Friday, 26 October 2012

The Evolution of Savile row

Style. Classic style. For many of us, these are the first words that come into our heads when we think of Savile Row. Savile Row is steeped in tradition, that much is certain. Built between 1731, and 1735, according to many fashion critics, its aim was to provide the world’s best tailoring the capital of England, which one hundred years later, was to be the capital of the world. Of course, only the best was good enough for British gentleman, and as times and many fashions have been and gone, the genius and resilience of tailors and cutters on Savile Row has seen them only put their name to tailoring that would bypass any era, watching from afar with a mixture of amusement and confusion.

What is clear, is that the resurgence of Savile Row is meant to synthesise timeless style with the bold approaches of fashion and all of its controversial nuances that help split opinion and mean that no one person dresses the same. Bold colours, voluminous cuts and extraneous details go alongside traditional tailoring pieces that have been well established and accepted.

With an influx of new designers, and a younger generation more interested in the new world of fashion, the identity of Savile Row began to change. For some, this started with Tommy Nutter, the original “Nutter on the Row”. Having opened Nutters of Savile Row in the late 1960’s, Nutter defied convention, designing and cutting completely original suits not seen or comprehended quite like Tommy. Tommy attracted many celebrity customers, whose wide lapels and broad shoulders were reminiscent of the glamorous 20’s and 30’s. But of course, as a pioneer of modern tailoring on the traditional golden mile of tailoring, he did so with unprecedented charisma, cut, drape and juxtaposition of fabrics.

Since then, the introduction of ready-to-wear garments in menswear can be perceived as the catalyst for the changing of the guard as Savile Row slowly started to lose its customers, and its money. Giorgio Armani’s rapidly growing influence in menswear certainly played a part in this, with his off-the-peg suit of the 90’s proving to be incredibly popular, denting the influence Savile Row was used to having when it comes to the most powerful of attire. There is no surprise therefore, that with the resurgence of influence from Savile Row, the Italians have been involved.

Chester Barrie, who has been on Savile Row since 1937, is opening concessions in an upmarket department store in three sizeable Italian cities, including Milan and Venice. Hackett has also opened up a shop in Milan recently, and Jeremy Hackett has been quoted as saying: “It is said the best dress Brits are Italians.” Veteran Neapolitan tailor Mariano Rubinacci says that the Italians have always “considered the British style a guideline”, but adapt the more military dominated Savile Row style to suit the relaxed lifestyle of the Italians. Just as menswear shows coming to London belatedly reflected the passion with which us sartorial gents have for fashion, the diverse nature of our cities capital attracts all sorts of talent with their own ideas and designs contributing to innovative tailoring that slowly but indefinitely changes the landscape of tailoring on Savile Row.

Everything related to Savile Row seems so far detached from the turbulent nature of fashion, and yet without fashion, it isn’t far from the truth to state that slim fitting garments, good quality jeans, the ‘classic’ trench/pea/duffle coat (apply as you see fit), wouldn’t be associated with style if it wasn’t for their origins in fashion.
Style and fashion are intrinsically linked, that much is clear, but what influences the other the most is far vaguer. Personally, it seems that time has a crucial role to play in some thing’s progression from  experimentation to establishment, with personal and cultural influence and wide-spread appeal have each aided the development of both fashion and style, but it is the Savile Row has certainly stood up to the test of time.

Nothing relayed the message of a blend of tradition and modernism like Hackett’s recent Gatsby inspired collection. Infused with pops of preppy colour, making up the more current element of the show, the models wore wider trousers and an array of complimenting three piece suits with slim fitting jackets and preppy footwear. These outfits show a change in ethos at Hackett, whose chief designer confesses modern-lifestyle often passes him by. And if this is what we will witness in the coming years, then long-may Jeremy Hackett continue to adapt to 21st century life.

Another eminent name in menswear, and an award winning designer as well as Savile Row tailor, Patrick Grant, aired his thoughts on this subject. "Savile Row used to be progressive; those tailors showed the world how to dress and pushed new shapes and silhouettes. We came full stop and ground to a halt. Post-peacock generation it stops, it retreats. Savile Row lost its confidence."
No doubt things are brighter and bolder under Patrick Grant’s leadership, with his focus on "simple pieces, made by hand in the U.K.”, with an attempt to fuse “Savile Row cutting with sporting and military traditions”. 
This influence has filtered its way down to more contemporary designers such as JW Anderson, who said of his A/W 12 show “sometimes you have to make things wrong to move forward.” Now, whether you think Anderson means wrong in the true sense of the word depends on how traditional you think of menswear. What isn’t in question is today, more and more men perceive “wrong” as different and original.

Designers and tailors alike scour the globe to find inspiration and source new fabrics, as shown by Ozwald Boateng’s recent A/W12 collection focused on tailoring with an Eastern twist. Said collection was particularly muted and dark, far removed from his usually ebullient work. The way of aforementioned tailors and designers are in harmony with Boateng’s motives in combining traditional British elements, and something completely unprecedented, in his own words “to create something new, something directional.”  There is no denying that he has been successful in his efforts, and while getting on a little in age, Mr Boateng consistently provides an exciting, youthful spin on tailoring in the most sophisticated environment, and in my opinion can be regarded as the biggest influence in the evolution of Savile Row.

Style evolves far more than most people realise. And so it must, for otherwise it loses its timeless body. While in some aspects this seems contradictory, style’s inner core survives on its ability to adapt and evolve, and just like humans, does so subtly and assuredly, which gives the impression of seamless transition to the untrained eye. The most recent progression of Savile Row style makes it a quite formidable force in the international world of fashion, placing it back up there where it belongs.

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