BESPOKE BASE FOR YOUNG STYLE BRAND
Savile Row tailors might have emulated those French and Italian couture designers who went on to become mega brand names, selling a wide variety of luxury merchandise under their names. But they lacked the necessary finance, plus men have traditionally been less susceptible to brand marketing than women, and it has to be said that the tailors themselves have never been particularly promotion-savvy.
But some have made the grade. Timothy Everest is a shining example, a Savile Row-trained tailor who has built up a global business, taking his name into all sorts of design areas.
And his success has served as inspiration to others, most recently tailor Gresham Blake.
“I admire what he has done,” he commented. And though his company is currently based largely in Brighton, with fittings/showroom in South Molton Street, Mayfair, he has various irons in the fire that should see this talented designer extend his field of operations.
Clearly more interested in providing distinctive styles than concentrating upon classic bespoke tailoring, Blake has tapped into the style interest of a growing number of young men.
“They want something a bit different, a bit sharp,” he explained. “And I listen to them, let them talk and try to give them what they want.”
He started off after leaving school dabbling in art and design and considered being a sculpture – “but realised there was no money in that” he laughs. But he had been taught to sew by his seamstress mother when he wanted to alter jeans at the age of 10 - showing an interest in style at that early age. And he had been particularly good at geometry at school, so decided to put the sewing skill and pattern ability learnt from geometry together.
“I shared a workroom in East London with someone who used to do work for Turnbull & Asser, who gave me some guidance. And I did a fashion degree course.”
But his real bespoke training came from an old, classically trained Savile Row tailor, John Hume, who took him under his wing.
“He taught me how to sew buttonholes, how to apply a loose canvas, how to perfect hand padding on the shoulder. He was really old school, Savile Row at its best, and that was where I learnt to cut.”
Blake still cuts most of the bespoke suits for customers but admits that these are now a small part of his business. Made to measure, where he will alter basic patterns to suit what a customer wants and add any details desired, is what many of his young customers go for, and a ready-to-wear collection is increasingly important.
“As most of my customers are still quite young, they still have figures that don’t require the camouflage of bespoke,” he explains.
He is passionate about details, liking an anarchic twist on an otherwise classic suit. Distinctive linings are a speciality, some floral, some patterned with a motif of the customers choosing, and the same cloth may be used on the underside of collars. He likes buggy linings, which ensure jackets and coats are light and supple. “Young men don’t want heavy coats now,” he maintains.
His Brighton shop, in the popular Lanes area, benefits from the cosmopolitan crowd that Brighton attracts. “Many customers comes from London. We measure them there and then the fittings can be done here in London.” The London showroom is a jumble of samples, not just of his clothing but also with cuff links, shoes, scarves and ties that he designs and has made, all with a quirky, eye-catching style that appeals to his young clientele.
At top, a light three piece suit, above, one of his popular denim suits, and left Steve Coogan wearing black jacket with brown shirt and a Gresham Blake handmade tie.
With some 15 stores throughout the UK now stocking his ready-to-wear and some stockists in the US, he is set fair to establishing the Gresham Blake brand name internationally. “I may be opening a store in Belfast,” he reveals, “ and I’m being urged to open one in London. The backing is there. But I’m pretty busy and I’ve got to consider and plan it properly.”
Clearly, he is moving on from his bespoke roots but is not forsaking them. “Oh yes, we will continue to offer a bespoke service,” he emphasised. “I still cut and for those customers who can afford it and who benefit from the figure flattering quality that only bespoke can give, it is an important strand to our business.”