The Savile Row veteran is hoping to recapture former glories with a continental-inspired suiting range.
One of the mainstays of Savile Row, Chester Barrie’s made to measure suits have been worn by stars including Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra and Winston Churchill.
The brand’s commercial heyday was the 1960s, when stockists included Harrods, Selfridges, and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. However, the threads began to unravel when founder Simon Ackerman decided to sell up to Austin Reed in 1978, which then sold it on to menswear business Speciality Retail Group (SRG) in 2002.
After being passed from pillar to post the brand lost direction, but today - as it celebrates its 75th birthday - another set of new owners are on a mission to restore Chester Barrie to its former glory. Japanese supply giant Prominent Europe snapped it up in 2007 and has been working on refining its product. The tailor’s two core suiting blocks have been honed for spring 11 by legendary Savile Row tailor Edward Sexton, who sharpened and improved the fit and cut.
The Classic Chester Barrie suiting block is boxy and fluid in cut, and last year the tailor introduced a Contemporary block with a longer, fitted silhouette. For spring 11 the suiting has a continental feel. New looks include bolder, bigger checked fabrics and lilac and sky blue linen suiting. Other standout pieces include navy mohair suits and formal shirts with extreme cutaway collars.
The relationship with Prominent has helped put Chester Barrie back on the radar of some key menswear retailers - Prominent already supplies the likes of Austin Reed with some of its own label shirting. These relationships are helping Chester Barrie slowly build its distribution back up. It is sold out of the Chester Barrie store at 19 Savile Row and from one concession in Austin Reed on London’s Regent Street, while diffusion brand Chester by Chester Barrie is available in six Austin Reed stores and in all John Lewis stores - it is one of the department store chain’s best-performing tailoring brands.
“If our customer wants to trade up from our own brand suits, Chester by Chester is the first one they go to,” says Tom Saunders, assistant buyer formalwear at John Lewis. “It’s a commercial block and looks the part, and it has the Savile Row heritage customers trust.”
At the moment the brand’s distribution is focused on multiples but it is keen to recruit premium indies for the core Chester Barrie range, where prices start at £30 for a shirt and £215 for a suit.
Prominent has ambitions to turn Chester Barrie into a global luxury fashion house and plans to build on its luxury positioning in Japan while trading off its British heritage.
Chester Barrie 020 7734 4577