Saville Row, London’s go-to location for any gentleman, from anywhere across the world who takes pride in their tailoring needs. From Saudi kings to old money earls and the cities finest traders, the clientele of this small but exclusive street in central London is where some of the worlds richest men will spend hundreds of thousands on the perfect collection of suits, perhaps even just for one occasion, for simple a weekend shooting in the country.
We sat down with one of ‘the rows’ finest young tailors, some would even call him an artist named Shaun Brennan. Around 6’2, of slim build with defined features and contagious smile, Shaun is articulate and approachable from the off. He’s dressed in a grey double-breasted suit with neat accessories such as glasses, neatly strung from his jacket pocket and his Rolex – a staple of any watch collectors selection – as well as the obligatory measuring tape draped around his neck. He looks sophisticated like he belongs in his surroundings, you could even mistake him for one of his very own wealthy customers. Based out of No.13, Stowers Bespoke, the modern take on traditional tailoring was established in 2008 as a family business, by Ray Stowers who has been in the clothing business for nearly 35 years. We talked clients, modern men and the challenges that Saville Row has staying relevant is a ‘relaxed fit’ society.
Firstly, how did you start your career?
I decided after to school to study fashion design at college but after 2 years learning about the fashion industry and how it works, I perceived it as a very unsustainable way of creating clothing so I became disinterested in a career in the fashion industry. I decide to travel for a few years and while away gave more thought to possible career choices including tailoring then after I made the decision there was only one place to learn. Savile Row. I embarked on a year-long struggle to get even my foot in the door and it came with an offer of a 6-month unpaid internship at no 16, Norton and sons. During that period I worked hard and made enough of an impression in the small community to be offered an apprenticeship at no 13, Stowers Bespoke. That was over 5 years ago and am still here today.
What made you want to become a Saville Row Tailor?
I wanted to Learn a craft, a skill you can keep for life and improve on day to day which also had substance and a sense of permanency about what your creating. I immediately recognised how passionate the older tailors still were about their work which just enforced this as a long-term career choice.
Could you explain what you do day to day?
A typical day starts around 8am, getting in and checking emails and correspondence. Then I make a rough plan for my day, which is usually dictated by customer fittings but always liable to change if a customer walks in the door unannounced (we are usually by appointment only). The day will then include a range of measuring new customers, fitting existing customer orders, cutting new customer patterns, all of which have their own individual pattern for each separate garment they order, cutting and constructing fittings and finishing orders. Trying to find a good balance is key. We have a great environment to work in and being a smaller family owned company we are all involved in the creative process and share ideas and opinions
How many hours go into creating a one-off tailored piece?
For a full 3 piece suit, you would be looking upwards of 100 hours work
With an ever-increasing presence longline t-shirts and skin-tight jeans usually looking like its been taken to with scissors, how do you feel this has effected menswear as a whole? And do you feel men are becoming ‘less manly’ in current times than before?
I’m not sure I would use the term less manly, but one thing I have noticed, and especially the older tailors over the years have noticed, is the dramatic change in physique in general. Especially men. Exercise and working out are the norm so people are striving to achieve more athletic physiques of all number of reasons whether it be aesthetics (to appear more manly maybe?) or to further achievements in sport, which when coupled with a trend towards slimmer fitting garments actually creates a bigger ‘need’ for a bespoke garment to correctly fit a customer. There’s no mistaking Streetwear and casual clothing are defiantly more commonplace in day to day life and the old school business suit may be on the way out but I do believe there will always be people that want well made, great fitting clothing made personally for them.
What are the current trends heading into SS18?
I’m not really down with current fashion trends as I tend to stick to what I feel comfortable in, or what I like in my personal style. I seem to favour brands that design intelligently and consider the quality of construction in a garment whether it be established or newer ones.
If someone is looking to get a great fitting suit, but on a modest budget what would you suggest? And what are the key things to look out for?
Cloth and shoulders! I would highly recommend that you aren’t distracted by the brand name and spend more time checking the material composition and buying the best 100% natural fibres you can for your budget. Make sure the shoulder width and length of your jacket are correct and the rest can usually be altered. Spend around two-thirds of your budget on the suit and the rest of your budget on good quality alterations
What are the Do’s & Don’ts when buying a suit?
Again, don’t get distracted by brand labels that might not necessarily be of quality construction. Do consider how versatile the suit may be for different occasions and can even be worn separately.
When most people think of Saville Row they think wealthy businessmen with monogrammed cuffs and pompadour hats. Who do you find is your typical customer?
The needs of the customer are changing, with the workplace less formal and people choosing to invest in well made and designed clothing instead of it being a necessity we find that a customer is more passionate about what we are creating them. It’s not well known that around a third of our commissions are ladies garments and with regards to age, we have a complete range, including 3 generations of families, the son, father and grandfather.
Do you think Saville Row has a place in the future and can it last amongst the onslaught of generations obsessed with throwaway society?
I do think Savile row has a very significant place in the clothing industry now and the future, its often referred to as the Mecca of tailoring as there is nowhere else in the world like it. Its used as inspiration for fashion designers, films, documentaries and every day you will see streams of tourists being guided down the road so there is obviously still interest the craft and what we do here but the main problem with fast, ‘throw away’ fashion brands moving into the row to gain some form credibility is damaging as it waters down what we do and is sometimes hard for the customer to distinguish what is truly a bespoke tailor and a well marketed high street brand. We do have a Savile row association who are trying to work with the council to safeguard the area which has traditionally been used for tailoring since the 1850’s and I personally believe there is a bright future for Savile Row and bespoke tailoring in general as long as we adapt to the changing needs of the customer.
Whats more important to you style or substance?
Substance. The style is subject to taste, but when you create something of substance your own style is usually reflected somewhere in it.
And lastly, if there was one person dead or alive you could have as a client who would it be?
Jack Nicholson. The man has an effortless style about him.