HardyAmies-06

 
Over the next few months there is going to be a plethora of ready-to-wear shops opening that are in some way inspired by tailoring. Hardy Amies has just opened; then there’s E Tautz; Kilgour will have a full collection soon; Thom Sweeney are opening their RTW and MTM shop. 

Readers will be rightly cynical about some of these. Although associated with tailoring brands, they don’t necessarily have anything to do with the bespoke operations on which they were founded. You could argue Hardy Amies did a lot to push men’s ready-made fashion, and that connects him to the modern RTW offering. But it hardly matters. No one’s pretending that RTW is bespoke, and all four also continue to produce bespoke clothing – which in itself should be applauded. 

The point is that we have four new, re-born or expanded offerings of menswear, all with enough awareness of tailoring to drag them away from the luxury sportswear and the bargain-bucket high street. 

Of the four, it looks like Hardy Amies will be the most casual. The current range – designed by Mehmet Ali – includes boots and grained-leather shoes; bright knitwear and outerwear; and curated items from other brands including Cherchbi bags and Brooks saddles

Tailoring-inspired pieces include double-breasted cardigans that would make a good substitute for a jacket in a casual office. There are also  shawl-collared waistcoats, in both flannel and chunky knits, that will be rather dressier versions of the ever-popular gilet. And there are a few reversible pieces of outerwear, with the inner layer showing up as the revers (appropriately) on the DB lapel. 

This will not be suited to the formal reader – the jackets are too short and the aesthetic too rugged. But for a younger guy looking for interesting casual/formal crossover, it’s worth a look. And there are also interesting things coming in Hardy Amies’s bespoke tailoring. While much of my conversation with Mehmet was about raw denim, we also had an in-depth discussion about the perception of bespoke, the way to communicate it to younger guys, and the potential for finding a better alternative to made-to-measure. Watch this space.  
 

hardy AMies Reversable_Bridge_Coat copy

hardy AMies  double breasted cardiganhardy AMies shawl cardigan

 

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J

I like this brand and have seen much of their current RTW offering.

I think the danger of diversifying so much though, selling trainers in store for example, is you effectively cheapen your brand.

I might shop there for said trainers, but now, in all honesty, I feel their bespoke offering is less credible. (Which is ironic).

It’s a sham, because I think they would be better concentrating on promoting their brand as former/tailor to The Queen or whatever.

You can buy new balance or smart casual clothes anywhere on Bond Street, so…. Why are we here?

That is not to say the pieces aren’t nice in isolation, but something about this is making me cross Hardy Amies off my list of serious tailoring houses.

Mac

Hi Simon, you’ve made some interesting points on both sides of the debate. I personally believe that any bespoke tailor who makes r-t-w is going against all that they stand for. I do not doubt that Huntsman, Gieves, Poole or Cifonelli are still giving the bespoke their full attention but the problem is this simple – ready-to-wear does not fit properly. As a tailor, that would torture me! The only reason that a tailor makes r-t-w or a Michelin-starred chef endorses soup in a tin is to make more money. There is no other reason.

Another aspect is the loss of what the bespoke client craves – exclusivity. Any bloke in the street, whether stylish or not, can have access to the same firm. Someone recently posted a comment on your page complaining that a mere salesman would be marking the alterations on their r-t-w suit, rather than an experienced, highly-trained bespoke craftsman. He wants all the access without paying the money for it!

Mark

Mac, to be fair, I don’t think Poole’s do a RTW line, unless you count socks and other accessories.

Beginner

I just received the announcement that the Hardy Amies website shop is open, and looked at their jackets, not their cardigans. It is to be seen on those photographs of jackets worn by models that the trouser seat of the model wearing the respective jacket is often not quite covered by it. There are other peciliar details for which I as a naive layman would appreciate a tailor’s explanation – exaggerated rope shoulders, the positioning of the higher of two front buttons, etc.

Since Simon and the contributors are interested in bespoke, it seems to me the Hardy Amies jackets aren’t theme here. I would have appreciated a careful comparison with the design and construction of RTW jackets by retailers New & Lingwood, Ede & Ravenscroft, Duchamp, etc. by the knowers here.

Ratko Mladic

I personally wouldn’t touch hardy amies bespoke, let alone rtw. Next thing you know, they’ll start phasing in horrid visible logos on the front of their clothing. At that point they will be no better than an expensive Marks and Sparks.

Mac

Yes they do. In Japan.

J

Yes, I would love a bepoke RL Polo styled suit too, don’t know why! Always loved the New England preppy styled ads.

I think Mac makes some good points – rightly or wrongly, bespoke customers, (assuming no genuine physical requirement for the service) are incorrigible snobs craving exclusivity, whether they admit it openly or not.

All this diversification into RTW is making the brand too ubiquitous and we will quietly move onto another tailor who understands the value of discretion and keeping the wrong sort of flashy, attention-seeking “need to be able to tell everyone what name it is” customer out the door.

I’m exaggerating of course to make a point, but…

nick inkster

You should see the Gieves shop in Chester. Recently refurbished, it is hard to tell between it, and the other fashion label shops nearby. The male staff seem to wear jackets that restrict movement and show off the bottom half of their buttocks.

Mac

Simon, I think that ‘J’ does himself a disservice to say that the bespoke client is merely a snob. It’s true, of course! However, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a more exclusive experience if you are spending £4000 on a suit. Separation of bespoke and RTW shops is certainly one answer to that. A bespoke showroom should never feel like a department store.

I see Gieves’ carrier bags/suit covers all over the place, usually carried by scruffy men in jeans and trainers. Davide and his team are rather under-represented by the company. You have to look hard to find Bespoke on their website. It should be at the top of the page! Gieves’ RTW is great but I can’t help feeling they’ve lost sight of their true raison d’etre.

Luckily, there is still Welsh & Jefferies, Chittleborough & Morgan, Dege, etc, and others in nearby streets, some of whom you’ve covered previously. The RTW brigade have caused untold damage to the unique infrastructure of the bespoke community that has always been based in and around Savile Row.

r-t-w+er

You don’t say if these new RTW shops will also have website shops.

Winot

There can be a synergy between the design element of RTW and bespoke. Timothy Everest springs to mind.

stephen

Having bought Hardy Amies at TK Maxx recently (last season obviously) my concern for the focus of their offering is tangible. So far the offerings from SR, though often high in quality, have always lacked a sense of direction. Italian luxury brands succeed because they focus on design as a statement of fashion, rather than as a cheaper replication of bespoke. This outlook only really began in the late 80s yet in a few decades they have dominated menswear and led the fashion element of design. All power to the SR RTW offering but unless they identify an overarching niche or USP other than being a child of the Row (quality of consruction, rare cloths, technical fabrics, avant garde design etc.) longevity may not be in the offing. It is also worth adding that some might be condescending about fashion as a consideration but from the 20`s (A&S) to the 60`s (Nutter, Hayward etc.) London led the world both in fashion & bespoke, it can lead both again.

Jerrell

Hello Simon,

On the subject of RTW, would you ever opt to buy such a piece – rather than go bespoke – if it was an exclusive fabric to that house brand? I ask because I have stumbled across some beautiful, and tempting, Kiton cashmere/vicuna items on eBay that just have to be rare goods.

Mac

Simon, you’ve obviously opened a can of worms here! Regarding, RTW cloth offerings, I think it’s only fair to point out that many bespoke tailoring firms also have exclusive cloths made specially for them (Huntsman’s large check tweeds being an obvious example).

Beginner

Regarding the cloths shown of those Hardy Amies RTW jackets now advertised on the new website shop, I cannot imagine that this collection exemplifies what is asserted above that RTW offers more than bespoke. At first look, one accustomed to depressive and unimaginative Central European i.e. German and German Swiss predominant dark monotony of charcoal, etc. might be relieved by the blue exception.

S

Simon,

I see you’ve made the argument before that rtw can offer unusual / special cloths, which i can understand. But they almost never provide it in a decent weight, which is understandable for factory made clothes. Unique clothsfor tailoring are however available through the london lounge cloth club. Have you considered subscribing to any of Mr Alden’s offerings?

Thanks,
S

No sweat

What is a decent weight? For me south of the Channel and north of the Alps, I’ve sweated far too much and intend in the future to go lightweight, although I suspect 14 0unce tweed might be too heavy, too.

Rabster

This article follows on nicely from the previous one about profit margins and costs.
Unless tailors are going into the RTW to add something they are guilty of merely exploiting their brand name.
Having said that Patrick Grant’s work for Debenhams with the Hammond brand is to be commended.
What is appreciated is if these tailors are merely putting themselves within the reach of us mere mortals (rather like when you , Simon, write articles that apply across the clothing spectrum and not just about the higher end of tailoring).

J

Patrick Grant is a very well dressed guy. And I have no knowledge of Norton & Sons quality / workmanship.

But this thing of collaborating with Debenhams never seams to end well.

Few brands come off looking *more* prestigious having done such a collaboration. Just a money grabbing exercise really (no shame in that as long as everyone is honest about what it is, and not fooling anyone otherwise…)

A debenhams shopper may think “wow, I can get some ‘Savile Row’ style” (not really knowing much about the topic).

A Savile Row guy is probably terrified that people may believe he buys his “Patrick Grant” made suits at Debenhams, if/when questioned by layman.

That is not going to play out well for the bespoke shopper however you think about it.

Think about it.

Rabster

Agree , J.
But we can only hope that by being introduced to Hammond the average Debenhams shopper may start to look further into what he wears .
Ok so the stuff isn’t made by hand but the cuts and patterns etc are the better for Mr Grant’s input
What I particularly like about Patrick’s work on Hammond is that it brings a slight touch of style and classiness to a otherwise shabby shop.

Mac

Simon, call me a cynic but it seems to me that there are some company heads in SR who are desperately trying to hog as much limelight as they can. Patrick Grant, appearing on that Sewing Bee programme on TV, does so without any discernible benefit to Nortons. Likewise, his giving The Kooples a ‘Savile Row’ namecheck on their label cheapens the hours and hours of skill and labour that go into a bespoke suit. As for RTW in Savile Row, how many show-offs or naive foreign visitors have bought a badly-made, badly-fitting RTW suit and gone back home to their unimpressed friends to show off their ‘Savile Row’ suit? This is akin to putting a Bentley badge on a Skoda and is, surely, damaging to the bespoke trade in and around Savile Row.

Christo

J, I think Richard James made that mistake. Plenty of RTW in the row store, as well as the Inspired by Savile Row for M&S, and also Mayfair in John Lewis, all sold using the name Richard James. I wouldn’t buy from his row shop, were I on the market for his RTW.

The Hammond and Co stuff feels more distant from Nortons as a brand. I’ll be checking out their dinner suits when they hit the shops because it looks quite a good offering.

Mac

Simon, the costly demise of Spencer Hart ought to be a cautionary tale to other celeb-chasing companies who value publicity over substance. It’s a dangerous game to play.

N

Dear Christo, you write if you were to buy Richard James RTW, then not on the Row. Where would you recommend?

Christo

N, I’d buy what is a very similar product from the RJ M&S or John Lewis lines. From what I’ve seen in stores the M&S line uses some very good cloth, for example. Most importantly the fit is unlikely to be any better if you buy from the row (it’s still RTW), so you have to ask what the higher price justifies.

Personally I think bespoke from a city tailor for not much more is a better investment.

Matthew V

Simon,

What’s your opinion of the new(ish) breed of tailors – Thom Sweeney, Spencer Hart, RAKE and in it’s latest iteration (or should that be return) Kilgour?

Given your post about margins and also the previous comment about the demise of Spencer Hart, how can the new talents be best supported, only by the backing of a significant investor, as per the latest investor into Kilgour? Or can a small team survive on bespoke, MTM and / or RTW?

Norton & Sons also fit into this category I guess, given the relaunch a few years ago by Patrick Grant with E Tautz as the ready to wear element.

By the way, I visited Kilgour on Monday and it was like the last five years never happened to them…strange, but in a good way.

Matthew

Matthew V

And by strange I don’t mean the clothes etc were strange, it is just as if they have returned to where they before the last buyout, which I believe is what the current owners intended to do.

Matthew

Matthew V

Hi Simon

Thanks for the comprehensive and speedy reply – sorry for tacking such a big topic onto this post.

When it comes to RTW I guess wholesale is safer, as the retailer selects the sizes they think will sell (unless there the deal includes return of unsold stock, as sometimes happens) but the margins are less and there is less opportunity to physically present the brand. But running a shop in London, whatever you are selling, is very expensive.

Some of the companies I mentioned also major on suits and having discussed with friends in various professions, fewer suits are worn now and often those forced to wear suits will only buy regular off the peg RTW as (from experience!) the suits get battered by commuting etc. So bespoke, MTM or high quality RTW suits are, perhaps, more for special occasions and therefore purchased less often? It will be a great shame if this UK talent does not get to thrive. I assume the Italian brands that have survived the recession are relatively healthy.

I checked some of the prices in Kilgour, and although I probably spend more on clothes than I did five years ago (my wife will suggest I do) their prices seem no more or possibly even less than I recall.

Matthew

Mac

Simon, one of Thom Sweeney’s former employees told me that they left because the company was making most of its bespoke in China (as I recall). Is anyone else aware of this? Is it true?

Mac

Do they inform those clients whose suits are made in China? I’m quite sure they must. Why wouldn’t they?

Matthew V

Under Carlo Brandelli’s first time at Kilgour, they introduced ‘entry level bespoke’ and the clothes were made in Shanghai to London designs, which applied to much of the RTW tailoring. At the time this was well received in the press, as there was a cost differential between the UK and Shanghai bespoke, plus it was all well made (well the RTW I purchased was), so to be fair maybe the same logic and opinion should be applied to Thom Sweeney? I assume that if all was made in the UK the price would be higher?

Jay

I certainly hope that I don’t get stoned by the hardcore enthusiasts for asking this, but seeing as how Hackett has taken over No. 14 recently, any chance of coverage of their new flagship store offering bespoke? Or is Hackett too much a fashion brand to warrant a review?