In the making
Gieves & Hawkes
‘ Our staff are regular people: they understand what good service looks like, same’ but have no airs and graces, so everyone is treated exactly the Managing director Nick Keyte talks to Hetty Lintell
Savile Row can be a daunting place for a chap on the hunt for a beautifully made suit, but Gieves & Hawkes is different, refreshingly so. The tailor has been based at No 1 Savile Row since 1913 and the door is always open —metaphorically, of course.
You can merely pop your head in to admire the beautiful interior architecture (the building was bought from the Royal Geographic Society and the main room is still called the Map Room), if not the clothing and accessories, but we challenge you not to be tempted by at least one of the company’s beautiful silk pocket squares.
The two names joined forces in 1974, with Gieves (founded in 1775) tending towards tailoring for the Royal Navy and Hawkes (1771) towards the army. ‘Fundamentally, we were absolutely a tailor for the armed forces and, back in the day, all tailoring was bespoke,’ explains Nick Keyte, managing director. ‘after the Second world war, all this changed dramatically, with made to measure and ready to wear appearing on the scene—we like to think we had a hand in developing that.’
it’s hard not to be distracted by the vibrant red coats displayed in cabinets opposite my seat. ‘we’re privileged to be producing these bespoke items for Her Majesty’s Bodyguards, a 500year-old institution,’ says Mr Keyte. The uniforms on show belong to the officers and Gentleman at arms (in separate cabinets, of course—the officers will not allow their garments to hang next to the others) and, before state events, this room turns into a changing room until the Bodyguards march out to attend The Queen.
Mr Keyte takes great pleasure in giving tours of the shop and revealing historical nuggets—the shop has tailored for notable figures from Michael Jackson to Diana, Princess of wales. all the bespoke cutting and tailoring takes place at the Savile Row address and the company holds three Royal warrants (from The Queen, The Duke of edinburgh and The Prince of wales).
innovation has always been key—in 1914, James Gieves even made a life-saving waistcoat, combining sartorial correctness with an inflatable band in case of an unwanted swim. a pocket held a reviving bottle of brandy.
‘Men are an easier hook than women for loyalty,’ states Mr Keyte. ‘There’s nothing better than trust and word of mouth.’ Fathers bring sons for their first suit, who then remain loyal customers their whole lives. The individual experience is enhanced by sparkling wine from Gusbourne in Kent. ‘whatever they want, for whatever season, the customer is king.’
Gieves & Hawkes believes it is the company’s privilege to tailor for some of the smartest gentlemen across the globe and everyone else, too—remember, the door is open to all.
Gieves & Hawkes has shops in Winchester, Bath, Chester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Dublin, as well as its flagship store at 1, Savile Row, W1, and an outlet in Hackney. Bespoke suits from £6,000 (020–7434 2001; www.gievesandhawkes.com)