Fed, heavily watered with a glow of self-contentment about me, it was time for the auction at the Bespoke Tailors Benevolent Association dinner to begin.

As part of the “Luxury Goods Package,” three little words ‘had me at hello’ – a bespoke hat. 

Digging as deep as any Yorkshireman might dare, I ended up being the successful bidder, and this month headed to London to claim my booty.

Here I am with Tamara Williams, the founder of The City Milliner.

City Milliner

In my opinion, the greatest gifts a salesperson can have are enthusiasm and energy and this young lady has them in abundance. Beautifully spoken, she was charm personified and her love for hat-making was both genuine and infectious.

I’ve always adored hats. Over the years I’ve built up a decent collection of Borsalinos and Panama’s from Lock & Co, but this was my first time at going down the bespoke route.

My customers often tell me that the experience of having a suit made, is just as important and enjoyable as wearing the finished product, and so now it was my turn to be on the receiving end of a consultation.

It’s a wonderful thing when you are dealing with someone who really takes pride in the product / service they provide. It was made very clear to me that I was to have the finest quality she could muster, and was educated as to merits of using felted beaver fur, as opposed to rabbit, as it’s so soft yet incredibly resilient.

We selected the colour of silk band (remarkable how this impacts on the tone of the hat itself!) and agreed brim size, the shape of the top of the hat, the colour of the silk inside and finally I had my glowing dome measured-up.

I’ll have to wait until August for the finished product, but to me, that’s all part of the charm, and testament to the amount of time and effort that goes into blocking, steaming, stretching, pinning, drying, stiffening, cutting, wiring and fitting the finished product!

Her studio is in Kilburn, but she’d kindly agreed to meet me at Scabal on Savile Row, and I left with a spring in my step.

The first thing I did was pop across the road and offer my congratulations to Kathryn Sargent, who has just opened her own shop on the Row. Former head cutter of Gieves & Hawkes, it’s an incredible achievement, but I’d expect no less from a lass born in Leeds 🙂

Kathryn Sargent

It was then a quick walk to the end of the street to Pickett, purveyor of luxury leather goods. They’d very generously contributed some money towards their products as part of the auction prize.

With my Mulberry briefcase falling to pieces, it was manna from heaven, and here I am with their salesman, Henry  Sylvester, and my new tan man-bag, handmade in England.


After a cracking lunch at Le Bab, recently profiled by Giles Coren, we headed off to Foster & Son on Jermyn Street. One of the oldest custom shoe and bootmakers in the world, their bespoke service starts at around three and half thousand pounds.

Again, they contributed money towards a treat from their wares and my choice was a tasselled black Claverton loafer.

Here are some cheeky photo’s I took of some of their work – love the Edwardian style boot with the buttons to fasten!



My final pit-stop was the Shirtmakers Budd in the Piccadilly Arcade. Established in 1910, they are one of the few companies to have their own cutting room on the premises, and here is their bespoke shirt cutter Darren Tiernan.


The shirt he is cutting is for a well know, aggressive, opinionated, arrogant TV personality (who cannot be named) but as long as he keeps helping these lovely chaps earn a living, I hope he continues to bore us all with his testosterone fuelled gibbon-like antics.

After a final purchase, I wandered back to the hotel with more bags than Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

To be fair, and my paymaster Mr Scrivenor will confirm, it’s not often that I treat myself.

When I do, London is one hell of a place to splash the cash, eat great food, live La Dolce Vita and unleash the bon viveur that lies within.