst there’s something innately formal and evening-appropriate about a velvet jacket, there are myriad ways to wear it today; pair with a sleek black polo neck for a more relaxed stance or wear with matching trousers. Pair with a cocktail and a raffish air and you’re all set for the season of upcoming festivities.
Mansel Fletcher offers his thoughts on how to approach eveningwear in time for party season
There are no rules anymore; in 2017 grown men wear what they want, when they want. However, that doesn’t mean that every available choice is of equal merit. Some black tie outfits look better than others, and it’s worth taking a moment to understand why. To help you navigate the options, we’ve come up with ten tuxedo tips. Not rules, of course, merely suggestions.
1. Keep it comfortable
The hope is that you’re going to party in this suit – to eat, drink and dance. In order to have the capacity to do these things, go for a well-fitting but traditional cut with generous lapels, and enough shape to accentuate the appearance of the waist.
2. It’s called black tie for two good reasons
It’s best to wear a black silk bow tie. Spend a little time mastering the tying rather than taking the coward’s route and buying a clip-on. Don’t worry if it isn’t absolutely perfect, but look forward to the moment when you can undo the tie and leave it hanging nonchalantly around your open collar.
3. Wear a white shirt
The default option is a white cotton shirt with a decent-sized collar, but cream cotton or silk are more distinguished alternatives. Double cuffs are a good idea as they look and feel ritzier than button cuffs, especially if you have some good cufflinks.
4. Simplicity is best
The only jewellery a man needs is a pair of the aforementioned cufflinks and an elegant watch in a matching metal – it would be hard to improve on gold oval cufflinks and a vintage gold watch.
5. Pull your socks up
For men with pale skin the contrast between their exposed hairy calves when they sit down and the black fabric of their trousers will be unhappily strong. Avoid this by wearing a pair of plain knee-high black socks.
6. Learn from the past
Historically, dinner jackets were radically simple and didn’t have pocket flaps or vents, and the trousers didn’t have turn ups and just kissed the top of the shoes. These details remain flattering, lengthening the appearance of the wearer’s legs and slimming his waist.
7. Keep it dark
What looks blacker than black in artificial light? Midnight blue, or so the story goes. What’s more certain is that the first dinner jacket, which was worn by King Edward VII when he was the Prince of Wales, was “celestial blue”, so there’s a solid precedent for wearing a very dark blue dinner jacket.
8. Cream of the crop
Maintain a consistently elegant appearance with upscale accessories; the obvious choices are a cream silk scarf and a cream silk pocket square.
9. All wrapped up
If the weather calls for a coat then an overcoat is a must (casual jackets will lower the tone). A simple dark covert coat is appropriate, but a long, double-breasted polo coat would be spectacular.
10. Dress your feet
Shoes should be in black leather, and while convention suggests they should be Oxfords with silk laces, whole-cuts are also worthy of consideration, as are tassel loafers. Whatever style you go for, avoid any metalware or logos.
Josh Sims discovers why jacquard is the perfect alternative eveningwear look this party season
Turn up to a black tie event in a jacquard jacket and you might expect one or two looks. ‘Against that classic dinner suit style, jacquard is hard to pull off,’ admits Gieves & Hawkes senior designer Edward Finney. ‘You need to be the right personality and have the right event – something glitzier than your typical formal affair.’ Indeed, while red-carpet clothing is not something most of us have to worry about, jacquard – a raised pattern that’s woven rather than printed onto a fabric, giving it a distinctive texture – certainly makes a statement: one as much about an appreciation for craft as for cut, both with the design and the making, in Gieves & Hawkes’ case by Stephen Walters & Sons mill, in Suffolk.
‘Designing a jacquard is actually a more complex process than the wool cloths we have made,’ says Finney. ‘It’s a scientific process to choose from all the possible yarns, and work out how they’ll sit against the black warp. You really have to get a fabric made up just to see if it really works – it’s not something you can check on a CAD screen. But it’s worth it – with jacquard you get a level of detail that’s not possible even with advanced printing.’
While Gieves & Hawkes typically sticks with traditional patterns – paisleys, polka dots and the like – the company has in the recent past taken its inspiration in deconstructing a Persian rug. ‘You really can look to all places for inspiration,’ says Finney. But for this autumn/winter, Gieves keeps its jacquard classic: a single-breasted, two covered button, peak lapel evening jacket, for example, comes in a silk jacquard featuring a 70s-inflected geometric pattern in mid blue, olive and ruby red; a shawl collared jacket, also in an all-over rich red, comes with a subtle floral design; another style, this time with a one-button fastening, comes in a burgundy and black Glencheck with plain black silk shawl collar.
Either way, as Finney stresses, with a jacquard jacket on, the rest of your attire should probably take a turn towards the low-key. So a jacquard tie, or blue diamond pattern jacquard shirt – also available from Gieves & Hawkes – might be best saved for another outfit. Indeed, a jacquard jacket arguably looks best against a simple, plain backdrop: dark trousers and dark roll-neck knitwear or plain shirt.
‘For me, jacquard is one of those essential eveningwear looks – and using it for eveningwear is a way for us to offer something that feels more original,’ says Finney. ‘It’s true you’re not likely to wear it to the golf club much, but you might, say, on a cruise, over a plain open-neck shirt. It’s just one of those woven fabrics that is clearly very special.’
Richard Holt goes behind the scenes of one of the world’s finest shoemakers to see how their approach to craftsmanship makes them perfect partners for Gieves & Hawkes
Once people get an idea in their heads, it can be difficult to shift, no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary. One of the pieces of false wisdom you still hear from people who should really know much better is this: “Yes, but we don’t really produce anything in Britain any more, it all comes from abroad.”
This is partly due to a British tendency to do ourselves down, but also because we have watched the dwindling of obvious, landscape-altering industries such as mining, and assumed everything has headed the way of coal and steel. But whether it is textiles, cars, plastics or beer – and now fine wine – there is still plenty to celebrate in Britain.
The technology industry is a huge growth area for the country, but at the same time the UK maintains a great international reputation for traditional craftsmanship. A fine example of this is the shoe industry in Northamptonshire, with firms such as Joseph Cheaney & Sons making handcrafted shoes using methods passed down across many generations.
The company was founded by Joseph Cheaney in 1886 and, other than a change of premises ten years later, has been making shoes in the same Desborough factory ever since. Each pair of shoes takes eight weeks to make and everything from the cutting to the stitching and the final polishing is completed in-house by a workforce of skilled craftsmen and women.
The Goodyear welted shoes made by Cheaney & Sons are a typically English style, and they are in high demand from abroad, particularly Japan and Italy. “The Japanese like seeing Northamptonshire on their products,” says Jonathan Church, co-owner of Cheaney & Sons. “They do their research, they read magazines on the origins of shoemaking and they know how everything is made. They are discerning customers, like the Italians, and they know that the shoes we make in Northamptonshire are not made the same way anywhere else.”
Cheaney & Sons has five retail outlets in London, plus one in Cambridge, one in Leeds and a factory shop in Northamptonshire. In addition, a range of Cheaney & Sons shoes will be offered in selected Gieves & Hawkes stores. Cheaney has a long history of supplying shoes to Gieves & Hawkes, and this latest collaboration simply emphasises how ideally suited the two companies are to one another, believes Church.
“We sit well with Gieves & Hawkes because we are 100 per cent English made,” he says. “Our shoes are all made by hand under one roof in the traditional English style. This fits very well with Gieves & Hawkes as they are all about quintessentially English design.” Nick Keyte, managing director of Gieves & Hawkes, agrees: “We are privileged to have such a long-standing relationship with Joseph Cheaney,” he said. “Both businesses were founded on similar principles of quality and craftsmanship. Joseph Cheaney enjoys an enviable reputation within the UK and abroad as one of England’s finest footwear manufacturers.”
Joseph Cheaney shoes are for people who understand the value of a traditionally handcrafted product that is stylish but does not need to shout about it. Something that perhaps does need shouting about is British industry in general, just in case there are still some people out there that haven’t seen how well it is doing – not just with cutting-edge technology, but also with the kinds of skills that that have been appreciated around the world for many years.
Richard Holt meets one of the UK’s oldest producers of fine fabrics and wools to find out how its time-tested techniques make it an invaluable partner for brands like Gieves & Hawkes
In a world where technological change occurs at an often bewildering rate, it is reassuring to see that some things are best done the way they have always been done. Whisky is still matured in oak casks and watchmakers work with components that have remained largely unchanged for centuries.
Within the textiles industry it would be hard to find a better example of dedication to traditional craftsmanship than Johnstons of Elgin. One of Scotland’s oldest family-owned companies, Johnstons has run the same Morayshire mill since 1797. It produces some of the finest wools, fabrics and finished garments available using traditional techniques handed down through four generations of the Johnston family before passing to the Harrison family in 1920, who have owned the company ever since.
At the weaving mill in Elgin and the knitting mill in Hawick, highly skilled designers take raw materials and transform them through around 30 different processes – including dying, spinning, blending and weaving – to produce the final product. Johnstons was brought to prominence in the mid 19th century when the company’s Estate Tweeds (still produced at the Scottish factory today) were worn by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It was around this time that Johnstons began its pioneering use of cashmere and started exporting the luxuriously soft wool all around the world.
Johnstons of Elgin has been supplying Gieves & Hawkes since the 1960s, before the individual houses of Gieves Ltd and Hawkes & Co merged. The two companies have a lot in common, beyond the fact that they are both Royal Warrant holders that have a history going back to the late 18th century. ‘Maintaining consistently high-quality products and a first-class service is what has made both Gieves & Hawkes and Johnstons stand the test of time,’ says Edward Finney, Senior Designer at Gieves & Hawkes. ‘Johnstons has been producing the finest cashmere in the business for years and we are delighted to have such a great working relationship with them.’
Greg Rorison, sales director at Johnstons of Elgin, agrees: ‘Supplying cloth is how the relationship began, and we continue to supply cloth, woven in our Elgin mill, to this day. We also supply many of their woven and knitted accessories and are proud to have supplied knitwear too. ‘The design team at Gieves & Hawkes, based in London, collaborate very closely with our design teams in Scotland. We are very proud to be a supplier to such a prestigious Savile Row brand; a company, who like Johnstons of Elgin, has a history and heritage steeped in quality and craftsmanship that stretches back to the 18th century.’ Like Gieves & Hawkes, Johnstons has come a very long way since it was founded more than 200 years ago. But although the world may have changed, and fashions may come and go, the best craftsmanship is timeless.
As winter weather creeps in, Stephen Doig looks forward to bundled but elegant escapades away from the city.
Summer’s waning need not be cause for lamentation. Memories of azure seas might be a rose-tinted memory, but autumn has its own dark delights to look forward to. In fact, for the sartorially inclined, it’s a veritable playground; the chance to don substantial clothes once more and venture into the cordite-scented air and tread through the russet leaves that crackle almost as much as the fire in that favourite inn. Autumn is the grown-up elder brother to flighty, flyaway summer, and this season of what Keats termed one of 'mists and mellow fruitfulness' is made all the better by a weekend break to take full advantage of its subtle array of shades. But where to venture to?
A flinty beach in the shadow of a looming, brutalist power plant might sound like a rather apocalyptic setting, but Dungeness’s strange, bleak beauty has attracted creatives and artists for years. Drive through Kentish marshlands to discover this spit of shingle beach that boasts its own unique eco-system and flora. Late filmmaker Derek Jarman’s cottage – where Tilda Swinton would once recite her lines – is a source of pilgrimage for many, with its unique garden and wall bearing quotes from Shakespeare. If the neighbouring town of Rye is too twee for your tastes (its cobbled streets are picturesque but might be too quaint for some), Living Architecture boast an incredible design edifice in Dungeness to watch the eerie other worldliness of this unique place drift by. A warm wool Melton greatcoat, cashmere jumper and some solid boots should be all the attire you need against the whipping winds.
Josh Sims discovers that Gieves & Hawkes' AW17 collection has a coat to suit any occasion, whether you are in the country or on the train to work.
At first a technical parka - in ruby red, made from a treated cotton and silk blend - seems like an unlikely coat to come from Gieves & Hawkes. A more expected option might be the super-smart navy cashmere Melton topcoat, with its fly front and revere collar.
"That’s the kind of coat that evokes what Gieves & Hawkes is," agrees Edward Finney, the company’s senior designer. "It’s that luxurious, very formal style."
So why, for Gieves & Hawkes' Autumn/Winter 17 collection, is it venturing into the kind of outerwear more commonly found on a brisk country walk, rather than on a damp day in Mayfair? It’s all part of the diversification in coats that reflects the changing ways in which we wear them. "And it would be crazy of us not to roll with demand for more technical, high-performance fabrics," says Finney. "People are less forgiving about coats now. They want something that keeps the bad weather out entirely, and then dries quickly."
However, most coats in the new collection are in timeless styles: trench coats and covert coats, greatcoats and – taking a nod to Gieves & Hawkes' heritage in tailoring for the navy – peacoats, with a quilted shooting coat along the way. "As well, of course, as a super-clean, no frills mac, in fly-fronted or button-through versions," enthuses Finney.
"That’s a look anyone can buy into, because it always looks good."Read more
Bath Rugby captain Matt Garvey tells Josh Sims why having a made-to-measure suit inspires off-pitch confidence in players
Teo van den Broeke recounts the long history and modern incarnation of the classic peacoat
Characterised by a double-breasted front, spread lapels, a short body that finishes just below the seat and oversized buttons imprinted with the image of an anchor (in a nod to the style’s sea-faring heritage), peacoats as we know them today have changed very little since they were first introduced some two centuries ago.
It was in the early 1800s that the Dutch Royal Navy first started issuing its sailors with pijjakkers, coats made from pij, a heavy, navy-blue wool twill known for its coarseness and insulating properties. These early peacoats were weighty, unyielding and entirely focused on function.
Though the Dutch invented the style, it was the British that transformed the peacoat from a little-known military garment into the civilian-wardrobe staple it is today. By the early 20th century the incredibly durable pea coat, manufactured from sturdy Melton wool, was standard wear for petty officers in the British Royal Navy. Unsurprisingly, this practical garment made a splash across the pond, too, and the US Navy began issuing its junior officers with peacoats (or reefers).
What was it about the style of the coat – with its cinched waist, natty lapels, vented back and heavily styled buttons – that made it so suitable for use in the inclement, demanding conditions of life on deck? The answer lies precisely in these stylistic virtues. Peacoats were designed to sit close to the body in order to insulate their wearers against the wind. The double-breasted front provided an extra level of protection and the vent at the back, combined with the short cut of the body, allowed sailors to move freely around the deck and to climb rigging with ease.
It’s this advantageous combination of heritage, function and style that has secured the pea coat’s place in both the annals of sartorial history and the future of menswear.
Peacoats are also extraordinarily easy to wear. Thrown over a classic suit and tie combination or worn at the weekend with a cashmere roll neck and jeans, the coat has a universal appeal, both masculine and understated. The peacoat is at the core of Gieves & Hawkes’ Autumn/Winter 2017 collection, which is particularly appropriate given the Savile Row marque’s long affiliation with the British military. Cut close and short in the body, the Gieves & Hawkes peacoat is made from a soft yet weighty wool and cashmere Melton, and is just the thing to see you through many winters to come.
Aleks Cvetkovic meets Davide Taub, head cutter at Gieves & Hawkes, and discovers that bespoke tailoring is about fresh thinking as much as tradition
Whether you're familiar with the tailor's art or not, it's impossible to deny there's something astounding about bespoke tailoring. The process of transforming a length of woolen cloth into a form-fitting, handmade suit is a fascinating and closely-guarded métier.
Although known as a prominent ready-to-wear fashion house, Gieves & Hawkes also has a long and prestigious history as a bespoke tailor. In fact the workroom at No 1 Savile Row is one of the oldest in the world, with dozens of bespoke tailors beavering away under the guiding hand of head cutter Davide Taub.
Taub is responsible for overseeing all the bespoke orders that the house makes and for designing commissions with clients. Under his care, Gieves & Hawkes has gained a reputation as one of the most forward-thinking bespoke tailors in London.
'We design garments to respond to customers' lifestyles and to the rise of technical, smart-casual clothing,' he explains, with immaculately trousered legs crossed, as he sips a coffee in the archive room at the top of No 1 Savile Row. 'Tailoring has to keep evolving, so we play with quilted linings, detachable elements and the structure of our suits. But unlike off-the-peg clothing, everything we make is fitted to maintain a bespoke silhouette, the garment's form works in harmony with its functionality.'
So, what shape do these experiments take? There have been plenty since Taub took the helm five years ago, but most recently his work has challenged the notion that tailored garments have to be 'traditional', something he's keen to expand upon. 'I've long questioned how tailored garments are made. Why stay still as a craftsman when you can innovate? At Gieves & Hawkes, we create one jacket a year that's inspired by changing patterns in our customers' lives. It's an opportunity to celebrate bespoke design and demonstrate the relevance of tailoring in an everyday wardrobe. Our driving jackets, barrel pea coat and our casual unstructured blazers all came about this way.
'These projects show how we're pushing things forward,' he continues. 'Our job is about having a conversation, listening to customers and designing something with them in mind, as an architect would, and we think of bespoke in those terms.' This philosophy goes some way to explaining Davide's more unusual creations such as his quilted alpine jackets. These are cut in technical 'storm-proof' wool and designed to be comfortable sports coats to take skiing, whether worn on the slopes or as a svelte alternative to a down-filled parka for après ski.
Then there is the brushed-cotton detachable 'bibs' that Davide designed for customers to fasten into the front of their jackets, a clever hybrid solution that combines sportswear design with tailoring. 'That came about through a conversation with a customer,' he says. 'It just made sense for a tailored sports coat to retain its silhouette, while the gilet provided an extra layer of protection.'
His latest innovation is the yachting blazer. It’s softly structured for comfort, with natural shoulders and lapels which can be fastened at the nape of the neck. On each side there’s a slanting welt pocket, a feature which seldom appears on a tailored jacket. 'It is this garment that resonated with our customers the most, alongside the driving jacket,' he says, allowing himself a small smile. 'It's just a useful double-breasted blazer. The pockets give it a pea-coat functionality, it feels modern, but it draws on our tradition as a military tailor at the same time.'
Of course, the close relationship that Davide builds with clients also makes his job special. 'As a cutter, you're in the privileged position to actually meet your customer. There's no distancing from the end user. You understand his lifestyle and how clients see good clothes fitting into their lives.
Making clothes at this level is a mentality, some people may never get it, but I'm making suits for those that do.’
Stephen Doig explains why the snappiest dressers will be wearing wider lapels this season
In the ebb and flow of fashion trends, one prevailing thread throughout the last decade or more has seen a shrinking of sorts. Suits are tighter and more nipped-in, a hangover from the knife edge cuts and reed thin proportions of Hedi Slimane at the starts of the 00s, trousers are second skin and jacket lapels have been reduced to the narrowest of slithers. But, as Gieves & Hawkes' Autumn/Winter 2017 collection proves, wide lapels lend a sense of stature that their skinny little brothers just can't muster.
Thick, solid lapels – either on a traditional double-breasted or a more slim-cut single-breasted blazer – make a sartorial statement that means business. Quite literally; they nod to a certain kind of captain of industry in a suit that has substance, clout and presence. Wide lapels fly in the face of sleek, slender modernity and evoke a sense of nostalgia; they exude a Mad Men kind of charm, a Rat Pack pizazz, and technically they serve to manipulate and morph the silhouette.
A wide-cut lapel will emphasise the torso and shoulders, creating more of a V-shape that broadens the top half and narrows the bottom of the jacket, even if that is no more than an illusion. A strapping fellow will be enhanced by wide lapels, and on slender, tall frames they can add a sense of heft. The tricks of a good tailor are myriad, and the sharpest use the lapels on a jacket to elongate the frame; a notch lapel that sits high will lengthen the body, likewise a peak lapel with particularly angular slants will look more streamlined – helpful for larger frames.
The fabrication, too, is paramount with a wide-lapelled jacket. The extra bulk of the material works more harmoniously with simpler, classic cloths; a navy or steely grey wool for example. Fabrics with checks, patterns or a certain degree of 'heaviness' – that is nubbly tweeds or tufted herringbones – when combined with a big lapel can seem overly busy and cumbersome because of the extra element that such a feature adds.
It's also worth considering, or in fact celebrating, the unabashed sense of ceremony that substantial lapels bring; they are undoubtedly stately and therefore add a touch of élan to evening attire; a dinner jacket in lustrous velvet or a black tie ensemble in inky silk can't help but lend presence with the addition of prominent lapels. Narrow versions are almost apologetic in their slimness; supersize them to add a real punctuation mark to a jacket.
Mansel Fletcher explores how Gieves & Hawkes has a history of drawing on royal and military influences with checks and plaids in its tailoring and outerwear
Checked suits and jackets are back on the style agenda this season, but among Savile Row's royal customers their popularity has spanned three centuries. It's no coincidence that one of the best known of these patterns is the Prince of Wales check (also known as the glen check for reasons that will become clear). Less well known is the identity of the Prince who lent the check his name, but the story of the rustic origins of this checked fabric help us understand how to wear it.
In the 1840s, Lady Caroline, the Countess of Seafield, adopted a large-scale check as the estate tweed for her land at Glen Urquhart near Inverness in Scotland – hence the name glen check. Albert Edward Saxe-Coburg, Queen Victoria's eldest son and future King, was a regular guest of the Seafield's and noticed and admired the patterned tweed worn by their gamekeepers. It's worth reflecting for a moment on the atmosphere and nature of the Seafield's estate. The Prince was there, in the wilds of northern Scotland, to shoot with friends, and the clothes worn by the estate's employees captured his imagination. In essence, the Prince was adopting country sportswear, and that rural tradition informs the checked, raglan-sleeve overcoats in Gieves & Hawkes' new collection. Today the effect is to lend the coats a useful informality, so that they can work just as well with jeans and a chunky sweater as with tailored clothes.
Although King Edward VII (as the Prince later became) is remembered as a stickler for sartorial propriety, his early experiments with informality (as well as popularising the glen check, he also pioneered the dinner jacket) perhaps inspired his grandson, the Duke of Windsor. As a young man the Duke (then titled the Prince of Wales) began to adopt shockingly informal elements into his wardrobe, including many checked suits, which led to the popular misconception that he gave his name to the Prince of Wales check. If the glen check's rural origins inspired this season's overcoats, then Gieves’ new three-piece suits bring to mind the sophisticated style of the Duke of Windsor. They have enough about them to cut a dash, while demonstrating sufficient restraint to be appropriate for all but the most formal occasions.
A sense of restraint has long distinguished the style of our current Prince of Wales, who combines both the propriety of King Edward VII and the élan of the Duke of Windsor in his dress. And like his forebears, Prince Charles is no stranger to checked jackets and suits, whether lightweight lounge suits or unusual double-breasted tweed jackets. With this multi-generational history, the glen check has long enjoyed a royal seal of approval, and thanks to Gieves & Hawkes, this season it's taking on a newfound relevance.
Josh Sims tells the story of Gieves & Hawkes’ latest collection and why Autumn/Winter feels like a return to the tailor’s British beginnings
For one of the most British of brands, Gieves & Hawkes’ Autumn/Winter collection marks a return to its roots, a shift away from the Continent. ‘Britishness is hard to capture, and easy to get wrong, but it’s also unique in its eccentricity and fun,’ says the company’s senior designer, Edward Finney. ‘You don’t get fun in any other nation’s sense of dress. You wouldn’t get an Italian describing their clothing that way. And we’ve had a modern, quite Italian feel for a while – we felt it was time to give this collection some fresh air.’ Or, at least, air infused with incense. For the new collection the design team referenced the 1970s – the most overlooked of decades in British design – and sought inspiration in the style of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles; the latter, of course, once performed from the roof-tops of Savile Row. ‘Think richness, decadence and extravagance, George Harrison, Hare Krishna, and Persian rugs,’ says Finney. ‘Of course, nobody wants to wear something that looks like a Persian rug – but you can take inspiration from its colour or texture.’
Certainly texture, as Finney stresses, is all the more important given the limitations of menswear design – the Autumn/Winter collection dials down on suede, cashmere, mottled flannel, moleskin and corduroy, for example. Colour and pattern – from houndstooth to paisley – are important too, in the right doses: a new multi-hued biscuit check was developed with Johnstons of Elgin for a raglan sleeve overcoat, while another of the collection’s stand-out garments is a burgundy-on-navy large windowpane checked two-piece suit in an updated house silhouette, with a longer skirt and broader, squarer lapels. ‘The boldness of the fabric means this suit is not going to be a top seller for us,’ laughs Finney. ‘But it’s punchy. It has attitude.’ Wear it over a soft, plain roll-neck to let the suit do the talking.
Indeed, there’s a new sumptuousness to this benchmark collection in general - less canvasing in the tailoring, less padding in the shoulders. Yes, there are three-piece suits for those who want to be smart - ‘there's a sense now that if you want to dress formally, don’t do it by halves,’ Finney notes - but overall the mood is more towards ease and comfort, with more casualwear than is typical from Gieves & Hawkes: flannel and needlecord shirts, cosy knitwear. ‘The fact is that’s just the way men are dressing now – we still cater to more traditional professions, the likes of banking and law, with more formal dress codes, but we need to cater to those who find their office dress is getting more and more relaxed too,’ explains Finney. ‘It’s a big step for a company like ours, and it’s been a challenge, but it’s the right step.’
Getting here has definitely not been without its conflicts at Gieves & Hawkes. ‘The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? I have to say I’m more a Rolling Stones fan, but it’s probably The Beatles who have had more influence on the way the collection looks,’ adds Finney. ‘Yes, we’ve had plenty of arguments over that one.'
The official start of the English Summer Season, Chelsea Flower Show has been held at Chelsea since 1912, the same year that Hawkes acquired No.1 Savile Row and became the most famous address in menswear.
The show is attended by HM The Queen as Patron of the Royal Horticultural Society and by other members of the Royal Family every year, and attracts over 150,000 visitors over five days. There is fierce competition for the prestigious medals awarded to the best exhibits as well as the Best Show Garden Award.
Chelsea Flower Show is the first opportunity of the year to dress up, and whilst there is no official dress code, the event calls for elevated tailored separates and an optimistic outlook on the weather, with rain seldom far from mind. A linen suit paired with a dressed-down polo shirt is a perfect choice, or if you are attending a more formal reception or perhaps a smart lunch during the day, a blazer and trouser combination worn with a shirt and tie is called for. Opting for a summery palette of pastels or a softer shade of blue or grey is key to embracing the start of this most quintessentially British season.
With thanks to Tim Penrose at Bowdens and Fiona Sanderson at the Luxury Channel.Read more
How to dress in 90 seconds - A film by Eddie Wrey
The new film sees the setting updated to a triple height mews house in SW7, and Jake Parkinson Smith, the grandson of iconic British photographer Norman Parkinson, taking on the leading role.
Says Jason Basmajian, Creative Director of Gieves & Hawkes:
‘Someone sent me a link to the original film which was a 50’s public service broadcast on how a gentleman should order his wardrobe - and I loved it. We then discovered from our archivist that the Duke of Bedford had been a good customer of ours at the time and that his wardrobe would have been largely from Gieves. At that point we thought it merited attention and a loosely inspired modern remake.’
In the film, directed by Eddie Wrey, Jake shows the modern man how to get out the door in 90 seconds flat. The film features the new Autumn Winter hand-tailored in Britain collection of ready to wear exclusively available at No.1 Savile Row with the new Jaguar F Type making a cameo appearance.
Property provided by 88ltd, with a special thanks to Panos Koutsogiannakis.
Jason Basmajian, Creative Director:
‘In business since 1771, we have many customers from families that have been shopping at Gieves & Hawkes, No.1 Savile Row for generations. A father brings his son to buy his first suit for an important birthday, school social events or graduation. People that have shopped with us for generations trust the impeccable taste and guidance of the staff at No.1 Savile Row. Today as we welcome more and more discerning younger gentlemen into our Flagship store, we wanted to celebrate that heritage but express it in a way that would be modern and relevant to the next generation.
Chinese Olympic Equestrian and Gieves & Hawkes ambassador, Alex Hua Tian explains:
‘At the age of 16 my father brought me to No.1 Savile Row to buy my first suit. He explained to me that it is the heritage and the quality that makes Gieves & Hawkes so special. When wearing their clothes you are following in the footsteps of great men and maintaining a tradition for understated British elegance’.
Eddie Wrey is a young filmmaker who worked for many years for Mario Testino. He recently shot the Gieves & Hawkes A/W 14 campaign in the Highlands of Scotland.
Continuing the brand’s association with Jaguar the film features the new F type coupe.
The film was shot on location at the Vesta rowing club, on the river Thames in London and in the recently renovated first floor VIP rooms of Gieves & Hawkes flagship store at No.1 Savile Row. On show in the Robert Gieves room is the Royal Archive featuring the uniforms for the Queen’s bodyguard - The Honorable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms - held at No.1 Savile Row since 1912.
The artwork above the original 1732 William Kent fireplace is by Fredikson Stalled.
The son in the film wears Gieves & Hawkes cashmere hoodie, suede bomber jacket, navy polo shirt, beige cotton trousers, beige suede shoes, leather driving gloves and changes into his made to measure Morning coat. He is dressed most likely for his wedding when morning coats are often traditionally worn in England.
The father wears ready to wear from the A/W 14 collection.