I am very excited by the news that Roubi L’Roubi is taking over Savile Row tailor Huntsman. I came across Roubi last year when we met at a dinner given by Mayfair gallerist Tim Jefferies. Proprietor of his own eponymous couture house, Roubi is a real character – of which there are, alas, fewer than I believe desirable.
As well as his work for women, Roubi has what you might call a well-developed eye for the beauty of the male form, which he has honed designing vestments for St Paul’s and creating a line of shooting clothes for Holland & Holland (for which, alas, I lack the physique). Nevertheless, I salute his ingenuity, as well as his unique style, and it will be interesting to see what he will do with Huntsman.
Huntsman has a sort of sacerdotal quality to it; it is less a tailor and more of a cult, whose midcentury L Ron Hubbard or Reverend Moon equivalent was a figure called Colin Hammick, who arrived at Huntsman as a 15-year-old apprentice in 1942. Hammick was, it seems, very lucky, in that he found his métier while barely in his teens and consecrated the remainder of his life to the pursuit of elegance.
He was both suave Professor Higgins and chain-smoking Eliza Doolittle, taking elocution lessons until he spoke in the manner of the belted earls and industrial barons whose suits he cut and fitted. And just as he spoke as well as his customers, so he dressed as well – if not better – than they did, changing his clothes anything up to four times a day. He was in many ways the Leonardo of the midcentury suit. It was Hammick who invented the Huntsman silhouette of a single-button coat with suppressed waist and high armholes that is now so imitated.
In short, he lived the dream – as does Roubi, who can be found everywhere from the shooting field to the red carpet at the Academy Awards (he must be one of the few members of the Costume Designers Guild of Hollywood who is as handy with a 12 bore as he is with a pair of scissors).
Roubi will be adopting an interesting approach at Huntsman, creating a “sample” collection, an entire wardrobe, to give customers no excuse for not ordering every last stitch from number 11 Savile Row. And in this he could do worse than consult the brand’s archives, where it seems that all manner of extraordinary special requests have been made.