This week, Savile Row tailor Patrick Grant made his TV presenting debut on BBC2 series Great British Sewing Bee, as Drapers exclusively revealed a new collaboration with Debenhams. Catherine Neilan speaks to the man with grand designs.
The show launched this week – how has it been going down so far?
We’ve tried to play down the promotion a bit – at the end of the day this is a programme about sewing, and it’s been 50 years since there was a programme about sewing, so we are being a bit cautious about it. But so far I’m amazed at how many people are coming out of the closet as sewers.
Why did you get involved in the show?
It’s really important for me to get sewing back on the agenda – we used to have a really important commercial sewing business here in the UK and now there are fewer than 200 tailors here. Italy has managed to keep hold of its tailoring industry but we didn’t, and I think it’s time we looked at that.
Your public exposure has been growing of late – is that part of the reason you have signed up to the Designers at Debenhams collaboration?
I’ve been doing some more commercial things in the past couple of years – like the premium line I do for Barbour – and had other offers along similar lines, but it never seemed quite right. When I started talking with the Debenhams guys my aesthetic and philosophy was taken up instantly.
How much autonomy did you have on the designs?
I didn’t have complete freedom, but I did have the final say on every product – and there have been no disagreements on anything. It’s far better than some projects I’ve worked on. It’s been a real eye-opener to see how good the production side of Debenhams is – you make assumptions about high street production at your peril.
Do you think it will inspire some Debenhams shoppers to seek out your full priced collections?
There is a similarity in the aesthetic between [Debenhams line] Hammond & Co and Nortons – we’ve taken a lot of great British classics and reworked them into a modern look. Hopefully it will bring people back to the idea of quality, simple cutting, elegance, so people will start off with Hammond & Co and then lust after the real thing from Savile Row – although I don’t think that’s what Debenhams would want.
Why did you resurrect the Hammond & Co brand?
Hammond & Co has a lovely sporting young man tailoring history to it, and it’s always easier when you’re starting to build a brand to have an identity that you’re working from. When I started E Tautz I did a similar thing. Having that guidance is always a real plus when starting to think about a collection of clothing, and we are very much driven by spirit of the original.
How do you feel about putting your name on something and then having no control on it once it hits the shops?
Well I’ve been very involved in the shop fits, I’ve worked with the team very extensively to ensure that every piece, down to the coating on the hangers and the wood for the stands and shelves, is right. It’s been a really fresh and interesting challenge to work on that side of things. I have great faith in the VM teams, I’ve seen what they’ve done for the other Designers at Debenhams and know this is a well-run business. It wouldn’t be where it was if it didn’t know how to executive on projects like this.