For an active observer, it’s easy to see that a trend has been brewing on Savile Row. Once known for their exclusivity and privacy, tailors from the Row are, one by one, opening their doors to the publicity. Following Dege & Skinner, Anderson & Sheppard have written a new book which will be officially launched on October 27 by Quercus. It has been in the works for more than a year, and our advance copy is a beautiful 296-page cloth-bound book with a matching cover.
A Style is Born
The first impression you get when you flip the book open is that fabric is everwhere! Each chapter is preceded by several large format photographs of different fabrics such as pin stripe, herringbone or needle head, and the remainder of the text is punctuated with shots of the shop’s work in progress, fabric racks, or the details of their fine garments. Clearly, the profusion of fabric throughout is a loving testament to the importance of the tailor’s fundamental building block, in juxtaposition with the tailor’s skill. Interestingly, the Anderson & Sheppard Coffee table book was not just written by one author, but was compiled by a number of individuals who write from the perspective of a customer. Graydon Carter and Cullen Murphy edited, photographs were provided by Jonathan Becker and Christopher Simon Sykes, Paul Cox provided paintings and last, but not least, the history written by David Kamp.
In his foreword, Craydon Carter entertainingly gives the reader some insight into his year-long relationship with this Savile Row bespoke icon. During one fitting with Mr. Halsey, Carter asked him if he could cut the suit so that his weight would not show and the reply was, “We’re only tailors, sir.” When he would ask for a slight extravagance in style, Mr. Norman Halsey would say, ”A most daring idea, sir” while everything was done the way it always has been…
After the introduction, we are provided with a glimpse into the Anderson & Sheppard Signature book, which is a ledger containing all the client signatures since 1906 – of course, those in the ranks of Marlene Dietrich and Laurence Olivier are especially cherished.
The History of Anderson & Sheppard
The next 20 pages are dedicated to the written history of the shop. David Kamp discusses the charm of the old premises at Savile Row No. 30, extraordinary clients such as the Chopitea brothers of Peru, Douglas Fairbanks Sr’s fetish for topcoats and the Jai Singh Prabhakar, who would order 50 Anderson & Sheppard suits at the same time. Interestingly, the latter customer was so meticulous and eccentric, that he once expressed his dissatisfaction with an entire order of Rolls Royce cars by having them converted into garbage trucks!
Here, you will also find one of the most interesting quotes in the book, which comes from the former managing director during the 60’s and 70’s, Mr. Bryant: “The minute a man is overdressed, he is badly dressed.” Personally, I am tempted to disagree with that statement considering the current suit and dress culture, or lack thereof. Mr. Bryant’s statement was meaningful during an era when suits were the outfit du jour and traditional clothing standards were respected, but undoubtedly the opposite rings true today. The prevailing tendency to dress in an ever more casual manner has changed attitudes significantly. If that quote was, in fact, true, a person in a well-fitting (bespoke) suit would nowadays be overdressed and, as a result, badly dressed. Therefore, I think the quote is outdated and I believe you would probably unite with me against the assertion that the new acceptance of jeans and gym clothes creates the standard from which comparisons should be made!
Despite Mr. Bryant’s statement, it is obvious from Anderson & Sheppard’s commitment to their craft that they feel the way we do in the modern day. Subsequently, we learn about the years in which Anderson & Sheppard was anything but interested in publicity, to the point that they were reluctant to put their name on their bags. At the end of the second chapter, we
learn about the Anderson & Sheppard suit and the philosophy behind it; “a 10 year-old-suit is considered a new suit,” claims Mr. Hitchcock. Luckily, this is not just a phrase, but mere fact. For example, Prince Charles wore a morning suit on his wedding day in 2005 that was 13 years old at the time. Moreover, one of Charles’ famous overcoats in brown tweed with patch pockets was modeled after one of the Duke of Windsor’s topcoats, and is still in use after almost 25 years. Now that is quality worth paying for!
The Anderson & Sheppard Shop And Craft
The following two chapters are filled with large scale pictures and photographs of the new tailor shop on 32 Old Burlington Street, London, as well as instruction books, cutting tables, garments and piles of cloth.
The longest chapter, and my favorite, is about the client. In the very beginning, there is a small note stating that “garments worn by the Anderson & Sheppard clients in the pages that follow were made by Anderson & Sheppard.” There are very few, if any at all, other tailoring houses that can claim to have a clientele that reads like the who’s-who of business, royalty and politics. In addition, the book has a fantastic collection of pictures of the elegant gentleman – from all walks of life – who wear their clothes. Simply stunning!
The Last Word
The Last Word chapter contains testimonials from more or less famous Anderson & Sheppard Clients and illustrations from Paul Cox.
Terms of Art
In this chapter, you will find the faces of Anderson & Sheppard, beginning with managing director, Mr. Hitchcook, and ending with the packers, Michael Gardner and Ashley Wedderburn. Each picture is accompanyed by a nice glossary of important tailoring terms. Surprisingly, there are no ladies in this chapter, despite the fact that the vice chairman, Anda Rowland, is a woman. Only Kate Moss is shown at the very end of the book, carrying a bag that shows the Anderson & Sheppard logo and address. One thing is for sure: Anderson & Sheppard has changed over the years, not just visually, but also philosophically.
In the US, the book retails for $75, but you can find it on amazon
.Anderson & Sheppard: A Style is Born
Hardcover: 296 pages
Publisher: Quercus Publishing Plc; Hardback in slipcase edition (date of release:27 Oct 2011)