City tailors in London are a rare breed. They used to serve a community of businessmen and financiers that wanted hand-cut but partly machine-made suits that they could wear the hell out of. Graham Browne is one of the few left. Alexander Boyd is another.
Both Boyd and Browne are very snappy dressers, though neither do the cutting at their establishments. Boyd still owns his, but works in an office upstairs of the premises on Artillery Lane, near to Liverpool Street. Browne sold the business recently to the cutters, Russell and Dan. Another difference is that Alexander Boyd, the brand, started using more West End tailors a while ago, and this is reflected in the make and the price – £2250 as opposed to £900 at Graham Browne.
The head cutter at Boyd is Clive Phythian, ex-Gieves & Hawkes and Timothy Everest. He is a typical tailor – lovely man, honest trader, can’t stop talking. “I’ve worked as both a City tailor and a West End tailor, and when you go to the West End the first thing to say to you is ‘slow down, slow down’. It’s a different way of life,” he says.
“I’ve moved around quite a bit in my career but I’ve never taken my customer list with me,” he adds. “I can count on two fingers the number of private jobs I’ve ever done. I like to get to the end of the day and just switch off. I suppose I’m old fashioned that way.”
His son, Steven Phythian, is rather quieter. He only started with his father a couple of years ago, after various careers including working in Argos and delivering pizzas. But fortunately he can use a computer – where Clive swears he never touches the things. So Clive has never seen this nice piece in Spitalfields Life, which goes into much more detail on his tailoring career.
Clive and Steven are fortunate in that there is an alterations business downstairs, and the tailors there are usually happy to help out with any quick tailoring work. They also have an intern working on some patterns and basting.
The house style is a pretty straightforward English cut – padded shoulders, strong chest and a high buttoning point. On style Clive emphasises that they are very flexible though – another attribute of City tailors: “If people come in and they want a one-button, peak-lapel jacket we can work with them. Tailoring has to be something you enjoy and are involved with, not something that is forced upon you.”
Some shots of suits provided by Steven (click to enlarge):