When Henry Herbert launched in 2008 it didn’t have enough cash to open a permanent site on Savile Row, the home of British tailoring. Nor did it have the heritage of the tailors already there, some of which had been in business for over 100 years.
At the same time, the financial crisis had ripped a hole through a major revenue source to Savile Row – banker clients. Many tailors were struggling to survive. Hong Kong conglomerates acquired some of the best known, including the iconic Gieves and Hawkes.
Suits were also becoming less popular. In 2016, JP Morgan changed its dress code – no longer were its bankers required to wear suits. Only a third of all office workers in the UK were regularly wearing a suit and tie to work anyway.
In short, a challenging environment in which to launch.
Rather than spending big on a Savile Row shop front, Henry Herbert founder Charlie Baker-Collingwood settled for an office space on the street with several other young tailors. He couldn’t bring clients there, so instead he went to them.
Baker-Collingwood took his scooter to visit clients at their offices or homes (and sometimes took the train to clients based outside London).
Although annual trips to the US for American clients has long been part of being a Saville Row tailor, such a local mobile service was alien to the prestige and grandeur of visiting a tailor ‘on the Row’.
The small amount of floorspace Baker-Collingwood opted for on Savile Row cut his overheads considerably. Exempt from London’s congestion zone charges, the scooters were also cheap. Keeping costs down has enabled Henry Herbert to offer bespoke suits at a lower entry point than its neighbours (Henry Herbert’s suits start at £1,295 compared to, say, £3,500 at Gieves and Hawkes).
Like many upstart tailors, Baker-Collingwood has a new way of thinking about his customers. He says men are increasingly turning to bespoke suits for weddings and, because they don’t need to wear a suit to work, buying one has become more special.
‘Google was our shop window at the time,’ he adds. He dubbed the service ‘Savile Row by scooter’, and promoted the fact his tailors could visit anywhere across the UK.
Today, a significant number of Henry Herbert’s clients come from outside of London; 15% are from the US, 10% from Asia and 5% from Africa.
In 2016, Baker-Collingwood opened a showroom in Bloomsbury. He says ‘a good 50%’ of his customers still opt for scooter visits, and his team of tailors armed with measuring tapes, fabric swatches and scooters still whizz around London to visit clients.
Four tailors on Savile Row trying to shake off the stuffiness of the street.
Former City bankers James Sleater and Ian Meiers provide bespoke tailoring at a more competitive rate than their Savile Row neighbours.
In 2016, Sargent made history by becoming the first female master tailor to open a house on Savile Row.
A long-standing tailor, Henry Poole recently collaborated with Adidas to produce two pairs of trainers and an exclusive suit fabric.
In 2014, the 23-year-old tailor launched Gormley & Gamble, the first brand on Savile Row to offer made-to-measure clothing solely for women.
Famed tailor Richard Anderson shares the biggest changes to Savile Row he has seen over the years.
Customers were once ‘aristocracy coupled with captains of industry’. The average age has dropped markedly, with even 30-year-old customers buying bespoke suits.
Design-led brands such as Alexander McQueen and Abercrombie and Fitch have controversially moved in. ‘On the one hand that’s good, because it brings in a different sort of footfall,’ says Anderson. Though it also means ‘fewer true tailors’.
Big brands, however, push the rent up. ‘It obviously sets a precedent for us guys who are not in the same league.’
In the 1980s, Savile Row struggled to hire young people. That has changed completely. ‘I now get at least 10 applications a week for work experience or apprenticeships.’
Chinese customers are increasingly frequenting the Row. Anderson and business partner Brian Lishak now travel to America three times a year, to Japan twice a year, and have recently undertaken their first trunk show in Hong Kong.