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A Row of Opportunity: Savile Row's pivot towards RTW

post #1 of 192
Thread Starter 
http://www.businessoffashion.com/2014/01/row-opportunity-part-1.html

http://www.businessoffashion.com/2014/01/row-opportunity-part-2.html

A very well-written piece, and I'd be curious to have a discussion around this. Let's save the knee-jerk iGent reaction of an indignant harrumph for our cousins over at the LL, and discuss how SR can produce global brands that compete against the likes of Brioni, Zegna etc.

These business cannot simply be preserved in aspic, and it remains a shame that Italian pretenders are making a killing, while SR just ambles along.

While I imagine we all agree that the core bespoke offering should remain untouched, I think it's still possible to greatly move into RTW via various models:

- Hermes / Chanel: Not much bespoke / couture, but the majority of their offerings preserve the same artisanal ethos of the original make (save the knickknacks and the H-branded belts)
- Huntsman: Screw bespoke, RTW here we come! Highlight the much lauded 'heritage' of the brand while aggresively moving into RTW
- Poole: The saintly bespoke offering remains in its original form in London, but partnerships are stuck in foreign markets
- Anderson: Bespoke all the way, but the famous brand is used to sell accessories, knitwear etc. through company-owned stores
- Norton: Norton remains bespoke, while its fellow SR sub-brand, E. Tautz, moves into RTW
- Gieves / Kilgour: The bespoke is preserved but not highlighted, and an effort is made to expand on the brand's RTW selection (particularly in warmer climes)

I like the A&S approach, but I think a melding of the A&S and Gieves / Kilgour strategy would be great to see. I have no overarching objection to the Gieves / Kilgour strategy, except that they seem to be kicking out their heritage by showcasing their RTW line in these glitzy, anonymous storefronts that are found everywhere from Ginza to Fifth Avenue. More importantly, their RTW selection often appears to be competing head-on against Zegna and the like, without even a nod towards their true heritage.

Gramm
post #2 of 192

harrumph.

post #3 of 192
I think it's really, really hard, although not impossible, to thread the needle and have a thriving RTW business and maintain a high quality bespoke operation that earns the Savile Row prices it charges. There's only so much energy and attention the company has, and the RTW brand may dilute the cache' of the bespoke operation, at which point the bespoke operation has been completely sold out.

I can't really think of any company that does both true bespoke and RTW tailored clothing extremely well. Places like Liverano and Rubinacci have some clothing available RTW, but they seem to do better business with the accessories, which isn't quite as hard to maintain. Huntsman at least seems to be letting the bespoke operation continue on as ever before, and says all the right things, but it hasn't been long since they were bought and started RTW. I have heard some good things about Smalto RTW and their bespoke operation might be the most expensive in Paris, so they might be the most likely candidate. But trying to compete successfully with both Tom Ford and A&S is extremely ambitious IMHO.
post #4 of 192
I think it throws up some interesting questions, Savil Row is known throughout the world for its suits, but how many average punters could actually name a single Row tailor? The west end of London is some of if not the most expensive real estate in the world, a few years ago the world record office rent was set there. I can see it changing, where brands have a show room there but a lot of the actual work is done elsewhere. A bit like Jerymn street. You have to sell a lot of suits, even at £4k plus to cover your rent, though admittedly I expect a lot of the old school guys own their buildings.

My London office is on Cork street so I'm there quite a bit and to be honest, even as someone who is very interested in tailoring it doesn't hold much fascination to me, I don't don't think they all need to co-locate. Maybe it will take one of the independents to make the first step. It would be a shame though given the heritage. The Row will just turn into another dull high end tourist destination like Bond Street.

Just some random thoughts.
post #5 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by jamiemcp View Post

I can see it changing, where brands have a show room there but a lot of the actual work is done elsewhere.

This would not really be a change - it's been going on since the beginning of Savile Row itself. Plenty of work was always done in other, cheaper, parts of London. But there also used to be more work done on Savile Row. There used to be just a lot more suits made by Savile Row. I can't remember the numbers off the top of my head, but Poole for instance used to make a huge number of suits a year, probably as much as the entire Row makes every year now.
post #6 of 192

Now that I have had time to read the article, I am more dismayed. There are appropriate ways to move forward, but idiotic buzzwords and jargon like "total solution dressing" just show the shallow consumerist nature of this. And Brandelli is a clown.

post #7 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by jamiemcp View Post

 The Row will just turn into another dull high end tourist destination like Bond Street.

 

Yep.

post #8 of 192
There's a pretty good BBC series on Savile Row that's on YouTube somewhere that goes over some of these issues too. Lots of interviews with people from various SR houses.
post #9 of 192
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post

There's a pretty good BBC series on Savile Row that's on YouTube somewhere that goes over some of these issues too. Lots of interviews with people from various SR houses.

Is that the one from 4-5 years ago? I have all the episodes saved on a zip file. If someone can teach me how to link those, I'll happily throw them up here.
post #10 of 192
I think Savile Row houses having robust ready-to-wear lines is a very good thing. In particular, it helps subsidize a costly bespoke operation that is likely otherwise untenable Mayfair right now. Grammerton Cleric - I would modify your list above.
- Hermes has an enormous amount of bespoke. In the past, that bespoke has been a pass through to another Parisian bespoke operation (notably Cifonelli and Camps) but now everything is in-house and made in Pantin. It is frightfully expenses ($1100 for a single shirt) but the standard is high.
- Huntsman: successful ready to wear has been part of Huntsman for years. The change in ownership has redesigned a line, but a notable line has existed for a while now. I wouldn't confuse the issues that are arising out of Roubi's ownership as issues with having a ready to wear line. That isn't the problem.
- Kilgour: Brandelli made drastic changes to the bespoke operation during his tenure at Kilgour. The most damaging in my mind was the entry level bespoke, which was supposedly cut in London but then assembled in hong kong or shanghai. The end result was something horrendous that could be touted as Kilgour bespoke, but which didn't fit properly and which the kilgour people really weren't interested in getting right in my estimation. That was a disaster.

I think Gieves is very impressive. They have one of the best cutters in the world in Taub, who turns out incredible bespoke garments, and they have a stylish ready-to-wear operation that could only be attached by a curmudgeon who just wants to say "it isn't what it used to be."
post #11 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by agjiffy View Post

I think Savile Row houses having robust ready-to-wear lines is a very good thing.

 

100% yes.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by agjiffy View Post



I think Gieves is very impressive. They have one of the best cutters in the world in Taub, who turns out incredible bespoke garments, and they have a stylish ready-to-wear operation that could only be attached by a curmudgeon who just wants to say "it isn't what it used to be."

100% no.

post #12 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by gegarrenton View Post

100% no.

Really? Who is better than Taub?
post #13 of 192
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by agjiffy View Post

I think Savile Row houses having robust ready-to-wear lines is a very good thing. In particular, it helps subsidize a costly bespoke operation that is likely otherwise untenable Mayfair right now. Grammerton Cleric - I would modify your list above.
- Hermes has an enormous amount of bespoke. In the past, that bespoke has been a pass through to another Parisian bespoke operation (notably Cifonelli and Camps) but now everything is in-house and made in Pantin. It is frightfully expenses ($1100 for a single shirt) but the standard is high.
- Huntsman: successful ready to wear has been part of Huntsman for years. The change in ownership has redesigned a line, but a notable line has existed for a while now. I wouldn't confuse the issues that are arising out of Roubi's ownership as issues with having a ready to wear line. That isn't the problem.
- Kilgour: Brandelli made drastic changes to the bespoke operation during his tenure at Kilgour. The most damaging in my mind was the entry level bespoke, which was supposedly cut in London but then assembled in hong kong or shanghai. The end result was something horrendous that could be touted as Kilgour bespoke, but which didn't fit properly and which the kilgour people really weren't interested in getting right in my estimation. That was a disaster.

I think Gieves is very impressive. They have one of the best cutters in the world in Taub, who turns out incredible bespoke garments, and they have a stylish ready-to-wear operation that could only be attached by a curmudgeon who just wants to say "it isn't what it used to be."

I agree w/ some of the above:

1. Re: Hermes, while they do offer bespoke products (clothing, leather etc.), it comprises a very very small portion of their top-line. And that was kinda my point - it may not comprise much, but the majority of their RTW offerings haven't been substantially diluted (i.e. still made to a very high standard forgiving the silly cufflinks, H-belts etc.)
2. Huntsman has had RTW for awhile, but it has never been successful (If the Richard Anderson book, and Roubi's post-acquisition press releases are to be believes)
3. I applaud Brandelli for introducing the Asian bespoke option - it was a better entry-level option that Cheshire MTM (which others offer) and he still continued to keep the British bespoke in-house. Sorry to hear that you had a poor experience, but at least two experienced customers that I know spoke very highly of it.
4. Agreed - I like Taub, and think he does great work. The majority of their RTW isn't bad either. My pt was just that it's broadly indistinguishable from Italian RTW. Shouldn't a Savile Row RTW selection offer tweed odd jackets, suits in more interesting fabrics and designs than Super 120s navy (2-button, notch!), etc. etc.?
post #14 of 192
There are more and/or cheaper factories in Italy. Huntsman RTW also made in Italy. I would guess this affects the styling on some level. But IIRC Huntsman will offer some RTW in Huntsman tweeds, some with the house 1-button cut, etc..
post #15 of 192
Sadly I don't think any of the Savile Row houses have enough of a distinctive brand or identity outside of tailoring circles that they can extend to establish or sustain mass market RTW operations.
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