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The Drapers Interview: Timothy Everest

Twenty-five years since the launch of his eponymous brand, Timothy Everest is ready to bring his new ready-to-wear collection to the streets of east London.

Behind the door of a red-brick Georgian townhouse on Elder Street in London’s Spitalfields lays the beating heart of Timothy Everest’s tailoring empire. Famous for his desire to shun the stuffy traditionalism of Savile Row, Everest chose east London as the home of his brand, which 25 years on spans made-to-measure, ready-to-wear and bespoke.

Timothy Everest's Elder Street atelier

Timothy Everest’s Elder Street atelier

The three-storey Spitalfields atelier opens onto the Yellow Room, a bright reception room bathed in sunlight and the soft sound of jazz. Dressed in a casual stone-coloured suit, white shirt and blue pocket square, the bespoke tailor relaxes into a vintage leather sofa as he ponders how the 25th anniversary has inspired his latest move into ready-to-wear and the forthcoming opening of a new store in September.

“I wanted to think about what I would do if I were starting my brand again 25 years later,” Everest muses. “Having educated people about contemporary tailoring, I wondered how I could educate that same consumer into having things made that were more casual, but had a touch of tailoring.

“I thought, why couldn’t you go into a shop and see the most amazing Harrington jacket along with a selection of six fabrics, with linings, zips and buttons. Why couldn’t you have something made like that? So that’s the idea behind the shop.”

Located on Shoreditch’s Redchurch Street the new store will straddle the mix of casual brands and premium designer shops already trading on the street, including APC, Sunspel and Club Monaco.

The ground floor will showcase the Timothy Everest menswear ready-to-wear collection, now in its second season for spring 16. Upstairs rolls of denim, corduroy, wool melton and tweed will sit alongside iconic pieces such as classic chore jackets or parkas. Here the store assistants will act like tailors, measuring up customers and explaining how they could create their own individual pieces based on the ready-to-wear staples. These unique garments will be manufactured by a factory in north London, the name of which Everest is unwilling to disclose.  

“Our new store will have product for people who are grazing the area, whether they’re coming from west London, Tokyo or Madrid,” Everest explains. “There will also be things for young people who want to be part of the brand, even though they might not be able to afford everything.”

At the fashionable formal end, Everest has been involved in ready-to-wear projects on and off for a number of years, but he feels the timing was never right and withdrew from this side of the business eight years ago. However, now the tailor believes consumers are showing a preference for limited edition items with real provenance and this attitude, combined with a burgeoning sense of individualism, means 2015 is the right time for ready-to-wear.

The growth potential of this new revenue stream is an attractive prospect. Currently made-to-measure and ready-to-wear represent 70% of the business, with bespoke at 30%. While Everest declined to reveal his profits for 2015, he confirmed combined turnover for his bespoke and licensing business is £4m in 2014/15, up from £3.8m the previous year. As the ready-to-wear business is new for autumn 15 figures are currently unavailable, however over the next few years Everest expects turnover will significantly increase as the brand expands globally.

Timothy Everest ready-to-wear collection.

Timothy Everest ready-to-wear collection.

The collection is focused on key pieces that can be worn in different ways, so customers could have the same jacket in a wool cloth Melton , medium-weight corduroy or a lightweight technical cotton. “We want to take really casual pieces and dress them up, rather than what we did in the past – taking formal items and dressing them down.”

The debut autumn 15 range comprises 25 pieces including a bomber jacket, coyote fur-trimmed hooded parka and travel mac. For spring 16, Everest has added more tailoring to get the balance right. The expanded 32-piece collection spans more formal garments like an indigo weave chore jacket to casual pieces including a mesh polo and shorts in a double face blue cloth.

Spring 16 wholesale prices range from £34 to £85 for knitwear (retail £48 to £120), £60 for shirts (retail £150), £60 to £90 for trousers (retail £150 to £225), £159.60 to £199.60 for jackets (retail £399 to £499) and £119.60 to £190 for outerwear (retail £299 to £475). From September, in the UK the ready-to-wear range will be sold in Timothy Everest’s stores in east London and Mayfair, as well as online and exclusively at premium Leeds-based independent Lambert’s Yard.

Internationally the autumn 15 collection will be wholesaled in the US, Germany, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, France and South Korea. Current stockists include J Crew, German premium menswear independent Volls and Zurich-based retailer Union Island. Everest hopes to expand internationally with the spring 16 collection, although the number of wholesale accounts is currently unconfirmed.

This international focus is echoed by Theo Karpathios, company chief executive and SuperGroup co-founder, who shares a 50/50 equity stake in the business with Everest. “I wanted to be involved with Timothy Everest because it is a true British luxury brand, which deserves to be developed internationally.”

“The brand has a great story based on the tailoring craft and real provenance. Timothy’s attention to detail is unrivalled. It is based on traditional tailoring, but he is doing it differently at an accessible price point. We have aspirations to expand internationally, starting with UK retail and ecommerce, along with strategic wholesale. We believe this is a great premise for building a modern British brand.”

Another ambition is to work more in womenswear. The current split across the business is 95% menswear, 5% womenswear, which is currently focused on bespoke work for high-profile clients including artist Tracey Emin and actress Tilda Swinton.

However, by spring next year ready-to-wear womenswear will be available. “I see a place for womenswear on the casual side, starting off with a ‘boyfriend’s wardrobe’ idea of key staples,” Everest explains. Female customers will be invited to try out new garments and if the feedback is good a small run of 25 pieces will be manufactured.

Everest has always had a collaborative approach to his work. His latest idea is to work with the local community for his One Square Mile Club, which will see him partnering with young east London artists and designers to get them involved with the new store, although no names have been released as yet. Everest is also known for his high-profile collaborations across the fashion industry with the likes of young fashion retailer Superdry and high street stalwart Marks & Spencer.

The 13-year collaboration with M&S began in 1999 when Everest was appointed as creative consultant overseeing the men’s Autograph, Sartorial and Luxury tailoring collections.

This period also crossed over with his work at London-based heritage tailoring company Daks. Having joined the business in 1999 as consultant creative director, Everest was appointed group board creative director in 2000 to oversee the company’s global restructure. He left the role in 2003.

The tie up with M&S ended later in 2012, after which point Everest switched to young fashion retailer Superdry, unveiling his debut collection of classic coats and suits for autumn 2012. Over the next two years he branched out into womenswear, before the collaboration ended for autumn 14.

“After a lot of collaboration, we’re concentrating on what would be good for ourselves,” Everest explains. “We’re being more selective about the collaborations and thinking what would be good for the people we work with and us.”

Everest has always found a way to do things differently. Born in Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire, in 1981 aged 20 he answered an advert in the Evening Standard that read: ‘Boy wanted on Savile Row’. The advert had been placed by legendary tailor Tommy Nutter.

“I didn’t really want a job in tailoring, I wanted a job in fashion,” he recalls. “I thought it’ll be boring. But then I met this chap called Tommy and I thought actually you’re really cool and quite fashionable.”

A couple of months later and Everest was dressing Elton John for his world tour and hanging out with the likes of Freddie Mercury and Joan Collins. After five years with Nutter, there followed spells at menswear designer Malcolm Levine on London’s Chiltern Street and as an MTV stylist, before Everest had joined television commercial production company Ridley Scott Associates in 1987. Dressing actors for television commercials provided him the insight that would inspire his work dressing stars in films including Mission Impossible V and James Bond film Spectre, both set for release this year.

Upstairs in Timothy Everest's Elder Street atelier

Upstairs in Timothy Everest’s Elder Street atelier

It was in 1990, however, that Everest discovered the derelict house on Spitalfields’ Princelet Street that would become the original home of his New Bespoke Movement. Supported by tailoring contemporaries Ozwald Boateng and Richard James, the movement sought to revitalise bespoke by breaking away from the traditionalism of Savile Row and bringing a designer mindset to tailoring. Everest’s democratised approach caught on, so much so that in 1997 he was photographed alongside Liam Gallagher and Patsy Kensit as one of the Cool Britannia set for Vanity Fair’s iconic ‘London Swings Again’ issue.

Fellow bespoke tailor Charlie Allen is a longstanding admirer of Everest’s maverick attitude. “Even though both of us trained on Savile Row, neither of us ever liked the stuffiness associated with it. Timothy does what most tailors would love to do, mix design and tailoring. He is one of the more seriously taken tailors in the business because his work has the right amount of humour within the design to keep it fresh. He also has that knack of translating the British look internationally.”

For Everest, there has never been a master plan for success. “I wanted to be a racing driver but rebuilding the bottom end of a two-stroke engine on a kart was less appealing than getting dressed up and chasing girls,” he says simply. And on that note Everest leaves the atelier as he arrived, driving his vintage royal blue Alfa Romeo convertible off into the sunset.

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