No 1. Savile Row is of course the home of illustrious tailors Gieves & Hawks. I happened to be invited to the recently refurbished shop and preview of the Autumn/Winter 2011 collection. While said collection has some lovely pieces, not least a number of beautiful windowpane check suits and jackets, I spent the majority of my evening in the charming company of the two distinguished gentlemen below.
On the left is Mr Peter Tilley the Gieves and Hawkes Archivist and on the right Mr Andrew Brett Director and head of the military tailoring division. As both a historian and clothing enthusiast, archivist to a tailoring house as distinguished as Gieves & Hawkes would be pretty close to my dream job. Mr Tilley was also Archivist to Dunhill before taking up his post at G&H.
One of the many improvements to the shop being show cased, along with the Autumn/Winter 2011 collection, was the opening up of the balcony above the shop floor which now houses a permanent exhibition of old ledgers and military uniforms. Previously stored away and viewable only by a select few anyone can now visit the collection, something I highly recommend. Unless you have a love of history it would be difficult to explain the joy I get from simply seeing the ledger headed Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington. But not everything is behind glass, as these pictures show.
Never having been a customer of Gieves & Hawkes bespoke service –a bit beyond my pay grade- I’m largely ignorant of the history of this most royally and militarily connected tailoring House. For instance, I hadn’t realised, until Peter Tilley explained it to me, that as late as 1974 Gieves Ltd and Hawkes & Co were separate businesses. While the two companies were discussing a merger an IRA bomb obliterated Gieves’ shop on Bond Street; the choice to base the new firm in Hawkes & Co No1. Savile Row store was thus an obvious one.
While today G&H is synonymous with military tailoring for all branches of the British Armed Forces, originally Gieves Ltd was the Royal Navy’s tailor and Hawkes & Co. supplied apparel to the Army, and in particular headgear. Indeed, it was the Pith Helmet that made Hawkes & Co a fortune; thanks to a visit one day from a customer who had with him a cork hat bonded by rubber. Hawkes new owner bought the patent improved the design and made a fortune in the process.
Of course there is a lot more to the company than these snippets from my conversation with Mr Tilley and Mr Brett, I’d highly recommend you take a trip to No.1 Savile Row and see for yourself.