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

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Grammaton Cleric, Apr 4, 2014.

  1. gegarrenton

    gegarrenton Senior member

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    I really don't think they are in danger of losing their core customer personally, by all accounts there has been an actual uptick there since the 90's. I'm sure Reeves can shed some light on what he has seen over that time period.
     
  2. Grammaton Cleric

    Grammaton Cleric Senior member

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    Last edited: Apr 7, 2014
  3. David Reeves

    David Reeves Affiliate Vendor Affiliate Vendor

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    This is certainly an interesting topic, but that article we are looking at it, could have been from 5 years ago, 10 years ago or 20 years ago. Certainly when I started in this business at 19 (I'm 35 now) people were talking like this.

    I think they just need to F!@#*%g do it. The amount of time my friends in the business from London visit me in NYC and tell me that they would like to do a NY store, I always encourage them but theres always a "but". I think they just need to invest time and money and yes, take risks, I think fundamentally there is an aversion to this, perhaps even culturally in England now.

    having also worked for "big" international brands as well I can tell you that they don't have it easy. Its a tough, tough business. It sounds very much that "Savile Row" is bemoaning the success of these international brands but by the same token they want to be these brands, I'm sorry but I don't think you can do both. You have to give the Armani's of the world credit and respect.

    My advice would be to learn from them, not just dismiss them as "Johnny come lately's" , learn to play the game that they invented and then beat them at it.

    Savile Row is often dismissive, envious and contemptuous of the big brands but they are also intimidated by them, they need to shut up and toughen up if they want to play the game.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2014
  4. gegarrenton

    gegarrenton Senior member

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    And that's pretty much a worst case scenario in my eyes.
     
  5. Grammaton Cleric

    Grammaton Cleric Senior member

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    You’ve said this continously, but I don’t think anyone here is suggesting they carbon-copy the LVMH / Kering model. Rather it’s a discussion of how they can expand their business in a pragmatic fashion that doesn’t erode the original ethos of the bespoke offering.
     
  6. Grammaton Cleric

    Grammaton Cleric Senior member

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    This is really what it kinda boils down to.
     
  7. Blackhood

    Blackhood Senior member

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    It is/has. Unfortunately the way the brand is structured (they also own Richard James) it isn't really built for expansion. The quality is very high for the money, and I have many suits from them at the £500 mark that out-rank stuff like Ralph Lauren Purple Label (which they produced for a time), but it would take a miracle for them to role out a genuine retail presence.
     
  8. Blackhood

    Blackhood Senior member

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    Part of the problem in my experience is the cost of the risk. Buying an SR firm is tough, and there are a finite number left. They run on tight margins (for clothing makers, at least), and many of them are hundreds of years old.

    Its one thing to spend £10m buying a firm and another £5m making a sensible effort at RTW (shops in proper places like Paris, Hong Kong & New York), and losing it because you didn't do a good job. The only person who wants to make this stuff work will not want to risk killing their 200 year old business. The ones that don't care could make their money go a lot further in a different domain.
     
  9. David Reeves

    David Reeves Affiliate Vendor Affiliate Vendor

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    When did they acquire RJ? You are thinking of Richard James not Richard James Weldon?
     
  10. Blackhood

    Blackhood Senior member

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    Richard James Mayfair, not the bespoke operation across the road. Genuinely terrible fused RTW suits made mostly for the House of Fraser and John Lewis markets.
     
  11. archetypal_yuppie

    archetypal_yuppie Senior member

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    Same goes for stuck-in-the-1800's English frazzle-toothed fops. But not all English are so, just as not all Americans are so.

    It's funny when the client of a business says the business shouldn't worry about profit, by the way.

    My two cents:

    1) The # of firms seems to be fairly stable, so profitability probably isn't that bad. No one's getting rich, but tailors shouldn't expect to (there's no scalability).

    2) If and when Savile Row rents get too expensive for #1 to remain true, realize that tailoring is the core product, and ditch the too-expensive addresses. Oh the horror! Things change, deal with it.
     
  12. Geezer

    Geezer Senior member

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    The trends I have seen in 20-odd years as an observer and very minor customer:

    - the slow demise of the lesser-known houses (there is now only one proper bespoke tailor on the left side of the Row, - Davies); including through mergers;

    - the continuing success of the big names (Poole, Huntsman, A&S);

    - the rise of low-overhead SR-level bespoke tailors (S Hitchcock, Steed, some of the Soho crowd);

    - the emergence of only one new big name traditional bespoke tailor in decades (R Anderson, who has marketed himself brilliantly); Patrick Grant's Norton may be doing this, but my jury is still out;

    - the emergence of "designer" SR (Boateng, S Hart, and, in my book, R James: despite what David Reeves says, I recall when he started out in around 1992-4, and he was pushing Paul Smith-esque quirky Brit RTW, not bespoke);

    - the continuing success of the G&H model of gentleman's outfitter trading on past bespoke reputation; but that may be unique;

    - ever-increasing rents;

    - fewer skilled tailors (this may be changing, but I'm not persuaded);

    - the rise of online MTM, travelling (usually Asian) bespoke, premium RTW, and even a branch of Rubinacci on Mount St: in one respect, increased competition, in another more "bridges" to SR.

    My fear is that most SR houses are not big enough to survive as they currently are, but not small enough to survive as "artisans" while paying Row rents.

    SR has to be a luxury good. The late 20th Century Huntsman model may still have merit, updated for an age of global travel and the internet, the elements being: an excellent product, limited high-quality RTW as a cash-generator, deliberate positioning as "the best" (Huntsman has always been known as "the most expensive", which many equate with "the best"), heavy marketing as "the best", and (whether physically or on the web), go to your customers and make life easy for them: HH going to the US in the 50s/60s built them a remarkable customer base, while people whose names we have forgotten still expected the rich Americans to come and visit them in London (and come back for three fittings).

    The future I see for SR is a small number of global bespoke brands, charging a premium and aggresively making their case; a lot of SR shops selling to tourists on their location, more A&F style interlopers, and an increasing number of bespoke artisans making great garments in front rooms or small shops in easily-reached but lower-rent premises. The first and the last highly mobile, and increasingly enabled by the internet.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2014
  13. archetypal_yuppie

    archetypal_yuppie Senior member

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    With tailors/cutters imported from Southern Europe / Asia.
     
  14. dopey

    dopey Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Who is stealing customers from Savile Row? On the internet, it is Rubinacci and maybe some other Italians. Plus the independent refugee cutters like Steed or Mahon. Maybe reeves takes a few. They also lose customers, I am sure, to local tailors like Despos or Corvato or logasail. But I don't think they are losing customers to RTW brands. Their biggest competition is sweatpants and jeans.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2014
  15. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    Italians and jeans are stiff competition.
     

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