THE KING'S TAILOR
Wreathed in Oscar nominations and other honours, The King’s Speech is set fair to inspire a similar wave of enthusiasm for English culture and style as that inspired by the TV series Brideshead Revisited some 20 years earlier.
Tailors returning from seeing customers in New York report a surge of interest in the sort of styling worn in the film, further encouraged by the showing of the TV series, Downton Abbey. Though that was based in a slightly earlier period, men’s styling had not changed greatly from just before the first World War to the start of the second, when The King’s Speech is set.
Jenny Beavan is the talented British designer responsible for costumes in the film. With a raft of awards already for other major films, including an Oscar for another period piece 'The Remains of the Day', she is recognised as one of the top names in her field internationally.
Not so well known – yet – is Andy Kapetanos, the tailor responsible for many of the men’s outfits in the film. He doesn’t warrant a mention in the list of credits for the film, being one of a team that contributed to the costumes, but it is his creations for the male cast that have helped push the film into the styling limelight in the U.S.
Tracking him down was not easy. Though trained in Savile Row, he has been out of the Row’s environs for some time and is now based in North London.
“I’m in a state of flux at the moment,” he said, by way of explaining that he did not have a website. “I am busy with work, have a new ready-to-wear women's collection coming out, and we are just putting the website together. I’m also doing some costumes for the Wizard of Oz show at the Palladium. And I'm looking into having West End premises again. So yes, I have quite a lot on.”
Above, Andy Kapetanos; at top Colin Firth as King George Vl wearing an overcoat made by the tailor, , seen with Helen Bonham-Carter as Queen Elizabeth.
Jenny Beavan chose him for The King’s Speech because “he can cut period styles”. She is enthusiastic about his talent and has used him for other films.
To the layman it might seem that any good cutter would be able to cut suits as seen in the film. They are not, after all, wildly different in appearance from today’s styles. But Kapetanos emphasises that it needs a completely different approach.
“Everything is different,” he says. “It requires a completely different block, the sleeves are set in differently, the collars are different. And to get the authentic look, you have to go back to the basics of construction then.”
Then is the period just prior to and including the beginning of World War Two. It is still very much an Edwardian period, styling set by Edward Vll and then Edward Vlll, both particularly influential in their Prince of Wales years. King George V, who came in between, was noted largely for his conventional formality but on occasion might go so far as a nautical blazer with peaked cap for boating jaunts.
Another suit by Kapetanos for actor Geoffrey Rush in The Kings Speech, above, and below, a design sketch from the new Andrew Kapetanos collection. At bottom, the d.b. suit worn by actor Guy Pearce as he makes Edward Vlll's abdication speech.
Kapetanos’ ability to recreate the required period pieces lies partly in the varied training he has had and his application to research.
His first taste of sewing was as a boy watching his tailor father. His working life began in a clothing factory and then he joined Berman & Nathan, the famous theatrical costumiers in London’s Camden Town, with a unrivalled store of period clothes. Here, he learnt about the different style periods and forged contacts with the showbiz world.
From there, he went to Savile Row, joining Huntsman when top cutter, Colin Hammick was in charge. He was happy there but had friends in America who suggested he come out there – and so he did.
“ I went to work for Anthony Gasbarri,” he recalls, “the top Hollywood tailor. He made for all the stars, both personally and in the films. He came from Rome, was a counterpart of Brioni’s, and created a similarly lightweight style. He had his own style of cutting and made suits that were very lightgweight and comfortable. And I learned to adapt to a new way of cutting and new styles for different periods.”
Kapetanos returned to the UK some years ago. As well as bespoke clothes for men, he began working with some of the top women’s wear designers – two of Princess Diana’s favourites, Catherine Walker and Bruce Oldfield among them.
His new womenswear collection reflects his expertise in this market but he won’t be doing a menswear version.
“No, there are plenty of suits out there that can be bought off-the-peg, but I prefer to keep to bespoke for men,” he says.
Over the years he has therefore accrued extensive experience in making tailored and dressmaking styles for all sorts of periods.
“I learnt how to cut period styles through research, through unpicking old garments, through practice. I learnt to cut in a completely different way.”
“And I am versatile,” he says with some confidence. “I have developed a different way of making garments and I try to cut and make them in the way the customer wants. That’s what its all about.”
The new women's collection, plus some men's bespoke items, will be launched in May under his own label, Andrew Kapetanos. It uses luxurious fabrics, many English, some Italian, in impeccably tailored styles that display his Savile Row expertise in cut with elegance and individuality.
"He is one of the West End's best kept secrets," said Samuel Ofori, his associate who is helping him plan the May launch. "I'm very excited about the collection and about establishing his unique talent on the market. But he is very reticent about his talents, very reserved."
A laudable English trait and one that Kapetanos himself sums up. "I'm just shy," he says with a smile.
For more images and information on these authentic styles and new ones created in response to customers' demands, see the next print editon of Savile Row Style Magazine, available late March, click here.