The seemingly endless gloomy news about the economy got us thinking about the financial crisis' effect on Savile Row, the home of luxury bespoke tailoring. As my colleague Deirdre Woolard reported last month, Hardy Amies, which opened on Savile Row in 1946, is facing bankruptcy. Of course, Amies' ambitious expansion plans are partly to blame. We asked Anda Rowland, owner of Anderson & Sheppard, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, what the outlook is for the Row's traditional tailoring firms.
"We are still getting new customers and many enquiries, but it has to be said that London is not really in the mood to spend and people are traveling [to London] less," Rowland tells Luxist. "Luckily, despite the turn away from 'bling' spending, there has been a renewed interest in goods that have an underlying value, which is perceived as more solid and easier to understand and to explain to the customer. There is a shift from the 'Because I'm worth it' attitude towards one questioning 'Was it worth it?'"
Rowland notes that this "will be hard for the mass-luxury goods and the over-hyped but extremely lucrative 'it-bag' industry, but good for individual, high-craft items made by skilled hands," such as Savile Row suits. "We also have ethical trends in our favor as everyone faces up to the enormous piles of barely worn 'fast fashion' garments in landfill sites all over Europe at a time when many are losing the roofs over their heads." Due to this, Rowland says, "We have not seen a reduction in sales or customer figures from last year," merely "a recent slowing of momentum."
Gallery: Savile Row Style
Asked about the influx of money from emerging markets, "Speaking for Anderson & Sheppard, we have not seen a growth in customers from Russia or from the UAE," she replies. "We have had more press interest, but it has not filtered through to visits yet. China and India are growing markets [for us] due, perhaps, to a historical familiarity with the history and tradition of Savile Row." As for the future, "I have heard from the other tailors that they believe that their trips abroad will be more and more important over the next couple of years," Rowland says. "They feel that customers will be traveling far less and that overseas service will help them to keep the workshops busy and running efficiently."
Summing up, Rowland, who inherited the business a few years back from her father, is optimistic. "As a relative newcomer to this industry where most houses are at least 100 years old, I am reassured by the reaction of most tailors who say that their firms have seen it all several times before," she tells us. "I can imagine that for many of the big designer brands that are much younger, it is harder to be as quietly confident as we are on Savile Row."