Richard Anderson’s latest book is an intriguing alternative look at Savile Row, telling the stories behind some of his most unique garments. We caught up with the man himself to discuss working class roots, a youth tailoring revival and progressive approaches to womenswear on the Row
Richard Anderson is no stranger to doing things differently. Not only does a walk past his Savile Row shop window confirm this, but so does his latest book. Following on from his popular debut ‘Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed’, a refreshing and charismatic account of a working class lad climbing the Row’s golden ladder, his latest provides a completely different take on the classic tailoring book.
Taking a more visual approach, ‘Making The Cut’ is a fascinating retrospective of some of Anderson’s most interesting bespoke garments, with background into the fabrics, why the garments were made, who wore them and a smattering of technical detail. Garments range from denim suits to fabulous sequin jackets, exemplifying Anderson’s inspired approach to menswear. We caught up with Anderson for a spot of tailoring chat.
What was the process like of putting the book together? It’s an interesting approach.
First of all, I wanted to do something completely different to the first book, so it had to have the visual aspect of a coffee table book. I just thought, we’re known here for using different fabrics and different styles that other tailors wouldn’t do, so I thought that might be a fun thing to do and people might be interested in 25 iconic, but fairly different flavours of garment that we’ve put together over the last four or five years. Duffle coats, bomber jackets, I mean nobody else would make that on Savile Row. The sequin dinner jacket [had an] unbelievable reaction. Five or six people at a time taking photographs of it, coming in asking about it. I thought there was some mileage in our more interesting garments. Most of the books on Savile Row up until that point were dry biographies that didn’t really inject any humour or charisma.
Were you nervous when you first started on Savile Row?
It was a great experience to be thrown into that environment at a young age and you’re in the fitting room with Gregory Peck. You’re not speaking, you’re just observing, but how fabulous is that? Learning how to behave in front of that sort of person. At that age I was a typical rebellious teenager and the discipline that the traditional apprenticeship taught me was invaluable. A lot of people couldn’t handle it, you’ve got to call everyone sir, all that sort of thing, but I loved it. It was tough of course, you might do the wrong thing or say the wrong thing, but your bosses would soon point it out and you’d never do it again.
With a push for equality in the workplace, especially in the corporate environment, can you see a bigger market for women’s bespoke suiting?
From a customer side, I was taught to cut for a woman and it’s a completely different way of cutting obviously from the man’s way. It’s something I have always done here. It’s been a very small part of our business, maybe five per cent but in the last three or four years, it’s really increased. I’ve probably got about 20/25 women that we’re making for at the moment. As you say, it’s a mixture of business suits, but also some overcoats, some blazers. We cut quite classical garments, with a softer shoulder to the man’s. We’ve got some very loyal female customers, in fact I’ve got one due in today. A lot of the Savile Row companies do not want to or can’t cut for women. I’ve always enjoyed it actually. That’s on one side. On the making side, the cutting side, you see a big swing – I’ve got two excellent female tailors on the cutting side in their twenties. One’s been with me for seven years, the other has been with me for five years. They’re producing fabulous work, so the barriers on both sides have been broken down actually.
Do you ever hope for a youth revival in tailoring? Something akin to the mods?
It would be great, but I think if you go back to the mods and the teddy boys, they were rebelling against their parents generation. Their parents, who would’ve been 35 or 40 years old, they would have been in cardigans and trousers. Nowadays, parents of that generation are dressing like their kids really. I’m not sure you’d have a big explosion like we did before. It would be fun if we did though, kind of like the punk thing and revolutionizing everything.
We need to get everyone listening to jazz again.
[laughs] Yes! Something like that.
What do you wear on the weekends?
I dress very classic during the week, Monday to Friday we wear our own clothes here and at the weekend, depending on the season I’ll wear a moleskin suit, linen suit or tweed. Something a little more contemporary in fabric. I won’t wear a tie. Twin it with a white shirt or a blue shirt, maybe a t-shirt depending on the mood, so I still maintain a certain level. I like some denim as well. I don’t slip out of here and go into beach shorts and flip flops.
Who on Savile Row do you have a soft spot for?
You know, it’s like a little village, everyone knows everyone. Everyone has their own little styles but I think we all get on well. Henry Poole & Co are great, they haven’t sacrificed any quality. Anderson and Sheppard for their softer style is excellent, the Americans love that. Dege as well and our friends at Huntsman. I think Savile Row is in a strong position, as long as the cutters and tailors maintain the quality.
Where do you see the future of Savile Row?
People will always want individual pieces of clothing. I don’t think for one minute that the suit is going to die, it’s still a smart and easy way for men to dress. It’s got all the pockets, you can put your mobile phone in, it’s so functional and as I said, we’ve got so many young people coming in right now. It’s a question of supply and demand. My schedule is booked up for the next three months, I can’t speak for other tailors. We’re expanding, we’re going to take a bigger space with a workshop and I’m looking to expand our ready to wear range.
It’s all about progression for now.
Making The Cut (Thames & Hudson) is out now; richardandersonltd.com
Words by Davey Brett
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