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.   

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Alistair Raymond

“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.”

Would you care to elaborate on this paragraph, Simon. It sounds very interesting.

Anonymous

I agree with the last paragraph: it’s depressing to see so many teenagers and young adults spend not-so-small sums of money on low-quality jumpers and t-shirts with a logo on the chest, because they want to buy into some ideal that the mass retailers are selling. Have you been into an Abercrombie and Fitch store? It’s a bizarre, disco-like and quite frankly absurd experience. It’s even more depressing when you see people in their thirties dressed in this stuff.

After reading this I went onto the Abercrombie website to see the prices they sell this stuff at. A jumper priced at £120 was made of 30% nylon and 30% acrylic – I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I saw that. To think that people are stupid enough to buy this stuff.

Simon, is this the piece by James Sherwood you are referring to?

http://james-sherwood.com/diary/2012/04/savile-row-protest-april-2012/

Stuart

So I’ll be able to go to London to buy Italian made trousers in British shop? Great.

Stuart

Anonymous

£350 for a rtw trouser?! This is beyond merely expensive into the realm of incredulous pricing, I can’t see how this can work unless the trousers are something very special indeed as customers with large budgets surely would go bespoke for twice this, and the upper end of rtw are charging about £200 – 250 (uk and italian made).

You really would have to want to GIVE them your money at those levels.

David

Anonymous

Stuart was faster than me. But now my thoughts.

Savile Row; Anderson & Sheppard; Richard Anderson. What do you link those names to? Probably the answer is: “British. Cut, made and trimmed in London / United Kingdom. Top class british craftmanship”.

Now you can buy Anderson & Sheppard and Richard Anderson “made in Italy”.

Who will be the winner? I think Italy and Italian craftmanship, not Savile Row and and British tailoring.

Franck

Anonymous

The trouser offerings sound great. As a true haberdashery, will there be both dress and sport shirts? Simon, can you detail these and other shop items that will be available? Thank you

Anonymous

well ultimately there aren’t that many factories left in the uk to make high quality mens clothing. the british manafacturing industry has been destroyed post war to the point of it being practically non existent, as the country turned to casino banking to pay the bills lol

if you think you can run a factory in the uk competitively like the italians do producing high quality clothing at relatively high prices and make a success i wish you luck. truth is britain is uncompetitive in manafacturing, we have high labour costs, high property costs, dont have a skills base for this business and additionally dont have significant domestic demand for quality clothes anymore (they are all going to A&F or H&M sadly).

Anderson & Sheppard probably dont have much of a choice therefore of a factory in the UK to make their product (unless they start their own factory or make inhouse which i doubt would be possible with their resources). as per my above comment, even when outsourcing trouser manafacture to italy they still ar trying to sell off the peg trousers for £350?! IF it was made in britain what would it be £500, £750, £1000, more?

David

Anonymous

I think we agree (at least to some degree), Simon.

There is only one option for me: The best possible quality and individuality. Of course 😉

And then you mention exactly what I tried to explain. Even with a price for trousers that is very high, you can’t make them in UK. You have to go to Italy. This would not be worth mentioning if it just was fashion or high street designers.

But it is not. It is an Anderson & Sheppard shop, and they have to go abroad. Talking about image and branding, I think that is a huge problem.

I can order a full bespoke pair of trousers (totally hand made with all the fittings nescessary) at my Italian tailor for 500 Euro (400 British Pounds). Would it be an issue to go to London and buy Italian made trousers with a british name for the same price? I doubt it.

As a regular London visitor, I will of course visit the shop and take a closer look at it.

Best, Franck

Anonymous

noted simon, yes im sure if this is the way they are operating it would contribute to the cost, of course if people want to pay associated price thats their choice.

i just think that the price quoted for a RTW trouser seems v high and to me is symptomatic of why the british menswear industry is in long term decline. i would guess the rent on clifford street & staff costs probably have a lot to do with it, at the end of the day A&S are importing a factory made RTW trouser from italy and charging ~50% more than the high end italian RTW manafacturers for the priviledge?!

you mention modern retail in your final paragraph simon, but the difference between A&F and the saville row houses is that the former has provided the british consumer with a attractive ‘value’ proposition and are run by astute businessmen, while our esteemed saville row houses seem to be a microcosm of the british manafacturing industry, uncompetitive & all too willing to pass this uncompetitiveness to the consumer in the form of higher prices. Its unsurprising the consumer time and time has voted with the feet (& pockets) and choosen to buy cheaper imported clothing from department stores or the high street.

Its all very well for protests to go on outside A&F surrounding the heritage of the row but i think the saville row houses have been their own worst enemy and if they were producing high quality clothes at more ‘reasonable’ prices british people would patronise them. unfortunately at ~£3500-4500 for a suit on the row, and now £350 for a RTW trouser from italy, even the more well off im sure would avoid. saville row unfortunately has become the preserve of the american magnate / arab potentate while the english ‘gentleman’ is a rapidly dying breed (and if he exists is probably making do with a M&S RTW as he cant afford the gas bill in the country pile).

david

Anonymous

well appreciate you posting my comment even if you didnt agree with everything i said simon (i spent a good portion of my late afternoon at work penning it, in homage to the british inefficiency i was talking about above).

A&F was to be fair a poor example as they dont do tailoring and they do produce mass produced tat, but they are fantastic success story, as they are efficiently and well run.

i agree with you simon that anderson and sheppard isnt just a regular tailor, although the snobbery around some of the houses like A&S doesnt make much sense to me as the old guard of cutters, who justified the mystique & high prices, have long gone eg the Scholtes, Hammicks et al and have been replaced by cutters who seem to rotate around the row and havent proved themselves to be in the same league yet. its interesting, and obv there hasnt been a deed poll of who wears bespoke, on and off the row, and who doesnt, but from my observations many of even the ‘elite’ in british society dont patronise the row anymore. you only have to take a look at the suits worn in the houses of parliament, on the bbc or in a city firm, a small percentage look like they are bespoke, let alone bought from the row. why is this? it can only be two reasons, 1) they dont care/have no taste 2) they dont want to pay the price.

i have to dismiss reason 1) as most of the people mentioned are vain and egotistical by nature, and their predessors had taste we would assume, so it must be reason 2.

why dont they want to pay? well mean gross income in uk using 2008 figures (i would assume its actally gone down since then with recession) was £31,000, to be in the top 5% of earners £59,000 and top 1% its £118k.

forget the mean figure as we will assume bespoke is for the elite only. after tax the top 5% earns £40,500 & the top 1% earns £72,500. so on a £4000 suit which i would assume is at the low end of A&S bespoke offering the top 5% of the countries earners would have to spend 9.8% of their salary & the top 1% would have to spend 5.5% of their annual salary. on the demand side it doesnt seem to stack up. british employees even at the top end of society cant afford it with current levels of tax!

david

mack11211

If A&S can get away with it, good for them. As a branding/marketing exercise, it’s a fun challenge — the RTW store sells many things other than the thing the bespoke house is famous for, coats of the famous cut. But the RTW store must design & market trousers & accessories that somehow convey a version of the personality that the A&S cut suggests. BTW many SR houses such as Gieves have sold RTW at least since the fifties, discreetly at first and then less so, to men who want the house style & quality (or famous name) without the choosing and waiting that bespoke entails. Also; re domestic manufacture, trousers by Tautz (Norton & Sons RTW) listed on Matches retail for 360 to 620 GBP. I believe these are British made. So it could be worse!

Stuart

Simon,

I didn’t miss the point – I made one.
The UK is sorely in need of haberdashery shops carrying top quality products & I applaud A&S for making this commitment – however a company who profits (literally) from its British heritage & promotes the same – is never going to look anything other than very rum (embarrassingly so) when selling a foreign made product as its ‘main line’ – especially when it’s a type of article which could reasonably be expected to have been made in the UK – i.e. trousers.

You mention the lack of a dedicated “high-end” trouser making company in the UK; I’d suggest this is neither here nor there. A company who can produce high quality traditionally & properly constructed suits (you’ve already named one such company) can & do sew very well-made trousers. What turns well-crafted trousers into a stunning pair to wear or look at is producing the pattern but in this instance that work is down only to A&S – not the trouser manufacturer. To suggest that a specialist trouser making outfit is required for RTW (when the pattern, cloth & specification are sorted out & given to them) is a bit of a ‘red herring’.

You commented “I wouldn’t want anyone to pick their manufacturer solely on their geographical location. Would you want something for the same price but worse quality just because it’s English?”
I agree with you in principle but does this argument apply in this case? Are you sure using a suitable British company would have resulted in an inferior pair of trousers?
Related to your comment above – quite a while ago you wrote something along the lines of (please excuse the quotation from memory): “as a consumer I don’t care where a product is made as long as the quality meets my standards”. Well I do care about where something is made AND the quality – very much so. I always endeavour to give custom to UK shops/craftsmen/companies as long as the product & quality is what I want; however I’m sufficiently demanding not to put up with second best & pragmatic enough to realise that sometimes it’s ‘horses for courses’ thus trying to buy locally or nationally won’t always be possible. The attempt still has to be made to support home grown craftsmen/companies when they are able to deliver the goods.

You mentioned Cheshire Bespoke & added “would you want everyone to stock the same suits?”. Now this isn’t really a valid comment as any maker of A&S RTW trousers is going to be using an A&S pattern & construct them to A&S specifications – they aren’t going to end up just like Huntsman or anyone else’s are they? Doesn’t the Italian company sew for others?

As regards price – I’ll give A&S leeway on that score. It’s very high for RTW trousers but bearing in mind the economics of running a shop in central London & the quality A&S require they’d never be cheap trousers sell. The people who could have produced them in the UK (outside of London) are not exactly overpaid though & I wonder if when all is considered production costs really are that much cheaper in Italy – other than perhaps by the Italians having a more mechanised approach due to greater company size & production volume?

Why A&S decided to place the order overseas will no doubt remain a matter of speculation but the end result is a very British company is selling Italian trousers as its main line & unfortunately for A&S they end up looking rather hypocritical (it’s not alone however).

Stuart

Anonymous

I struggle to see how A&S will genuinely be able to make any profit from this venture. How many pairs do they imagine they will sell at full price, 1000 a year?
Does the brand really justify the price premium compared to other high end brands?
Given they are RTW there will no doubt be additional tailoring required.£350 quickly moves towards £400..
Who do they expect will be their target market?
Jeremy

Anonymous

Simon and all – I read this “debate” with interest as a 50 year old working in London and alhough a “decent income” found it a challenge to go bespoke whilst putting the children through schools etc However, one thing I have learnt from Simon is one does not need to own more; one ought to strive to own better – better quality and better fit. Everything I own i wear All my ties are drakes All my t shirts are Sunspel and so on BUT I don’t have a huge wardrobe in fact I suspect it is significantly smaller than many readers across all income brackets If there is one thing I have learnt in life it’s value – if it wears well and you enjoy it – you will derive a pleasure hard to encapsulate in an email So my advice is relax about whether A&S make them in Italy or whether they are x% mark up and focus on whether you like them and they fit If it’s yes and then you can afford – one can do no better and especially if it’s supportig a firm that supports apprenticeships in the industry James

papillon0970

“Savile Row” has become a brand, so has Anderson and Sheppard and most of the big names there.
A&S in particular is doing a great deal of public relations work in all types of media, all over the world.
Fair enough but this is not my view of a high-end bespoke suit-maker.

papillon0970

Yes.
There’s an old french proverb: A bon vin, point d’enseigne.
It roughly translates into “good wine does not need a label”.
The reputation of a good thing precedes it.
Go ahead and call me old-fashioned.
Please.

IanF

I find the above arguments more interesting in what they say about those posting than the issue at hand. Anderson & Sheppard are a business – if they can’t sell trousers at £350+ they won’t make money and the shop will close. It is possible to pay for more for RTW in the neighbourhood – try Yohji Yamamoto for one, Prada for two and after that the list is long. As a client of A&S and another Savile Row tailor I find the experience and quality justified – but its my choice. If you don’t like it buy somewhere else.