Lee Marsh is speaking with The Rake about Savile Row traditions and taboos. The highly-sought after tailor - veteran of such illustrious addresses as Gieves & Hawkes, Henry Poole, and H. Huntsman - has been a fixture since the 1990s (when cutting rooms still smelled of tobacco). Since 2013 he has run Lee Marsh Bespoke (its ready-to-wear arm Lee Marsh Blue Label is now available on The Rake).
He muses on one old superstition of whistling in the shop floor. "I don’t know that one," he says. "But today’s tailors are not interested in taboos." Like Edward Sexton, who in the sixties rebelled against the unspoken rules of the Row by dressing rock-stars like Mick Jagger in flamboyant colours at Nutters, Lee Marsh has a vision to update British tailoring - without affecting the Row’s DNA. "I love bespoke suits," he says. "That’s my heritage. But I also love casual wear, so my way of working is to figure out how to marry the two tastefully."
No piece best exemplifies this than Lee’s range of bomber jackets. All hand-cut, and part-handmade, on Savile Row, the jackets have a mid-century elegance to them ("I’m working on bringing that time back!") - but also look and feel masculine and modern. One can imagine Steve McQueen, or Lee’s own personal icon James Dean, wearing it on a Sunday drive to the tennis club. On the same token, they suit a savvy-gent going for lunch in London or New York today – perhaps paired with white trainers and tailored trousers. "My thinking was simple," he says. "My customers love their tailored suits during the week, but when it comes to the weekend struggle to find something casual that still has that tailored look – all whilst remaining comfortable."
Thus, the bombers were born; a product of Savile Row ingenuity and Marsh’s own awareness of the times. Such things may have been considered beneath the Row decades ago, but Lee is keen on experimentation. His diversity of influences extends from the 1950s to British heritage, but also with sportswear brands. ‘I actually appreciate the work done by brands’, he says – an uncommon opinion for vanguards of British tailoring. "Hugo Boss, Kenzo… I think there’s something to learn from everyone." He lists fellow Savile Row tailors and rebels Ozwald Boateng and Sexton as people he admires.