Savile Row tailors open doors into exclusive world

Wed Jun 20, 2012 10:20am EDT
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By Li-mei Hoang

LONDON (Reuters) - Michael Skinner and a tiny coterie of colleagues are intimately familiar with the physical details of rock stars, royalty and some of Britain's most famous historical figures.

But don't expect him to start dishing out the gossip, because absolute discretion is a professional hallmark of the tailors on Savile Row in London, whose customers over some two centuries of service stretch from famed military hero Horatio Nelson to Michael Jackson and Britain's Prince William.

The now master cutter at Dege & Skinner collected one of his most favorite anecdotes at the tender age of 18, when he was given the task of dressing then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill for Queen Elizabeth's 1953 coronation.

"It was an amazing thing...being at Westminster Abbey and actually having to dress the great man," Skinner told Reuters on a visit to the Row in honor of London's first ever standalone event for men's fashion over the weekend.

Skinner has spent a lifetime on Savile Row, a street known around the world for the bespoke clothing made by a handful of traditional firms such as Dege & Skinner, Gieves & Hawkes, H. Huntsman & Sons and Henry Poole & Co as well as modern designers like Ozwald Boateng and E. Tautz.

The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Queen Elizabeth as well as Admiral Horatio Nelson and the man who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington, have all had clothes, robes, suits and military uniforms from the tailors gathered here.

Skinner who runs one of the last remaining family-owned businesses left on Savile Row with his son William, opened their showrooms and workshops to the public as part of last weekend's first London Collections Men fashion event.

"We're not a sort of hocus pocus bunch of people behind frosted windows. We're actually pretty decent people who do a pretty decent job doing our damnedest to make really nice clothes and that's what gives us the buzz," Skinner said.   Continued...

A man passes a Savile Row sign, in London August 21, 2010. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor