It’s a rare thing in menswear to discover clothing that brings with it a palpable sense of nostalgia and tradition, and yet which also feels particularly current. One might think me mad for comparing the generous lines and gently flowing silhouettes of the finest drape suits to the undulating curves of the statues in the Piazza della Signoria, or the golden locks flowing effortlessly over the shoulders of a Botticelli, but there is unquestionably something effortless about the drape cut. A school of tailoring originating at the turn of the twentieth century, characterised by softness and fullness of shape (as pioneered by London-based Dutch tailor Frederick Scholte) and its literal ‘drapey’ quality, English drape at its best harks back to a former era of glamour, prestige and discreet tastefulness.
I’m pleased to report moreover, that these values continue to form the cornerstone of the drape-school of British tailoring today, at the forefront of which is one particular denizen of soft suiting, Steven Hitchcock. A stalwart of British tailoring, Steven spent years plying his trade under his father, John Hitchcock, former Head Cutter and near-mythical figurehead for Anderson & Sheppard. Indeed, it was his father that introduced him to the art form in the first place – and the drape cut. Even so, despite school holidays spent in Savile Row workrooms, Steven didn’t set out to a be a tailor, “I always liked working with my hands” he quips, “so I started a course in mechanics, but my granddad said ‘why don’t you go and work for your dad for a week?’ I did one day, and saw Elton John pull up and go into Richard James next door and then Dario from Huntsman nearly got run over by Robbie Williams in his Rolls Royce.” Evidently such bizarre events were intriguing to the young Steven: “I just thought ‘this is alright, this’ – living in Enfield you don’t really see much, but if you come round to Savile Row and Piccadilly with all the lights and everything – I just thought it was really interesting.” From there, it was apprentice coatmaking, “my father said the best thing to do was to learn coats” and thence on through nine years of cutting and tailoring at Anderson & Sheppard.
Steven made the momentous decision to leave Anderson & Sheppard in 1999 and never looked back, occupying a number of different premises on Savile Row before settling in the renowned ‘tailors den’ on St George St, sharing the shop with Denman & Goddard. What’s more, having his name over the door has always allowed him to (as he puts it) keep control of his work. “I’m seeing every job through myself. I make three suits a week completely by hand, with a small team. I’m just trying to make the best suits I can with my name on them”, he explains. What he really means, is that as a small independent tailor, he doesn’t send work out to other workshops – all the work is done under his eye, ensuring consistency of make and quality.