Fashions may come and go, but quality is always in style. And on Savile Row, the elegant London Street synonymous with fine gentlemen's tailoring, some of the most renowned tailors on the planet continue to measure, cut and sew to the highest standards. For the last two centuries, crowned heads and figures at the forefront of style have passed through the unobtrusive doors and into these discreet temples of sartorial good taste. The ritual of being measured for a hand-made suit in this, the golden mile of men's tailoring, is one undergone by such well-known, but diverse, names as Prince Charles, Mick Jagger, Keanu Reeves, Jude Law and Pete Doherty.
There are levels of finesse, of course. At the lower end, many of the traditional establishments now offer ready-made garments, which still meet the exacting standards of fine workmanship, but are less exclusive than a made-to-measure suit. And beyond the simple made-to-measure, there's the bespoke creation. Here, everything, from fabric and colour, lining and cut, waistcoat style, number of buttons, number and position of pockets, cuff design, pocket flaps, lapels and all the other tiny details that make each of these creations a unique work of art, are chosen by the client in discussion with experts in tailoring and all matters sartorial, with the result that the garment is guaranteed to fit the customer perfectly, as well as creating the right impression, whatever the occasion for which it has been chosen.
Henry Poole & Co, Gieves & Hawkes, H. Huntsman & Sons, and Norton & Sons are among the old guard on this small West End street, synonymous with the best in British style. But there are newcomers, as well, such as Richard James and Ozwald Boateng, whose contemporary iconic twist brought a breath of fresh air into traditional tailoring, encouraging the business to reinvent itself. Now, while retaining much of the classic British cut and style, the tailors of Savile Row are no longer relegated to the annals of the past, but offer a contemporary service that appeals to a younger, more modern, audience.
And it's not just suits: just a few steps farther south, you'll find Jermyn Street, where, among the establishments that line the street, is Turnbull & Asser, shirt makers to the gentry since 1885. Their range isn't limited to shirts but includes exclusive ties, of which only 16 of each model are ever sold – though if you want to ensure that your neckwear is absolutely unique, again, you can opt for a bespoke item. The company have provided garments for that eminently stylish British spy, James Bond, and, although it was Ralph Lauren who designed the costumes for the legendary film The Great Gatsby, the shirts worn by Robert Redford on screen were all by Turnbull & Asser: it is at the sheer overwhelming beauty of these, plucked casually from Gatsby's wardrobe, that Daisy, played by Mia Farrow, breaks down in tears.
At the west end of Jermyn Street lies St. James's Street, where Number 9, the erstwhile bachelor pad of that infamous man-about-town, Lord Byron, is now home to the atelier of John Lobb, the world-famous boot- and shoe-maker, a firm founded four generations ago by a lame Cornish farm boy. It's true that you can buy Lobb's shoes in a few of the most exclusive shops around the planet, but if you want a pair made just for you, it is the workshop in St James's Street that you must visit. Although Lobb make women's shoes, they specialise in men's shoes; they hold two Royal Warrants for providing footwear for Prince Charles and Prince Philip, and number Daniel Day-Lewis and Tom Cruise among their customers. Presumably these A-listers can expect to wait less than the usual six months a mere wealthy mortal will wait between visiting the workshop to be fitted and taking possession of their own fine footwear after it has passed through the hands of the team of specialised craftsmen.
Made-to-measure and bespoke Henry Poole & Co (15, Savile Row)Originally a linen drapers in Brunswick Square, then a military tailor, Henry Poole & Co are a true Savile Row icon, and creators, in 1860, of the first smoking jacket – which became the American tux – designed for the then Prince of Wales as a comfortable and less formal alternative to traditional evening dress.
Gieves & Hawkes (1, Savile Row)Formed by the merger of two separate eighteenth-century tailoring houses, Gieves and Hawkes. The uniform worn by Prince Charles for his marriage to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 was made here.
Ozwald Boateng (30, Savile Row)A relative newcomer to the centuries-old London tailoring scene, the vibrant colours and exciting modern treatments of fabric and style break new ground in Savile Row while adhering to the age-old disciplines and etiquette of the craft.
Turnbull & Asser (71-72, Jermyn Street)Gentleman's shirt maker and tailor for a century and a quarter, Turnbull & Asser also have stores in L.A., New York and the City.
John Lobb (9, St. James's Street). Caruso, the great Italian tenor, Hitchcock, Frank Sinatra and the Maharajah of Jaipur are just some of greats whose feet have passed through the hands of this bespoke boot-makers since its founding in 1849.
Further information:VisitBritain.com - UK tourist information