We’re starved of good, independent shops in London. It’s great for fashion brands – if there’s a trend or a hot new label, they’ll have a boutique here. But the only small, craft-orientated shops are very old ones. And many of those are not what they once were.
Which is only one reason I’m excited about the Anderson & Sheppard shop. Another is that is going to be beautiful. The fitting rooms are huge, lit by natural light and by big black lamps. The furniture is a mix of lovely old wooden fittings and newly commissioned pieces – there can’t be many newly commissioned haberdashery cabinets every year, but Clifford Street has a one. The wallpaper, the wood, the mirrors: the feel is very sophisticated but very comfortable. Exactly what I would have expected from Anda and Audie.
The focus of the stock is trousers. As Anda says, “we are a trouser shop, the rest is charm”. The idea is that a customer would have a bespoke jacket made around the corner, then come and pick up two or three pairs of trousers at £350 each. There are 10 different models, ranging from plain, comfortable ‘working trousers’ to slim leg models with side straps or even a Gurkha-style waistband. Around half a dozen colours in each will be carried as stock; the same number again will be available in the factory for special order.
The trousers, made in Italy by a great factory that does only that, will feature nice touches like A&S horn buttons on the waist and their signature mother-of-pearl button on the rear pocket. The cloths are all English, and include very heavy moleskins and drill cottons, as well as brightly coloured linens. There is a linen drawstring trouser that I’m particularly excited about.
The rest, the “charm”, benefits from that lack of good London shops. While many of the makers will be familiar to men that frequent the better stalls at Pitti Uomo, those men are few and the English shops that stock them even fewer. I’ve hunted down some of them in Italy; others I’ve had to buy online with no opportunity to touch and try on. Now they will be available round the corner. And using original designs by A&S, so unique to the shop.
I recently got round to reading James Sherwood’s column in the last issue of The Rake about the opening of Abercrombie & Fitch Kids on Savile Row. On the good side of the Row, too. As ever with James, it was both eloquent and erudite. It got me fired up at the stupid, shallow branding that drives modern retail. And then I went to see Anda and Audie: frantic, genuine, impassioned, creating a beautiful, original addition to the rich character of London. And I wanted to give them all my money.