Shear Heaven

I’m happy. So bloody happy I just can’t stop grinning. Spring is in the air, I’m off surfing in three weeks time and I’ve just had one of the best Mondays of my life:

Woke up. Sunny. Bacon Sandwich. Put on a new suit – three piece, very fitted, peak lapel, velvet collar, love it. Train to Kings Cross. Tube to Green Park. Stroll past the Ritz, through the Burlington Arcade, a right, two lefts and onto my spiritual home, my muse, my raison d’etre – Savile Row.

I was down South for the final of the Golden Shears Tailoring Competition and my first port of call was with Henry Poole, ‘the founder of Savile Row,’ who had said it was fine to pop in and they’d show me around.

Emperors, Kings, Dukes, Lords, Maharajah’s and moguls, magnates and stars have walked these floorboards and here I was, about to enter the inner sanctum where their clobber was put together.

Friends, it was like I’d entered a cake shop and been given a little slice of heaven with a cherry on top. The chap in the picture above is Alex Cooke, Director, senior cutter, all round decent bloke and originally from Barnsley!

Underneath the cutting room and shop floor is a labyrinth of tunnels, passages and workrooms where master coat makers, trouser makers and apprentices practice their craft. Whilst some are employed directly by Poole, many, in effect, ‘rent a board’ and are free to work for whom they choose, although priority is given to their Landlord. This is true for nearly every establishment on the Row and seems to work well for all concerned.

What a lovely atmosphere. Whilst no one is earning a fortune down here, these guys and girls, like myself, are doing it for the sheer love of it. Practising their craft, honed to perfection over decades of graft, with passion, pride and a healthy dose of banter thrown in for good measure. Many of them are from the East-end and enthusiastically responded to my welcoming cry of ‘oi oi saveloy!’ with the suggestion I go forth and fornicate back to Yorkshire. Bless them.

The chap above is Paul Frearson who is acknowledged as one of the best coat makes on the Row. Recently tempted back from working at home, he is passing his knowledge on to the next generation of tailoring legends including Craig Holloway and Cassie who are pictured below.

What a truly wonderful experience and one that I will never forget. I called into Richard James, Maurice Sedwell, Davies and Sons and everyone was warm and welcoming.

And then it was off to the Merchant Taylors Company on Threadneedle Street, the venue for the cat-walk show and final of the Golden Shears.

But first a quick pint in a nearby pub. Rude not to. The head on my Guiness had only just settled when I spotted Patrick Bunting, a director for the cloth company Dormeuil. He had also wisely decided to have a sharpener before the big event and called me over and introduced me to his drinking buddies.

They were only the top boys of Huntsman. Peter Smith, general manager, and Patrick Murphy, their Head Cutter and from what I hear, one of the most respected (and liked) people on Savile Row. I can see why – top bloke, even offered to buy me a pint.

So there I am, having a supp before the biggest tailoring competition in the world with the great and the good of Savile Row. Awesome. Mental.

And then it was time for the games to begin.

What a venue. British, old school, understated elegance at its finest. Very much in keeping with the style of the Gentleman’s clubs of St, James’s. The perfect place to tuck yourself away in a high backed leather chair with a bottle of Malt and a soda syphon. You could even stroll out into the beautiful courtyard for a cigar.

The catwalk show was amazing. Professionally produced, great soundtrack and a veritable smorgasbord of attractive female models. My grandmother would have said that they were ‘putting their feet down like ready money.’ I had a seat right at the front. Happy days.

Judges for design, cutting, tailoring and style included Patrick Murphy, Richard Anderson, Alan Bennett, Martin Plews and Brigita Steputtis. It was these guys that made the genius decision to put our garment into the final.

The Fashion judges included David Furnish (Producer, AKA Elton John’s partner), Patrick Grant (MD of Norton & Sons), Markek Reichman (Director of Design for Aston Martin), Caryn Franklin (the bird that was on the Clothes Show) and James Sherwood (Author).

To cut it short….first prize went to an apprentice at Henry Poole, and second prize to an apprentice at Anderson and Sheppard. We wuz robbed!! In all seriousness they deserved to win and I was chuffed that Poole took the Shears after such a fantastic day with their troops.

I drowned my sorrows with a few glasses of red and jumped in a cab back to a friend’s place, where I then fitted him for two new suits. God I’m a slave to my trade!

So there you have it. A day on Savile Row and an evening at the Church of tailoring. I felt like I belonged and this little trip has added fuel to the fires that burn within, and re-affirmed my determination to one day, have a little place on this golden mile.

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