The dawn of the modern tailor

London’s tailoring traditions are being shaken up by a new ethos that redefines bespoke and ready-to-wear within inviting spaces where art, wellness and café culture are in the mix. Mark C O’Flaherty reports

Tailor Timothy Everest in his new MbE atelier and shop in Spitalfields
Tailor Timothy Everest in his new MbE atelier and shop in Spitalfields

Tailoring now can mean anything that isn’t a tracksuit,” posits Bayode Oduwole of modernist tailor Pokit, whose remit extends from jeans to suits. Pokit is one of a number of tailors who are redefining its bespoke and made-to-measure offerings, shifting the goalposts away from the traditions of Savile Row, and changing the concept of what constitutes a modern tailor. So too is the space in which they operate evolving, with some of London’s most contemporary suitmakers creating stores that mix their own work with complementary brands, as well as fine art, contemporary craft or wellness. While these take their cue from the more innovative luxury retailers, it is a major departure from traditional Mayfair and reflects the changes in the way men are dressing.

This summer, Timothy Everest threw open the doors to a new space in Spitalfields – an old Victorian pub at the fabulous address 1 Fashion Street, artfully designed by architect Chris Dyson. Everest parted ways with his eponymous brand last year after a dramatic change in the business, and now works exclusively under the auspices of his new label MbE. The name is a play on the honour Everest was awarded in 2010, but also stands for “Made by Everyone”, which in part reflects the multibrand ethos of the new space. “We are going to stock new collaborations and third-party products, which isn’t something I’m known for,” says Everest of the predominantly British-made luxury menswear and accessories – including Norman Walsh trainers (£140), Japanese denim, military-inspired pieces, and shirts (£110) made in collaboration with Shoreditch Laundry – which are chosen to complement his clothing. Most importantly, there are also plans to “further develop what I term ‘bespoke casual’, alongside customisation of classic tailored pieces as well as the best in bespoke,” he continues. For autumn/winter, key MbE casualwear pieces include a travel blazer (£525) in heavy cotton/satin, a town coat (£795) in lightweight west of England flannel, work shirts (£150) in cotton gabardine and pleated pants (£250) in overdyed cavalry twill.

Clockwise from top left: tailor Richard James. A look from the new season features a gold shadow spot‑print cotton shirt, £225. Richard James’ bespoke store in Mayfair, with a custom neon light by Philip Oakley
Clockwise from top left: tailor Richard James. A look from the new season features a gold shadow spot‑print cotton shirt, £225. Richard James’ bespoke store in Mayfair, with a custom neon light by Philip Oakley

“I’m inspired by the changes in men’s wardrobes over the past decade,” says Everest. “Things have become much more relaxed.” And the shop design reflects this: as befits the man who has a nifty line in made-to-measure tailored denim, the interior is a mix of raw architectural textures of wood and metal, with rows of Victorian cameos on the shelves. “I wanted a deconstructed tailor’s,” says Everest, “we have recycled fixtures from my atelier, including copper railing, and mixed it with new clean materials, like plywood.” It’s very London. In addition to the retail space, “we have a coffee bar, an area for yoga classes and a space for people to enjoy and discover new British craft,” he adds.

Further west, in Marylebone, father-and-son duo Joe and Charlie Casely-Hayford have also just opened their first standalone store, offering their full “personal” tailoring service, but also made-to-measure versions of all their ready-to-wear, from shirts (£190) to bomber jackets (£805). “It doesn’t feel right that having a garment personally tailored should be limited to a suit when menswear runway shows are so much more extensive,” says Charlie Casely-Hayford. As well as suits (from £1,495), autumn made-to-measure options at Casely-Hayford include the double-breasted alpaca-wool Darius overcoat (£1,285), woven in Somerset, and the textured, unstructured printed Titus jacket (£745).

Advertisement

Notably, the pair have also shifted away from the traditional menswear calendar. Capsule collections will go into store every three months as opposed to twice a year for larger collections. “By creating small capsule collections, we can allow them to evolve every few months rather than from one season to the next. At a time when everything has become accessible through Instagram, and globalisation has homogenised huge swathes of the fashion industry, this feels like a natural evolution from the staid tailors’ bricks-and-mortar retail model,” explains Charlie Casely-Hayford. His father Joe elaborates: “The ready-to-wear fashion system is broken. Stores were requesting December deliveries for summer collections and June for autumn/winter clothing. We were showing our collections on the runway six months before they’d be delivered in store and we’ve felt strongly for some time that there must be an alternative way.”

This “alternative way” is reflected in the interior of the store, which was masterminded by Charlie’s wife Sophie Ashby, of Studio Ashby, and channels their sartorial style with plenty of texture, pattern and strong colour combinations – such as green against orange. Just as the brand mixes classic tailoring with super-modern streetwear, so the decor mixes old and new: an antique cash desk and classic fine art next to contemporary layered graphic curtains, and the feel of a luxe domestic interior. “We wanted it to feel like the stylised home of a well-travelled friend,” says Charlie.  

Clockwise from top left: Joe and Charlie Casely-Hayford. Casely-Hayford nylon Thirdman bomber jacket, £805. An illustration of the new Casely-Hayford shop in Marylebone
Clockwise from top left: Joe and Charlie Casely-Hayford. Casely-Hayford nylon Thirdman bomber jacket, £805. An illustration of the new Casely-Hayford shop in Marylebone

Like the new Casely-Hayford space, Thom Sweeney’s shop in Mayfair is an interpretation of a private home, with its low-slung midcentury wooden armchairs, richly patterned rugs and strong black and white photography on the walls. And just as Timothy Everest is mixing other brands with his own lines, so Thom Sweeney has recently begun to complement the made-to-measure tailoring at its Bruton Place store with what Luke Sweeney and Thom Whiddett call “friends of the brand”: shoes by Edward Green, Crockett and Jones (£430) and CQP, as well as Moscot eyewear and Troubadour luggage, sit next to Thom Sweeney new-season reversible quilted cashmere shirt jackets (£1,350), suits (£1,395) and olive-green suede bomber jackets (£2,900). Anything that feels right to pair with the brand, goes.

Bayode Oduwole has also been looking for an alternative way to frame his Pokit tailoring services. The business began with traditional retail that mixed bespoke and ready-to-wear pieces at a store on Lamb’s Conduit Street and then in Soho. It then evolved to become appointment-only at a variety of spaces around Bloomsbury. Now the collections – including pieces such as the Pokit boiled-wool utility suit (from £975) and the Pokit (& Son) handmade bespoke super-120 wool suit (from £4,000) in grey, navy or black – are available via fittings at the private gallery space of art consultants Montabonel & Partners in Shoreditch, where Oduwole feels the non-fashion, visual elements of the space create a dialogue with the clothing and service he offers. “We are a cult art-house brand,” he explains, “so it makes sense to be surrounded by museum-quality contemporary art. On the walls, there are large-scale works by Michael Reisch and a Shezad Dawood video piece. The environment communicates the level of sophistication and interests of our clients.”

Clockwise from top left: Pokit tailor Bayode Oduwole with Sébastien Montabonel. Watermill Advertising’s Bertie Miller in a Pokit suit. Pokit boiled-wool jacket, suit from £4,000
Clockwise from top left: Pokit tailor Bayode Oduwole with Sébastien Montabonel. Watermill Advertising’s Bertie Miller in a Pokit suit. Pokit boiled-wool jacket, suit from £4,000

Pokit feels like a private club with a knock-three-times dynamic – the address is only sent to clients when an appointment has been made. “Physical retail will never go away,” says Oduwole, “but with the big department stores all trying to offer boutique individual experiences for the mass consumer, luxury means something else now. More and more consumers are looking for that closeness to the creative source, which is what we are trying to offer. Word-of-mouth, obscurity and a sense of discovery are synonymous with originality and cool.” 

While Pokit is about the artful use of smoke and mirrors, influential rebel tailor Richard James has made a deliberate attempt to be transparent with his tailoring on Savile Row. Last year, James shook up his two Mayfair stores, taking over more floor space at his Clifford Street site, and introducing a new customer lounge and bar. The ready-to-wear shop looks space age, with a single, sculptural wooden counter running through it, and panels of wildly coloured, frosted glass; the other store brings neon and disco flourishes to a classic Mayfair-style interior, with the changing rooms creating an infinity effect with mirrors and light bulbs. “We completely reconfigured that space,” explains James. “We also wanted to put the focus on the product and make the bespoke store more open and easily accessible.” This translates to a visually impactful, hands-on experience for the customer – with not just racks of clothing at hand, but also the head cutter for the bespoke suits (from £4,425) visible from the ground floor. “When we opened in 1992, most tailors were hidden away behind frosted glass, with no window displays. It wasn’t welcoming,” says James. This autumn’s ready-to-wear collection keeps pace with the spirit of the space and is inspired by the hedonism of 1970s New York. Standout pieces include a plum stretch-flannel virgin-wool double-breasted suit (£835), a gold shadow spot-print cotton shirt (£225) and a featherweight pure new wool Harrington jacket (£665). James concludes: “Savile Row is as much about men’s style as men’s tailoring now.”

Clockwise from bottom right: Luke Sweeney and Thom Whiddett. Thom Sweeney wool suit, £1,395. Crockett & Jones Pembroke brogues, £430
Clockwise from bottom right: Luke Sweeney and Thom Whiddett. Thom Sweeney wool suit, £1,395. Crockett & Jones Pembroke brogues, £430

This agility of tailors to change with the times chimes with this year’s fashion book House of Nutter: The Rebel Tailor of Savile Row, which tells the story of menswear maverick Tommy Nutter who, from the late 1960s and throughout the ’70s, shook up Savile Row norms with his directional tailoring and reappraisal of what a tailor could be. He introduced ready-to-wear (with a standalone store) and worked on numerous collaborations. But he was an outlier who was ahead of his time and it’s taken over 50 years for other tailors to follow suit.

This new wave of London tailors are carrying the torch, freshening and loosening up perceptions of what a tailor can be – and their new spaces reflect this. Each tells a story about its tailor, explores the identity of the men they dress and brings the special nature of buying a bespoke tailored two-piece to investing in a ready-to-wear shirt, a casual blazer or weekend trousers. Add to this cultural and lifestyle elements – and the experience is distinctly of the moment.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Loading