Life on Savile Row has inspired the tailor to write his memoirs. Stephen Spear hears about his innocuous start and meteoric rise.
You’ve written a book about your career on Savile Row. Why?
A customer from the US suggested it – Fred Seidel, a poet from New York who is pretty well known in literary circles. I had a look around and there were a few excellent books, like James Sherwood’s [The London Cut] and The Savile Row Story [by Richard Walker] but nothing of this ilk – something telling what it is like to learn and work here.
How did you find time to write?
Well, it’s impossible to write it here in Savile Row because the work is intense, so four years of weekends and holidays have been interrupted.
Do you have lots of glamorous customers to write about?
Well, the core of our custom is what you’d expect – the chief executives and the bankers – but there are also some celebrities, sports and music stars.
What is it like working with them?
Well, when I was 18 or 19 and first working on The Row it was odd to suddenly be working with Gregory Peck, Rex Harrison and even Henry Kissinger. But you learn to let the relationship grow naturally – let it come from them, you can’t push it.
Was it the glamour that made you choose this career?
No, my father spotted an advert in the Telegraph for a cutter at [Savile Row tailor] Huntsman. I’d no idea what that was but I applied and, after failing to turn up for interviews at banks and building sites, was frogmarched along by my father.
Obviously you liked it?
I loved it straight from the off. It was like an old-style military apprenticeship and I loved working for the best company, which it was very obvious that Huntsman was. There was something regimental about it and the standards were precise and high.
What did you start off doing?
I was a striker, who cuts the cloth around the patterns made by the master cutter. But I was also a dogsbody, getting cigarettes and cucumber sandwiches or whatever else anybody wanted. I learned how to cut, how to treat customers, how to start your own book. Everything. But it took a long time to get my first own customer.
You have plenty of your own now. What made you launch your own tailoring business?
The impetus was the takeover of Huntsman, and at the age of 35 I felt I’d gone as far as I could anyway, so with [business partner] Ben Lishak we started up.
What was your vision?
The quality of work – the cut, make and service had to be paramount but we also wanted to do it in a setting that wouldn’t intimidate people of my generation.
So do you follow trends?
We’re in the lucky position that to some extent we help create the trends. I stay in touch with fashion too, but a lot of the value of a bespoke suit is its longevity. Look at this [Anderson pulls a 1sb checked jacket from the rail] – it’s from 1983, not that you’d know it. It’s come in for a minor repair and the owner still wears it – that’s value for money.
Which is your favourite fashion era? I like Hollywood in the 1960s, the Rat Pack era – that was pretty glamorous.
What brand do you like to wear? I like [denim brand] Replay, and have been loyal for about 20 years.
What was the last piece of clothing you bought? A pair of GJ Cleverley loafers from the shop in the Royal Arcade in London.
How do all the Savile Row shops get on? We’re pretty friendly. We get on particularly well with Henry Poole – they come in and visit quite a bit.
- Richard Anderson is the managing director and co-founder of the eponymous men’s tailoring business. His book, Bespoke Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed, is published by Simon and Schuster