Street aligned to ‘slowest fashion’ approach that has gained greater traction in recent years says KATE HOLTON
On Savile Row, the London street long celebrated for turning out sharp suits, tailors have been racing to prepare the red and gold uniforms that featured in Britain’s first coronation for 70 years, adorned with the new insignia of King Charles.
The salesrooms have been busy too, as customers arrive to collect such uniforms as well as suits for people who were guests on Saturday for one of the country’s most elaborate ceremonial occasions.
Savile Row tailors have dressed kings, queens and their offspring for more than 150 years, and their craft gets a particular boost from long-time customer Charles – a lover of the countryside who also champions the farmers, weavers and mills producing much of the fabric.
“It’s a real honour,” said Jules Walker, military tailor at Gieves & Hawkes who was due to be on hand from 4am on the morning of the coronation to make any final adjustments. “We’re all working hard. There’s a lot to do.
“On the day it’s all going to look fantastic. We’ll all be able to see our work and be proud of it. It’s an historic event. So people will be looking at this for years and years,” he said before the ceremony started.
Previous royal events, such as last year’s Platinum Jubilee celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne or the 2018 wedding of Prince Harry to his American wife Meghan, have led to a spike in interest in the craftsmanship of Savile Row, where archives record the measurements and orders of venerable customers including Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens and Cary Grant.
Troops dressed in bright red wool uniforms with elaborate gold braid are an essential part of British pageantry, seen on the streets of the capital last year for both the queen’s jubilee celebration and then just months later, for her vast funeral procession in September.
The changing of a monarch requires insignia to be replaced, with Charles’ Tudor crown, buttons and royal cypher – or monogram – stitched on to the ceremonial uniforms that will be on display among the 6,000-strong military procession.
William Skinner at the Dege & Skinner tailoring house said the uniforms last for decades, and that the focus on repairing and refreshing the outfits rather than making new ones was in line with Charles’ well-known regard for the environment.
The big names on the street, such as Gieves, Henry Poole, Dege & Skinner, Anderson & Sheppard and others all boast royal warrants, confirming that they dress the royal family among their clients.
In return they have had to steadily improve their environmental record, supplying energy bills and invoices to show how they have reduced their use of packaging or lighting.
Henry Poole, credited with creating the dinner jacket, or tuxedo, has held a British royal warrant since the 1860s when it supplied Queen Victoria. Simon Cundey, the latest member of the family to run the business, said customers in Britain and around the world were drawn by the royal warrant.
“The sustainability side of that is a major part of what Savile Row has always had,” he said.
King Charles, who has been photographed wearing the same double-breasted suits that he has owned for decades, has long been an advocate for the “slowest fashion” approach that has gained greater traction in recent years.
“I’m one of those people who hate throwing anything away,” he told British Vogue in 2020. “Hence, I’d rather have them maintained, even patched if necessary, than to abandon them.”
Anda Rowland, vice chairman of the king’s tailor, Anderson & Sheppard, said Charles had provided a “sort of halo effect” for British menswear, with international television crews asking about his approach to sustainable fashion.
“It ticks a lot of boxes in the modern world, even though it’s extremely traditional,” she said. “And we still do things and train in the same way that we did when we were founded in 1906”.
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