The Robert Gieve Room, up one level from London tailor Gieves & Hawkes’ shop floor, is like entering a living museum.
In one of the rooms, used to host meetings for the company’s key clients, the feature wall is decorated in photographs and memorabilia from the tailor’s 244 year long history, including framed jackets worn by members of the royal family past and present, such as Princess Diana. On another wall, in a giant glass cabinet, hang thirty bright red uniforms, belonging to Queen Elizabeth II’s Life Guards. The Life Guards’ uniforms, which also consists of boots, helmets, swords and lances, are only ever used for special events, the rest of the time they’re kept here at No. 1 Savile Row, the finest address in British menswear,.
This historic house is quite unlike your average Savile Row tailor. The contract to look after the Life Guards’ uniforms dates back over a century, to 1912, and is only one of many important milestones in the company’s rich history.
“Take a look at this jacket,” says the firm’s archivist, Peter Tilley, pointing at a framed so called frock coat. “It belonged to Princess Diana’s grandfather, who served as commander of the Life Guards. It dates back to 1910. Every single page of our journals records someone who played a pivotal role in British history.” A man in his sixties, Peter Tilley is the kind of humble English gentleman who refers to men as ’chaps’. Responsible for maintaining and promoting the knowledge of the tailor’s ancient traditions both internally and externally. He has been employed by Gieves & Hawkes for four years, during which he’s worked towards growing the firm’s collection.
“The first thing I did was to ask for a purchasing budget, three days later I burnt through it all. Why? Well, you see, the current Earl Spencer [Princess Diana’s brother Charles] sold a great deal of his estate, much of which were products by Hawkes, so it was the perfect opportunity to build our military artefacts archive.”
Gieves & Hawkes’ history begins in