The other week, we introduced you to the Maurice Sedwell exhibition on Savile Row. While I was in the neighborhood, I also stopped by at Gieves & Hawkes of No. 1, Savile Row
in order to meet with their archivist Peter Tilley. He was kind enough to let me look at their private archive upstairs, which consists of some of the most precious vintage military uniforms,as well as rarities like the uniform of the late great Michael Jackson.
Along with some marvelous photos of the uniforms, we’d like to share some of the background of this landmark shop.
History of Gieves & Hawkes
Originally, there were two tailor shops, Thomas Hawkes & James Gieve.
Thomas Hawkes opened his first shop in 1771 on Brewer Street, in London, as a velvet cap maker. In the early 19th century, Hawkes provided British & continental regiments with caps and after his death, the business was continued as Hawkes & Co. After Hawkes was taken over by Henry Thomas White in 1860, it established itself as a military tailor. In the 1920’s, Hawkes 6 Co became one of the first bespoke establishments on Savile Row to offer Ready-To-Wear suits under the label ‘Immediate Wear’
In the very beginning, Melchisedek Meredith owned a tailor shop in Portsmouth, where he became famous for military uniforms. He had crafted the uniform worn by Admiral Lord Nelson when he was killed in action at the Battle of Trafalgar. In 1841, the business was sold to Joseph Galt, and James Gieve joined as a partner 11 years later. Eventually, James Gieve took control in 1887, and established Gieves & Co. He died just a year afterwards and his two sons, James W. Gieve & John Gieve, took over the business. By 1900, Gieves became tailor by appointment to the Royal Navy. In the following decade, Gieves received a number of Royal Warrants and established their premises in two different locations on Bond Street.
Gieves, Ltd. acquired Hawkes in 1974, and since their Bond Street location had been attacked by IRA terrorists, the business was moved to No. 1 Savile Row. Subsequently, the company was renamed Gieves & Hawkes.
In 2002, Gieves & Hawkes was taken over completely by the Hong Kong-based investment group USI Holdings. Gieves & Hawkes most famous employee was likely the late Alexander McQueen, who began an apprenticeship at the Savile Row tailoring house at the age of 16. McQueen famously sewed little billets-doux into the canvas of the bespoke suits made for Prince Charles.
Gieves & Hawkes Store
The 6,500 square-foot store is beautiful and stocked with all kinds of clothing ranging from bespoke shoes, hats and sweaters to Ready-To-Wear garments and most importantly bespoke suits. The changing rooms are also huge and overall, this Savile Row tailor shop is definitely worth a stop. In the basement of this gigantic store, you will find the tailor workrooms where all the bespoke work is done.
In the following video, you get a better understanding of what Gieves & Hawkes looks like.
Thanks to The Shoe Snob, I was able to get in touch with Peter Tilley, an amiable and funny chap who works as a consultant archivist for Gieves & Hawkes.
He squired me around their private archive, which houses some of their most precious uniforms. Before I entered the room, I caught a glimpse of one of Michael Jackson’s richly decorated jackets, which is estimated to be worth £50,000.
I was able to admire all kinds of British Military uniforms, which were quite impressive in person. Unfortunately, there was no ledger and so I was unable to find out more about each particular garment. With enough time and the goodwill of Gieves & Hawkes, I am sure one could find out all about them.If you happen to know from the pictures what regiment these belong to, please share your insights with us.
Overall, their archive room was very nicely decorated, with old books, swords, tropical helmets and of course uniforms and mess jackets.
Please take a look at the gallery below!
Tel: +44 20 7432 6424