If you found yourself in W1 on the 24th of June, you may have heard the hyperventilating of London’s top artisans who trade in and around Savile Row. Their nerves weren’t altogether unfairly placed. That is not to say that all members of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors are part of the 48%, but the train of thought was that there is nothing more luxurious than to bespeak a suit; and during uncertain financial times, the luxury industry suffers. Or does it?
Thankfully for our world-class craftsmen and women, they have allowed themselves a collective sigh of relief. Post-Brexit, business has been booming.
When the pound first took a dip, overseas clients with bills to settle immediately paid up in full. Useful when it comes to paying the rent, but hardly sustainable income. It has been the increased demand from British clients that has made the difference.
The great Terry Haste of Kent, Haste and Lachter on Sackville Street couldn’t work out was going on at first. “We were very worried, thinking, ‘Oh business is going to go down the pan, it’s going to be very quiet,’” he says. “But it has just not materialised, it has not affected business at all. Business went up last year and is continuing to go up. Most of our clients are British and yes it may be early days but our domestic clients haven’t been affected.”
Other houses are equally delighted by this upturn. Edward Sexton, owner of his own eponymous label, says, “People are pro-British and pro-decent choices. A bespoke suit requires consideration and care for the buyer and perfect technique and skill from the makers. Plus, people need new clothes for new beginnings.”
This may sound somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but Sexton’s experience in the wider retail market (he was instrumental in setting up Stella McCartney’s label) belies any suggestion of naivety. In fact, when money becomes tight, traditional codes of menswear – suits, shirts and smart shoes – generally become more popular.
Okay, these are the more august names in the tailoring world. What about the up-and-comers? Same story. The dashing, quite brilliant Michael Browne of Chittleborough & Morgan, known for razor sharp tailoring, shares the optimis of the old guard. “The business of tailoring is based on repeats,” he says, “and so regardless of economic woes, there is trust in the product and a desire to have confidence that you are wearing something of the highest quality. So business is up.”
After the crash in 2008, brands like Gieves & Hawkes had to expand their ready-to-wear offerings, such was the demand for well-made clothing . Luxury hasn’t gone out of fashion, but it has become a much less showy affair. Less monogrammed and branded labels, more under-stated quality.
Brexit hasn’t disrupted this reputation or the desire for the best. The first place discerning suit buyers spend there money is somewhere they can depend on for quality and durability. I am pleased to say that has always been British bespoke.