STYLE LEADER AWAY FROM THE PACK
Happily separate from the hot house centre of Savile Row, Edward Sexton is one of the great tailoring icons, a master craftsman who combines practical authority with an ability to charm his glamorous customers.
As one of the creative talents of the 1960s, where he made for all the legendary stars of the era, he has not only continued to flourish but widened his appeal, helping such celebrated names as Stella McCartney and, most recently, Chester Barrie. Yet he remains true to a bespoke tailoring core.
“I don’t want to be a big company,” he say. “I don’t want to do ready-to-wear collections again. I like concentrating upon bespoke and having a staff that I can work with. And I like my setting here in Beauchamp Place, away from Savile Row and all that old baggage.”
The old baggage he refers to is his early association with Tommy Nutter in the 60s, to the later split and separation from others involved in the Nutter razamataz, Joseph Morgan and Roy Chittleborough. He had his own place on the Row for some time but has been in Knightsbridge now for around 15 years, which suits his many female customers as well as the men.
He is perhaps one of the few tailors that still has a distinctive style, shapely, high waisted, high armhole, long, low lapels, trousers lean – “I like to see daylight between the legs,” he says. But it is his own eye for balance, for what the individual figure requires, that ensures the elegant, final result.
“Its what you do with the interior that really counts,” he says. “I’m not trapped in one style, the details can all be changed. But the expression comes from the foundations, on how it is built, as with anything. It all comes from within. Just like us.”
Sexton began his career at the age of 16 training under the great Fred Stanbury at the then Kilgour, French & Stanbury. He had a stint working for top American designer Bill Blass which gave him experience in the women’s wear field. And by the time he went into partnership with Tommy Nutter towards the end of the ‘60s, he was the accomplished, polished craftsman that Tommy needed to back up his own front-of-house charm and easy contacts.
Above, Sexton designs that are a modern take on the current 'forties feeling. Below, from Mick Jagger in the Swinging Sixties to Peter Docherty of the present, Sexton has attracted the style leaders.
Over the years, Sexton has retained many of those contacts, establishing friendships with legendary customers whose off-spring have then become customers.
One such is Stella McCartney, whose mother Linda, as well as father Beatle Paul, had clothes made by Sexton. She not only became a customer but went to him for training, serving an apprenticeship that stood her in good stead when she went on to found her own design business. But when she was appointed designer at top Paris couture house, Chloe, following the famous Karl Lagerfeld, they had trouble interpreting the tailoring designs, because they were not a tailoring house.
“I went on to help her in Paris, travelling back and forth all the time. All the tailoring items were done here in Beauchamp Place. It was a lot of work but a lot of fun.”
He has had other high profile consultancies, his latest for the respected suit brand Chester Barrie. He has created the spring and autumn collections and though not bespoke, they reflect the quality level associated with this established label.
“It has bespoke characteristics,” says Sexton. “Look at the sleeve head on this jacket and the way the sleeve hangs. Perfect.”
In bespoke, some 20 per cent of his customers are women, including the glamour set who go to him for the lean, curvaceous and flattering lines he creates. Not surprisingly, he loves his work and is as enthusiastic and as much a perfectionist as ever.
“I still find it all so exciting,” he says. “It keeps you fresh. I can tell you I’m 68 now and as excited about coming into work as I was at 16. And I’m still learning. If you keep an open mind and listen, you will learn.”
He too is finding increasing interest in morning dress for weddings. One customer, designer Bruce Oldfield, may have more cause than many to want to look at his best, being tipped as the possible designer for Kate Middleton’s dress.
Wedding fever brought the mighty NBC of America to Sexton’s door to make a film that will be screened nearer to the royal wedding date. It features British actor Ben Fogle wearing a Sexton-made morning suit. “It all helps keep the name in the limelight,” Sexton says with a smile, “though I don’t know that it sells any more suits.”
He is a ball of energy, driving into London every day at 6am to beat the rush hour, not keen on breaking for lunch, checking everything that goes through the workroom.
“Retire! No, never. Please God, I’ll die working.”