Sav­ile Row Tai­lor & Sewing Bee Spy! Be­gin­ning to take pride of place at the fore­front of the Bri­tish and global menswear stage, pres­ti­gious Sav­ile Row tai­lor and award-win­ning fash­ion de­signer Pa­trick Grant re­ju­ve­nated the for­tunes of Nor­ton & Sons, resur

Upscale Living Magazine - - Fashion - | BY AN­GELA SARA WEST

He talks to An­gela Sara West about his boom­ing busi­nesses, re­sum­ing his role as a judge on BBC Two’s next buzzing se­ries of The Great Bri­tish Sewing Bee and his fa­vorite Fash­ion Week.

Al­ways well suited and booted and with a pas­sion for fash­ion since child­hood, style icon and star of TV’s The Great Bri­tish Sewing Bee Pa­trick Grant never fails to look in­cred­i­bly stylish. “I can’t re­mem­ber a time when I wasn’t ob­sessed with look­ing smart,” he tells me. “I re­mem­ber be­ing re­ally proud of my uni­form on my first day of school. In my teens, my walls were cov­ered with pages from Vogue and Elle. I used to spend whole days in sec­ond-hand and char­ity shops, try­ing to find pieces to recre­ate out­fits from the men’s fash­ion pages.”

He started sewing at school. “I just did sim­ple al­ter­ations, and prop­erly learned to sew when I started at Nor­ton & Sons.” With a metic­u­lous eye for de­tail and fan­tas­tic fab­ric-han­dling skills, he’s also quite mean with a sewing ma­chine. “But I’m a clothes de­signer, not a great maker. I have bril­liant staff who do the sewing.”

A tai­lor-made sim­ple style

De­scrib­ing his own im­pec­ca­ble style as “sim­ple”, he has nu­mer­ous style icons and fa­vorite de­sign­ers. “I love men whose char­ac­ter shines through their clothes, like David Hock­ney or Jarvis Cocker. I loved Lee Alexan­der McQueen. He was the rarest tal­ent and the loveli­est man. There are so many great de­sign­ers in Lon­don right now… Christo­pher Kane, Rok­sanda, Er­dem, Molly God­dard, Si­mone Rocha, Craig Green, Charles Jef­frey…”

No busi­ness like sew busi­ness

Ed­in­burgh-born Pa­trick stud­ied Ma­te­ri­als Science and En­gi­neer­ing at Univer­sity and then worked in man­u­fac­tur­ing in the en­gi­neer­ing and tech­nol­ogy sec­tor. After a brief stint in mar­ket­ing, he stud­ied for an MBA at the in­ter­na­tion­ally-renowned Saïd Busi­ness School at Ox­ford Univer­sity. It was there that he found his call­ing, un­der “Busi­nesses For Sale” in an old copy of the Fi­nan­cial Times. An ad of­fer­ing a ven­er­a­ble Sav­ile Row tai­lor­ing house caught his eye and the rest, as they say, is tai­lor-made his­tory... With a back­ground in en­gi­neer­ing and tech­nol­ogy, why go down the sewing route? “I had never planned to move into fash­ion, but I had al­ways loved hand­made things, his­toric brands and men’s style. Purely by chance, I found out that Nor­ton & Sons was for sale. It sat per­fectly at the in­ter­sec­tion of all of these things.”

In 2005, he bought the fail­ing fam­i­ly­owned busi­ness and trans­formed the strug­gling niche busi­ness into a phe­nom­e­nally­suc­cess­ful brand. By fo­cus­ing on its her­itage and in­creas­ing in­no­va­tion, the once-ail­ing com­pany now ef­fi­ca­ciously fuses the old with the new, re­tain­ing its tra­di­tional his­tory, com­ple­mented by con­tem­po­rary high­end of­fer­ings.

A suc­cess­ful Sav­ile Row tai­lor

Es­tab­lished in 1821 by Wal­ter Nor­ton as tailors to “the Gen­tle­men of the City of Lon­don”, Nor­ton & Sons was orig­i­nally lo­cated on The Strand. Con­tin­u­ing to thrive in the 20th cen­tury, it then in­cor­po­rated the cel­e­brated Sav­ile Row houses, Ham­mond & Co, J. Hoare & Co, E. Tautz and Tod­house Rey­nard & Co.

Ra­di­at­ing a rich his­tory, the firm gained em­i­nence as a sport­ing tai­lor, mak­ing sharply-cut gar­ments, from din­ner suits to rac­ing silks for Europe’s sport­ing and mil­i­tary elite. Along with King Ed­ward VII and other UK roy­als, the busi­ness boasts be­ing proud tailors to the royal house­holds of Europe and three US Pres­i­dents. A young Win­ston Churchill was a big fan of “breeches from Tautz”, while other il­lus­tri­ous clients over the years in­clude Al­fred Hitch­cock, the ex­plorer Wil­fred Th­e­siger and Cary Grant.

Be­fore Pa­trick took over the reins as Creative Di­rec­tor, the com­pany had at­tempted to diver­sify by sell­ing guns and of­fer­ing sport­ing tours along­side its high-qual­ity gar­ments. Pa­trick re-con­cen­trated the busi­ness on tai­lor­ing and within a few short years, tripled an­nual rev­enue to nearly £1 mil­lion.

On pur­chas­ing Nor­ton & Sons, Pa­trick also gained the rights to the name Ham­mond & Co., bring­ing all the brands to­gether. Ham­mond & Co. has proved one of the most suc­cess­ful de­signer pro­jects for Deben­hams after Pa­trick re­launched it as a dif­fu­sion menswear line ex­clu­sively with the store in 2012.

He re­launched the de­funct Nor­tons sub­sidiary, Ox­ford Street-based E. Tautz (fa­mous for its sports and mil­i­tary wear and for in­vent­ing the ‘Knicker­bocker’ breeches) in 2009 as a ready-to-wear brand and show­cased it at Fash­ion Week 2010. The re-imag­ined la­bel, which is more ex­per­i­men­tal than the Nor­tons line, trans­formed Bri­tish men’s style, for which Pa­trick was awarded ‘Menswear De­signer of the Year’ at the 2010 Bri­tish Fash­ion Awards. With his unique flair and pre­cise crafts­man­ship, com­bined with an in­her­ent sense of com­mer­cial aware­ness and busi­ness nous, Pa­trick is now at the fore­front of fash­ion.

“How does it feel to own a piece of pres­ti­gious Sav­ile Row? “I feel very proud that I’ve man­aged to make mod­est suc­cesses of these brands, and have done so with in­tegrity and hon­esty and in a way that, hope­fully, is sus­tain­able for the long term. They all have won­der­ful and unique his­to­ries and char­ac­ters.” His ethos? “I work very hard, I care very deeply about the prod­uct, how it’s made, what it’s made from and by whom.”

Ac­co­lades & run­ways

Other ac­co­lades in­clude Re­tailer of the Year at the 2008 Scot­tish Fash­ion Awards and win­ner of the 2015 Bri­tish Fash­ion Coun­cil/GQ De­signer Menswear Fund. Pa­trick has also ap­peared in ‘best dressed’ lists, in­clud­ing GQ’s 50 Best Dressed Men, be­ing named in Esquire mag­a­zine’s Most Stylish Men in the World, and in­cluded in the Busi­ness of Fash­ion 500 in­dex of the most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in global fash­ion. As a mas­sive in­flu­encer, he has also ap­peared in both Who’s Who and De­brett’s Peo­ple of To­day.

In 2013, Pa­trick was made an Hon­orary Pro­fes­sor at Glas­gow Cale­do­nian Univer­sity’s School of Busi­ness and So­ci­ety, in 2016, he was made a Fel­low of the Royal So­ci­ety of Arts (RSA) while in 2017, he was awarded an hon­orary de­gree by He­riot-Watt Univer­sity.

What does this avid fol­lower of fash­ion love most about styling run­way shows at Lon­don’s Fash­ion Week? “It’s a great part of the fash­ion process. I al­ways have the out­fits in my mind’s eye as we’re de­sign­ing and de­vel­op­ing the col­lec­tions, but it’s re­ally some­thing when they all come to­gether. I usu­ally take about a week, start­ing with a rough first go, all the out­fits on hang­ers, then

I’ll leave it a day be­fore com­ing back and putting them on our model and mak­ing a sec­ond cut at it. Then, I will usu­ally have one last go, fine tun­ing ev­ery look, think­ing about the or­der in which they come through. It’s fun!”

In­spi­ra­tional trav­els

The charm­ing tai­lor says he sources in­spi­ra­tion from “every­where” at all times. “Art, film, mu­se­ums, books, na­ture, bus seats, tube floors… I keep my eyes and my mind con­stantly open.” Hav­ing spent a lot of time liv­ing abroad and trav­el­ling, the cel­e­brated tai­lor’s over­seas’ trav­els also in­flu­ence his work. “Time spent abroad is al­ways in­spir­ing. I like to walk through cities and ride the bus or the tube. I love lo­cal mu­se­ums, big and small. I’ve been lucky to travel ex­ten­sively in Europe, Africa and Asia and this is con­stantly creep­ing into my work, both subtly and overtly, from an­cient Mag­yar cos­tume to Ja­panese shi­bori dy­ing.”

It’s… TV Sew­time! Judg­ing the Sewing Bee Pa­trick is a reg­u­lar fix­ture on TV and ra­dio as a com­men­ta­tor on Bri­tish fash­ion, cloth­ing and tex­tile in­dus­tries. He has also con­trib­uted to sev­eral ma­jor TV doc­u­men­taries, in­clud­ing Sav­ile Row, Har­ris Tweed and The Per­fect Suit.

With film­ing now fin­ished for the next se­ries of The Great Bri­tish Sewing Bee, there’s a big buzz in the air of the needle­work world as the quest to find Bri­tain’s best home sewer be­gins and view­ers count down the days to see this year’s am­a­teur con­tes­tants come into the fold and re­veal how they mea­sure up. Pa­trick re­sumes his role as a much-loved, fas­tid­i­ous judge (for which he was nom­i­nated for the 2017 Na­tional Tele­vi­sion Awards), this year along­side res­i­dent ex­pert judge, Esme Young, and new host, Joe Lycett.

What does Pa­trick love most about the pop­u­lar BBC Two show and what can we ex­pect from the next se­ries? “I love all of it. I love the con­tes­tants, their pas­sion, their hu­mour and their ca­ma­raderie. I’ve loved work­ing with Clau­dia and am al­ready lov­ing work­ing with Joe. And Esme is a force of na­ture, she’s

amaz­ing. We’ve set lots of great new chal­lenges and have a great new week fo­cus­ing on one of the huge is­sues fac­ing the world of cloth­ing right now, some­thing that I per­son­ally feel hugely pas­sion­ate about.”

As we get set for an­other spec­tac­u­lar small-screen sew down, are there any funny be­hind-the-seams sto­ries that have hap­pened to Pa­trick on Sewing Bee that have had him in stitches? “Lots, but I can’t pos­si­bly tell you. You’ll have to come on the show.”

Pa­trick is all about great gar­ments, cel­e­brat­ing in­di­vid­ual crafts­peo­ple and Bri­tish home-grown man­u­fac­tur­ing, and en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to start mak­ing clothes again so our home in­dus­try can re­build it­self. With a huge rise in the num­bers now mak­ing their own gar­ments, does he think peo­ple are tak­ing much more in­ter­est in, and are bet­ter in­formed about, the clothes they wear and their qual­ity? “Many are but, sadly, still far too many peo­ple treat shop­ping as a pas­time and cloth­ing as dis­pos­able. Our con­sump­tion is out of con­trol and we need to change, but I think home sew­ers are very much lead­ing the way in this.”

The Com­mu­nity Cloth­ing Project

With a pat­tern emerg­ing of peo­ple pick­ing up a nee­dle and thread and try­ing sewing for size, Pa­trick re­cently em­barked on an­other ex­cit­ing project to en­cour­age up­take and rekin­dle the craft, in his new role as co-chair­man of Fu­ture Tex­tiles, part of the Prince’s Foun­da­tion. “It’s both a great hon­our and a great chal­lenge, and some­thing I’m al­ready get­ting stuck into!”

In 2015, Pa­trick pur­chased an­other ail­ing busi­ness, cloth­ing man­u­fac­turer and sewing fac­tory, Cook­son & Clegg, and launched the so­cial en­ter­prise Com­mu­nity Cloth­ing in re­sponse to the ex­treme chal­lenges fac­ing the Bri­tish cloth­ing and tex­tile man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try. The new not-for­profit project is prov­ing the per­fect fit, earn­ing Pa­trick much praise from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

How’s his ini­tia­tive go­ing? “Hap­pily and fan­tas­ti­cally! Nearly two years in, we’re al­ready sell­ing a lot of great cloth­ing, cre­at­ing a lot of work, and we know from the won­der­ful emails and com­ments we get that our cus­tomers ap­pre­ci­ate what we’re do­ing. We have lots of beau­ti­ful wom­enswear in de­vel­op­ment for Com­mu­nity Cloth­ing, which we hope will be ready for next spring.”

Cutting out the whole­saler and re­tailer, the brand acts as a man­u­fac­tur­ers’ co­op­er­a­tive and pro­duces sim­ple, ev­ery­day items for men and women, such as blue chi­nos, V-neck jumpers, sim­ple trench coats and jeans.

The tai­lor, the suit & the wardrobe

If you’re won­der­ing what’s in his wardrobe, won­der no more… Pa­trick re­veals his cur­rent sta­ples fit with his sim­ple style. “For me, right now, it’s grey trousers, navy jumpers, and over­sized chi­nos and work shirts. I’ve never been out of love with the suit, but I’m very bored with the skinny look.” His most trea­sured suit? “I have a din­ner suit that was my fa­ther’s that I’ve al­ways loved. It’s been with me for 30 years and was with my dad for about the same be­fore me.”

What’s in store for the fash­ion in­dus­try?

So, no more tightly-tai­lored suits for Pa­trick it ‘seams’. What other changes has he wit­nessed in the fash­ion in­dus­try re­cently and how does he see it evolv­ing? “Sus­tain­abil­ity, ethics and trace­abil­ity are all big is­sues in the fash­ion world that have only re­ally be­come hot top­ics in the last decade, and they’re only go­ing to get hot­ter. Fash­ion is a three-tril­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try and the world’s sec­ond worst pol­luter. It has to change.”

Top tips from a top tai­lor!

With the trend for tai­lored looks and the re­turn to im­proved stan­dards of dress­mak­ing look­ing set to con­tinue, what are this Sav­ile Row su­per­star tai­lor’s tips for read­ers look­ing to be­come high-end tailors? “It’s hard… there are only a small hand­ful of places to learn on Sav­ile Row and places don’t come up in any struc­tured way. There are ac­cred­ited be­spoke tai­lor­ing cour­ses which are a good start­ing point. The Sav­ile Row Be­spoke As­so­ci­a­tion, of which most of the good houses are mem­bers, has de­tails on the web­site. The UK has only a cou­ple of tai­lor­ing fac­to­ries, and I don’t know how many train­ing places they of­fer.”

Home makeovers

Pa­trick has taught a cou­ple of other crafts in the past. “I spent two sum­mers work­ing on a sum­mer camp in Cal­i­for­nia teach­ing pot­tery and crafts. We did all sorts, na­tive Amer­i­can crafts like moc­casin mak­ing and weav­ing dream catch­ers... I also love to paint.”

The king of threads re­cently made his first foray into in­te­rior de­sign, col­lab­o­rat­ing with LG SIG­NA­TURE to de­sign an in­stal­la­tion of cut­tingedge home tech­nol­ogy at last year’s Esquire Town­house with Dior event.

Are there any more in­te­rior de­sign pro­jects in the works? “At one stage, I wanted to be ar­chi­tect, and it was great fun to work on the LG lounge. It was great that it won a prize, too. The only other project in the pipe­line is one of my own, on a derelict house I’ve bought near our fac­tory in the For­est of Bow­land.”

So there’s a new home in store for this suc­cess­ful Sav­ile Row tai­lor… al­though the sew must, of course, go on!

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