What can one possibly say about a man like Edward Sexton? A craftsman who has transcended and blurred the lines between bespoke and designer menswear, who continues to dress one of the most glamorous and exclusive client lists in the bespoke world and who has dauntlessly forged his path as a bastion of the Savile Row bespoke establishment for over fifty years, he is without question a living legend. As an enthusiastic fangirl-come-patron of the house myself, I can testify entirely to the philosophy, the skill and the artistry that manifests itself in Sexton’s clothing. Even so, opportunities to really quantify and communicate just what this extraordinary attitude towards the art of tailoring constitutes are few and far between. When we decided upon this series of stories then, it was a chance not to be missed to interview the veritable Godfather of British tailoring.
“There’s only one way to do bespoke. I know that there are computers out there now and bizarre cost-cutting machines and all kinds of modern technology, which is great in some areas of our business, but when you’re dealing with an individual client, having a private one-to-one with him and coming to understand him as a person, nothing can replace the true tradition of handwork. In the same way that we’ll sit with a client to understand his lifestyle and figure out where to guide him with his clothing in person, you can’t replace the human element in good tailoring.
"That’s one of the things I love about this job, you never finish learning and you never know it all."
It’s also important that the craftspeople making the commission understand and appreciate the finished look of that particular garment – the signature elements that you specify for your house style – and that only comes over time. The architecture of the garment also depends upon the client. No two people are the same and you have to be responsive as a craftsman. Maybe you have to rework one pad to get the two shoulders to line up – its engineering. And of course there’s a secret to putting a pair of pads like ours into a garment, because it they are too rigid, they take control of the armholes. And as you do these things for clients you learn more and more, there’s always a new learning experience here. There’s always something new. That’s one of the things I love about this job, you never finish learning and you never know it all.
I try to be as open minded as possible and to blame myself rather than other variables in the process or ‘this, that or the other’. You always have to look within yourself first and foremost, and that’s why when I go into the fitting room, I’m not looking to blame a tailor for an iffy pair of sleeves, or blame the cloth for shrinking or stretching or whatever it might be – I’m looking for my own mistakes. For mine and no one else’s, and asking myself how I can improve. And I will go back to work post-fitting and keep working on the garment until I’m satisfied.