Simanaitis Says

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BESPEAKING DURING A PANDEMIC

SAVILE ROW, LONDON’S legendary street of bespoke clothiers, is caught in a Covid-19 bind. Even if not locked down, it’s difficult indeed to tailor a custom suit while social distancing. 

David Segal describes this quandary in “To Survive the Pandemic, Savile Row Cuts a Bespoke Strategy,” The New York Times, November 15, 2020. Here are tidbits gleaned from his article and from my usual Internet sleuthing.

Exactly Where and What is It? Savile Row, barely 150 yards long, runs parallel to Regent Street from Conduit Street to Vigo Street in London’s toney Mayfair. 

The Royal Geographical Society is at 1 Savile Row. The Apple Corps office of the Beatles is at 3 Saville Row; the band’s final performance was held on the roof of the building.  

The Beatles’ rooftop concert, 3 Savile Row, January 30, 1969.

Since as early as 1803, establishments specializing in bespoke clothing, custom cut and made by hand, have had Savile Row addresses. In 1846, Henry Poole opened an entrance to the Row from his shop on Old Burlington Street. Later he invented the tuxedo or dinner jacket; Henry Poole & Co. continues at 16 Savile Row. In 1919, Henry Huntsman & Sons moved to 11 Savile Row; during World War I, Huntsman produced dress uniforms for British officers. This establishment is a focus of David Segal’s article.

Dario Carnera, the head cutter at Huntsman, with Mr. Hammick, a wheeled robot that can be sent abroad to help measure clients during the pandemic. This and the following image by Tom Jamieson for The New York Times.

Who’s Savile Row’s Biggest Landlord? In a word, Norway. An organization called Pollen Estate has held prime real estate in central London for nearly 400 years. Since 2014, the $1.1 trillion Norway Oil Fund, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, owns a majority of Pollen Estate.

As David Segal observes, Norwegian pockets are “deep enough to afford some rent forbearance.” Segal quotes Justin Stocks, a Pollen Estate property director, saying, “The fund family are actually very long-term thinkers. It’s not about that slightly American approach of ‘make a quick buck and move on.’ ”

Savile Row on the first day of a recent lockdown

A Worldwide Reputation. In our favor (or is that “favour”?), I cite another Segal observation: “American Anglophiles are the street’s not-so-secret sugar daddies. New York, Los Angeles, and a few other U.S. cities account for roughly one-third of all revenue on the Row, managing directors here say.”

One of my favorite establishments is Cad & The Dandy, 13 Savile Row. As noted at its website, “Cad & The Dandy was founded by Ian Meiers and James Sleater, who met through their families connections in the couturier business. Whilst Sleater focused on the look and feel of the garments, Meiers brought the desire to drag British tailoring and Savile Row back to the cutting edge of Menswear.”

Also, we Nihonophiles delight in the fact that the Japanese word for “business suit” is せびろ, sebiro. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020

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