Savile Row, if you don’t know (I didn’t), is a street in London. Bespoke tailoring, if you don’t know (I didn’t), is custom men’s clothing made to individual specifications of the client by a tailor. Savile Row is famous for bespoke tailoring. Cutters and tailors on Savile Row practice centuries-old techniques. I learned this at the exhibition. There were a lot of tailors and cutters at the exhibition who are famous for being Savile Row bespoke tailors, and for making custom suits for people who are famous for other reasons. I learned this at the exhibition also. British fashion institutions are intimidating. People who are living, breathing representations of British fashion institutions are also intimidating. Being directed to “continue straight ahead until you pass the Bentleys then veer to the left” is intimidating. It was an intimidating experience. I had to be escorted. It was scary. I tried to make intelligent small talk. It is exceptionally difficult to make intelligent small talk with British people specifically British fashion people.
But it was worth it because there are Michael Jackson outfits there. One of Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards suits is also there. And Eddy Redmayne’s Oscars tuxedo. There are patterns of famous people’s measurements hanging from the ceiling; Hugh Laurie’s pattern is up there. Gregory Peck’s collection of Savile Row suits are there. He was an enthusiast. Anthony Peck, Gregory Peck’s son, was there to speak about his father’s collection and relationship with Savile Row bespoke tailors.
The suits were cool, the patterns were cool, the cultural history lesson was cool. But the coolest thing I saw there was the curator, Nick Foulkes. He has that quintessential British wit and I love him. He gave a tour of the exhibit and made quippy remarks about the Revolutionary War and the special relationship between England and America and how America “can’t stand to have [England] as colonial overlords, but still needs our tailors.” Which, in a nutshell, was the theme of the exhibit. It was all about the sartorial relationship between American cultural icons/politicians and England’s impeccable Savile Row bespoke tailoring. Nick Foulkes is awesome. He is a strong proponent of Tartan. I appreciate his candor. He wears many rings on his fingers and small sunglasses with circular lenses. He knows suits. He was wearing one. And a cloth tie. He was the only person wearing a cloth tie. He is an innovator.
I spoke to Kathryn Sargent and Richard Stoppard of Kathryn Sargent Luxury Bespoke Tailoring. Kathryn was the first female head cutter of Savile Row. Head cutter is a gruesome title. She worked for 15 years with Savile Row tailors Gieves & Hawkes before starting her own company. I asked her what it was like to forge that path, she said that everyone has been very welcoming and that there are “many women in the industry who have worked behind the scenes and are now coming to the forefront in leadership positions.” I felt more at ease speaking with her than with anyone else there. Probably because she senses how intimidated I am by this whole thing and steers the conversation toward things to do in DC. I give them some restaurant recommendations; they seem really grateful for that.
Our conversation ends because it is time for the group photo in which all of the tailors/cutters/brand reps plus Nick Foulkes and Peter LaGrange (Chairman of the Savile Row Bespoke Association, haver of amazing hair) line up on the steps of the British Ambassador’s residence to say cheese. This is also intimidating. I feel like I’m in a Jane Austen novel. I regret making a remark about the DC fashion scene wanting to distance itself from the suit-and-tie aesthetic. I get escorted out (not because of the remark, that’s just how you have to leave). I’m not wearing a suit but once I’m off the compound I unbutton the metaphorical top button and loosen my metaphorical tie, then I laugh about what a silly American I am. It’s good that England is no longer our colonial overlord, but I’d have been more capable of conducting myself properly at this exhibit if they were.