In the mak­ing

Gieves & Hawkes

Country Life Every Week - - In The Making -

‘ 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)

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