It was more than four decades ago that Jeremy Hackett began his career — and his love affair with classic tailoring — by working on Savile Row. Finally his eponymous brand has opened its first bespoke house on the fabled street. As The Rake discovers, it has been worth the wait.
To paraphrase our founder’s description of Ralph Lauren: if Jeremy Hackett didn’t exist, Japan would have to invent him. Yes, Hackett is the quintessential English gentleman, but the Japanese have taken him into their hearts in the same way the Kastom people in Vanuatu have taken in Prince Philip. The deification is certainly justified. Jeremy looks like he’s been carved out of the Union flag, and has been a martinet for British elegance since he first established his eponymous brand in 1983. Jeremy worked on Savile Row when he first moved to London, in the 1970s, which was when he became besotted with the romance of bespoke tailoring and its ability to enhance the essence and identity of the wearer, a power that he wanted to harness in his own brand. Things have come full circle, and while it feels like this should have happened 30 years ago, Hackett has opened a bespoke store on Savile Row — J.P. Hackett. The new maison at No.14 , the former address of the fabled Hardy Amies, is a multi-coloured emporium, stretching up to the firmament with 18th-century portraiture and clothes on rails. It is part members’ club, part sartorial stately home; cosy but grand. Each room flashes with the exuberance and irreverence that Hackett has mastered. Mind you, it could do with a cigar room at the back.
The Rake has worked with Hackett for many years, and in our meetings with the brand an emphasis has been placed on what is referred to as the ‘twist’ — that which is different, incongruous and witty. It explains why we have seen Hackett ad campaigns involving men in rowing boats wearing suits, or the cover of Jeremy’s book Mr. Classic, which has a picture of a man in black tie wearing flip flops. With this in mind, how can this twist be made manifest in the traditional art of bespoke? While the premises on the Row certainly fit the bill, will the tailoring? If so, how? The answer lies with the head cutter. A cutter must take not just the physical attributes of the wearer and give life to a two-dimensional piece of cloth, but most crucially understand their psychological desires. And a head cutter must also build a team of people who can execute this. Of course, when it comes to a client’s final fitting, there must be a sense of validation regarding the expense and a feeling of exhilaration at the fact that, frankly, he looks like the slickest version of himself, and that all the peccadilloes of the body have been accounted for. Hackett have chosen Juan Carlos Benito as their head cutter. Owing to his athletic build and height, as well as his abilities, he is a tremendous advert for what J.P. Hackett bespoke has to offer. Don’t forget, this is a new outfit among the old names. Word of mouth or celebrity patronage isn’t possible right away, so if Juan Carlos is the first glimpse of J.P. Hackett, what do we see? Close and clean: the grey three-piece suit he was wearing when I met him was arrestingly good looking. The sides were elegant and shaped from underneath the arm all the way down to beneath the seat (that extra length emphasising his height), and close to the back. The shapeliness didn’t come across as uncomfortable. Beautiful finishing. My favourite Serbian alumnus of The Rake, Aleks Cvetkovic, told me in advance that not only does J.C. have exquisite finishing, but he also likes to show it off. In other words, when it came time for me to give J.P. Hackett a go, I’d need to choose something more ‘scrunchy’ rather than soft, so we could see J.C.’s work.
First impressions can be deceiving, so I didn’t take my time to wait and see what this new arrival has brought to the Row, a street in need of some good news. In the spirit of honouring Hackett’s irreverence, as well as the previous owners, I picked a high-twist (see what I did there) wool, called Fresco III from Hardy Minnis. When you go for a fresco like this, a 9/10oz bunch, you are making something for warmer seasons, and so I opted for an oatmeal-coloured fabric, largely because it is jam-packed with texture for such a neutral hue. The process of choosing a design had to be collaborative, because on the one hand I wanted to see what J.P. Hackett had to offer, and on the other I like things a certain way — and I wanted to see if they were up to the challenge. Cutting for my slanted right shoulder, exaggerated nape and (alas) the emerging #DadBod should be taken as read (read on anyway), but, for example, whether J.C. was able to cut the length of jacket I like — two inches off the bottom of the seat — with a classic three-button-two formation, side vents and buggy back for the jacket was what I was watching for. Either that, or what he was able to offer me that I might have been able to take on as a new design affectation I hadn’t tried before. All this was dealt with as measurements were taken. The diva demands of yours truly were met with polite accommodation, and I opted for Carlos’s two-button trouser fastener with the wider waistband, which I am perfectly happy to experiment with alongside the essential (as far as I am concerned) double pleats and turn-ups. We even went for lapped seams — quite a lot for a trouser, but it was all in the name of you, dear reader, having a greater understanding of what is on offer. First fittings are always fraught. In my case there’s every chance I put on the jacket and decide that the fabric washes out my fair complexion, or I identify more serious problems, like not having socks to go with it. One thing not to get worked up about is the fit, at least not at this point. In this instance, the back balance was off and needed to have the shoulder and neck unstitched from the basting and re-pinned to take into account (one assumes) my terrible posture. A relationship with a tailor takes time, and I like these moments when working with someone for the first time, as you can feel the bond growing and the familiarity registering. It is peculiar to have someone with an intimate knowledge of my figure to whom I am not married, but it’s probably better that way. J.C. has a playful manner, and when I was on the fence with details like adding three quarters of an inch to the lapel or lapped seams, he encouraged me to take the step. He will do the same for you if he thinks the modifications are worth it.
J.C. is a clinical tailor, and gratifyingly works to the metric system to baffle my imperial familiarity, especially around my waist, which is useful. It isn’t an unfriendly approach, but you get the impression he’s hunting for imperfections to pounce on and fix. The trousers were a little tight around the thighs and seat but all easily adjusted. And because I decided on making the trousers suitable to wear with braces, we brought the rise up three quarters of an inch. After a few weeks of extra work, the final fitting went off without a hitch, and J.C. put into practice his much fabled finishing skills. He told me that he doesn’t necessarily create a suit to the client’s shape, but rather he creates a shape around the client that is both visually arresting and flattering. In my case he has succeeded, creating an almost perfect egg-timer shape that doesn’t feel tight or restrictive. From the beginning I had the opinion that summer suiting needs to be sharp, especially when using crisp fabrics like fresco. A crucial point worth mentioning, and not involving the suit directly, is this: as the fittings progressed, there were ever increasing numbers of suits under construction around the cutting table. It showed me that the bespoke offering of J.P. Hackett is no longer a secret, that people are catching on fast to the fact that, after all these years, Hackett has become perhaps Britain’s most powerful and broad-reaching brand. Those who can see it want a piece of the action, and you should, too. This article featured in Issue 69 of The Rake. Subscribe here.