On the 4th of May a group of Savile Row tailors, Cleverley Shoes and James from Budd Shirts on Jermyn Street and myself joined Jeremy King OBE for dinner in the Lotos Room at The Beaumont Hotel. Here, we unveiled a capsule collection for Jimmy Beaumont, the fictional founder of The Beaumont Hotel. As the curator for the menswear arm to the LCW2017 programme I was asked to say a few things about bespoke. I include my speech below.
The Jimmy Beaumont Series
Back in January we met in The Cub room, where Jeremy introduced us to Jimmy Beaumont. Four months later, we reunite to unveil the fruits of that first meeting, a capsule wardrobe that includes 6 outfits, 3 shirts, nightwear and a pair of Cleverley made shoes. All are bespoke. All are exclusive to Jimmy.
Jimmy is a fixture in London’s narrative. Brought to life to convey to designers and architects the aesthetic aspirations that Jeremy and his team had for their newly acquired hotel. Jimmy is a myth, a form of speech, a tool of communication.
But so is bespoke; it’s a language!
Dress has the ability to visually express who we are, what we do, where we are heading in life, our likes and dislikes and so much more. It has a historical importance too. A garment can inform us of the social parameters that have shaped the wearer’s form of expression. A bespoke garment is a result of a conversation in a fitting room where a cutter and his customer meet to formulate the latest commission. Many times the two are complete strangers to one another, sometimes their cultures are so alien to one another too. But somehow, even with such limitations craftsmen of bespoke garments are able to express their client absolutely, and assist their client in functioning absolutely within a variant of boundaries. This is why I’ve come to regard you as the world’s finest linguists and cultural interpreters.
As bespoke has become somewhat of an ubiquitous term, confusion over its definition has arisen. Introducing Savile Row tailors, bespoke nightwear makers New & Lingwood, Budd Shirts and Cleverley Shoes to Jimmy Beaumont was an obvious match. As a team they’d highlight the essence of bespoke and help define it to a confused public.
I’ve been asked to talk about the art of bespoke, and to do so I’d like to draw on some of the creations present today.
Jimmy, a laconic type, has somehow managed to acquire amongst many outfits a tennis blazer in Merino wool, a tweed jacket for travel from town to country, a three piece- suit with a cherry pink stripe that spells out his name, and an Alpine walking outfit, and many more.
A peak in his wardrobe tells us that Merino cloth is a fantastic material for sportswear. It is light, cool and mobile, ideal for sporting. We know that it is possible to blend casual wear and formal wear. This in fact starts to happen on Savile Row in 1910 but it doesn’t enter the mainstream until the the 1950s.
The cherry pink suit, outlandish you may think, but I beg you to look at the detail: The stripe on the collar matches that on the lapel. It is in details such as these where one can find the mastery. Notice this and the pink cherry stripe fades further and further into the background.
You see the art of bespoke is not to embellish an individual but to help define the individual.
The alpine suit with the detachable bib is a design hack that makes the jacket versatile, but also safeguards the elegant silhouette of the jacket. Versatility is key to understanding the current youth market, a youth that is environmentally sensitive and image conscious.
There is of course the personal element of bespoke. What does a capsule wardrobe made on Savile Row have to offer its wearer? It offers ownership of your personal story. It is an archive of your life journey; a documentation of your historical moments.
The art of bespoke is that it combines all of these elements. Fashion cannot and does not. As a historian I feel we’ve failed the Row. We’ve looked at fashion to tell us our story. We should be looking into bespoke to tell us where our story begins.
As a last note, I want to take this opportunity to thank the tailors and makers who have contributed to this exhibition. Ideas are not the product of one individual but the result of openness, sharing and discussions. I’d like to personally thank Anda Rowland and Guy Hills for the time they took to talk to me and to explain to me the challenges faced on the Row. Without you this idea would not have come about. To Guy Salter, founder of London Craft Week, thank you for trusting in me the menswear arm to the program. To Martine, who has supported the organisation of this event from day 1. And, of course to Jeremy, a massive thank you for hosting us not once but twice here at the Beaumont, but most importantly for granting us access to Jimmy Beaumont.
Anderson & Sheppard
Henry Poole & Co.
Gieves & Hawkes
Dege & Skinner
New & Lingwood
Images all by Guy Hills