'Made in Britain' luxury tailored labels are thriving
Speakers from Savile Row and the UK high street joined forces with some of the tailoring industry's foremost specialists at the ASBCI tailoring seminar 'Suits you? Industry trends in contemporary tailoring' to share their vision, innovations and concerns with nearly 100 delegates from across the sector.
Delegates heard that while the top end of the 'Savile Row' tailoring world and 'Made in Britain' quality labels are thriving, the mass market is facing an off-shore sourcing crisis as China's tailored exports drop from 70 to 30 per cent as they seek to meet the demands of its increasingly affluent and aspirational indigenous consumers. Combined with increased labour and freight costs, China and other off-shore sourcing hot spots, such as India and Bangladesh, are becoming less attractive and some tailoring suppliers are starting to look at bringing production back-shore to the UK.
Julie King, head of department fashion & textiles at De Montfort University opened the seminar in her capacity as ASBCI event director and welcomed the keynote speaker David Ward, head cutter at Huntsman bespoke tailoring on Savile Row.
He explained how an uncompromising attention to detail and “clothing excellence” has helped Huntsman retain its position as one of Britain's best bespoke tailors. While it continually adapts to customers' requirements it does not follow the dictates of trends: “When it comes to Savile Row, Darwin's theory of evolution doesn't apply”, he said. In 2002, Huntsman did enter into a design partnership with Alexander McQueen in an attempt to: “get hip”, but it was short lived.
Indeed in subsequent years McQueen returned as a customer: “He came back to be influenced, not the influencer”. David Ward believes the future of Savile Row tailors depends on their being: “Cutting edge not Dickensian and dowdy.” To perpetuate the skills base and core values of tailoring Savile Row Bespoke, SRB, was established in 2004.
It set up an academy to run two vocational tailoring apprenticeships; an 18 and a 32 week apprenticeship run in conjunction with London College of Fashion, where young tailors can learn their craft from the masters. He believes this will help tailors succeed regardless of recessions by: “Maintaining the very high standards of craftsmanship that we are famous for.”
Ed Gribbin, president of apparel fit expert, Alvanon Inc showed how he helped Umberto Angeloni, founder and chairman of Uman, the Italian menswear tailor, turn his vision of a men's premium off-the-peg tailored clothing line into a commercial and hugely successful reality. Umberto Angeloni knew he wanted to make his clothes for the wealthy, self-made, 30 to 45 year old, fit but not athletic man but he: “didn't have the first idea how to fit this man.”
Alvanon drew on its database of over 300,000 3D consumer body scans and identified some 3,000 shapes from London, Milan and Paris that “matched” Uman's target consumer profile. From the average shape data Alvanon generated a 3D profile of the 'Uman' man and a physical 'fit' mannequin. The mannequin was such a powerful image that it became the centre piece of Uman's showroom in Milan and its stores around the world. Despite its premium price points Uman has grown “by triple digits in its first three years.”