The Classicist: A Savile Row Makeover
Savile Row stalwart Anderson & Sheppard, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, is steeped in tradition, to say the least. Yet while other old-fashioned bastions of upper-class masculine British taste have been sold off or hideously modernized, A&S has managed to adapt and survive -- thanks to a strong-willed woman.
Anda Rowland, daughter of the firm's longtime owner, natty British millionaire Roland "Tiny" Rowland, who took over the business a few years ago, has set about bringing it into the 21st century without sacrificing one whit in the way of elegance.
The firm not only outfitted the great Fred Astaire - perhaps the best dressed man the modern world has ever known - but also Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, authors Evelyn Waugh and Somerset Maugham, Gary Cooper, Noel Coward, Sir Laurence Olivier, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Duke Ellington.
In order stay in business, the company was recently forced to vacate its old London premises at No. 30 Savile Row, where it had resided since the 1920s, and move around the corner to 32 Old Burlington Street. However Anda Rowland saw the move as an opportunity to gracefully update the somewhat fusty firm. The only female board member of the Savile Row Bespoke Association, she has now introduced some innovations that would have been unthinkable in her father's time: a website, for one, and new packaging, as nowadays those paying several thousand dollars for a custom-made suit expect it to be handed over in something a little better than a cheap plastic bag, plus a more welcoming atmosphere for bespoke neophytes. Profits are accordingly on the rise.
James Sherwood, author of an excellent new book on Savile Row called The London Cut, says Anda has "done more to modernize Anderson & Sheppard in the last year than [the] company has attempted in a century." She is even pursuing a plan - shocking by the standards of the old-guard -- to stage a Savile Row fashion show during the yearly haute couture presentations in Paris. That's the kind of thinking that will keep A&S going in style for another hundred years.