That small street in London’s Mayfair, which is world-famous for tailoring, started life between 1731 and 1735. Constructed as part of the new Burlington Estate, it was named for Lady Savile and was originally a residential area, but by 1805, the first tailoring firm had taken residency and the bespoke trade flourished through the 19th century. The proximity of Savile Row to the Royal Court provided a market for robes, uniforms and all matter of finery, from formal to hunting dress.
Savile Row as we know it today, however, began with Henry Poole, which moved to No. 37 in 1846 from its original premises on Old Burlington Street. The tailoring house, which specialised in military wear, was known for its innovation and is credited with creating the first dinner jacket, for none other than King Edward VII, while he was the Prince of Wales. Renown for Savile Row continued to grow over the next century, which saw new and already established houses open up shop on the street: Norton & Sons opened in the 1860s; Dege & Skinner opened at No. 10 in 1865; Anderson & Sheppard hung up a sign at No. 13 in 1906; Hawkes & Co, which later became Gieves & Hawkes, moved to No. 1 in 1912; H. Huntsman & Sons moved to No. 15 in 1919; T & F French merged with existing Savile Row tailor A.H. Kilgour in 1923.
While Savile Row is entrenched in tradition, the London address has had its fair share of disruptors. At the turn of the 20th century, the structural style of the previous two centuries was challenged by Frederick Scholte and Anderson & Sheppard, who created and championed what was to become known as English drape: natural shoulders, a high armhole and a generous vertical roll through the chest. In 1969, Nutter’s of Savile Row opened at 35a; the first new firm for generations, it was the first shop on the Row to have a window display and blended contemporary design with top-drawer craftsmanship. With the patronage of rock stars and a thirst for publicity, Tommy Nutter – together with Edward Sexton, Roy Chittleborough and Joseph Morgan – created a brand with an appeal beyond the traditional Savile Row customer. “We were the original designers”, explains Sexton. Before fashion brands existed and could create seasonal collections, new styles and silhouettes were created bespoke. Archive pieces from Savile Row have influenced, and are still influencing fashion. Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford and Hackett have all looked to Savile Row for style inspiration.