Hello dear reader. I hope that this blog entry finds you well. I hope that you’re sitting somewhere comfortable and sipping something appropriately inebriating as I begin to spin you this first instalment of one man’s journey into the world of bespoke tailoring. A tale of tragedy, discovery and ultimately, redemption. Our story begins back in January with the number eight…
That was the final figure. The grand total of weddings that my fiancé Claire and I worked out we had been invited to in 2017 – a year I can only assume came with a group discount on holy matrimony. After we arrived at this magic number we sat back and contemplated the math. Between March and October 2017, we would be attending on average one wedding a month or, as I calculated, eight new dresses for Claire and eight trips to the dry cleaners for my old, ill fitting Marks & Sparks blue suit. But the plot thickens dear reader. You may remember a while back (well, a couple of sentences ago anyway) that I mentioned Claire was my fiancé? Yep, that’s right - make that nine weddings, all culminating on October 7th - our own big day.
But how would we afford such a packed schedule with our own wedding to pay for? The travel, the wedding gifts, the hotels – not to mention a sprinkling of hen and stag events scattered in between. Well, as you do in life, we managed to find a way. I’m happy to report that images of myself cutting less than favorable shapes in a less than favorably cut suit have, so far, been kept to a minimum on social media. However, by the time my old blue faithful M&S whistle hade made its fourth outing, I made an important decision. I would be damned if it made it to its ninth appearance on October 7th. No, come the big day I knew Claire would continue her annoying habit of looking absolutely sensational. I couldn’t let the side down. I would fulfill a lifelong ambition and have my very own bespoke suit made.
At this point in our story, I should tell you a little bit about myself. Not that you’d know it to look at me, but I studied fashion design at university. Boxing boots, a deep-v cable knit jumper, fingerless mittens and ripped jeans that were more ‘rip’ than ‘jean’ made up my outfit of choice in my late teens (I said I studied fashion, not practiced it). Despite my wardrobe’s shortcomings, the one thing that I did learn at University was to appreciate the craft that went into bespoke tailoring. I guess you could call my brief education in sartorial style a blessing and a curse. I could identify and appreciate the subtleties of a beautifully cut suit but alas, affording such extravagancies alluded me. Many a time I walked through Savile Row – the Mecca of bespoke – and stared longingly at the garments that lie on the other side of the windows like some kind of Dickensian street urchin salivating over a Christmas turkey. So when it came to having my own suit made, I knew what I liked and exactly what I wanted. I also knew what it would cost. Only problem was, I had a wedding to save for…
But enough of that tragic tale, for this is the part of our story when our hero (that’s me by the way – keep up) is introduced to a rather charming little shop in Pimlico.
As luck would have it, my boss, himself somewhat of a bespoke enthusiast, had been having his own suits made for quite some time now. When I told him of my desire to have my own suit made, he put me in touch with his tailor who was based at number 89 Rochester row, also known, since 1946, as Redwood and Feller.
Now I know there are plenty of bespoke tailors out there, but for me, I wanted that classic experience. The kind of experience that could only be afforded by, well, years of experience. You know what I’m talking about. Floor to ceiling leather bound collections of the world’s finest cloths, polished oak surfaces adorned with quirky, eccentric and quintessentially British paraphernalia. I wanted my tailor’s to feel like I could comfortably enjoy an aged whiskey while perching on an oxblood ottoman with my pipe. I don’t smoke a pipe by the way and could in no way ever pull that off but you get the idea.
So with nothing to lose, I checked out R&F’s website. After spending some time researching the shop’s history, I knew I was on to a winner. I found out that the original shop was first established back in 1946 by Messrs Redwood and Feller. Then, in 1974, Savile Row trained Master cutter Edward Rowland took the helm of the good ship R&F. This was the exact kind of longevity that I was looking for. Fashions come and go, but great tailoring is great tailoring. This place had seen it all and developed its own distinctive house style along the way. Oh, and did I mention they even picked up a royal warrant back in 1986? I say ‘they’ because aside from the fact that Edward had originally managed to build this incredibly traditional and professional business in the heart of Pimlico single handedly, his son Elliott – a graduate of the fashion institute Central Saint Martins (ok, I know it’s no University of Lincoln) was also continuing to grow this quaint family business as a cutter alongside his father. A genuine family run tailors with bags of history. I was sold.
I picked up the phone and booked myself a consultation with Elliott. My only concern at this point was the cost. Surely a tailor with these kinds of credentials wouldn’t come cheap. Would I walk through the doors of Redwood and Feller a week later and find that even after being captivated by the beautiful window displays and traditional aesthetic, I would have to then leave empty handed after finding the price just as unachievable as the Row’s Henry poole, Kilgour or Richard James? Well dear reader, that is a story for another time. For now, I will leave you safe in the knowledge that I did in fact make the appointment one week later. I look forward to telling you of my experience in next week’s instalment - Redwood and Feller - A bespoke tale episode two: The Temple of Groom*
*Don’t worry - I may change the title