Form meets function: the beauty of bespoke
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.’