The Golden Mile of Tailoring | Savile Row, London

Savile Row is a shopping street in Mayfair, central London, famous for its traditional men's bespoke tailoring. The term "bespoke" is understood to have originated in Savile Row when cloth for a suit was said to "be spoken for" by individual customers. The short street is termed the "golden mile of tailoring", where customers have included Winston Churchill, Lord Nelson and Napoleon III.

Savile Row was built between 1731 and 1735 as part of the development of the Burlington Estate, and is named after Lady Dorothy Savile, wife of the 3rd Earl of Burlington. It originally ran from Burlington Gardens (then Vigo Lane) to Boyle Street, with houses only on the east side, but in 1937–8 it extended to Conduit Street, and in the 19th century houses were built on the west side.

inside Hardy Amies (below)

The original architectural plan is believed to have been drawn up by Colen Campbell, though Henry Flitcroft appears to have been the main architect of the street, under the supervision of Daniel Garrett, while Nos 1 and 22–23 Savile Row were designed by William Kent, who lived next door in No 2. Dr Livingstone was laid out in state in No 1, when it was the headquarters of the Royal Geographical Society, before being buried in Westminster Abbey.

Initially, the street was occupied by military officers and their wives; William Pitt the Younger was an early resident. Irish-born playwright and MP, Richard Brinsley Sheridan lived at 14 Savile Row for a short time before his death in 1816.

Book sharp suits by Eric Musgrave

During the 19th century, the gentry became concerned with neat dress, and Beau Brummell epitomised the well-dressed man. He patronised the tailors congregated on the Burlington Estate, notably around Cork Street, and by 1803 some were occupying premises in Savile Row. None of those original tailors survive today.

In 1846, Henry Poole is credited as being the 'Founder of Savile Row' after opening a second entrance to his late father's tailoring premises at № 32 Savile Row; however, there were tailors on the Row long before Poole's.

In 1969, Nutters of Savile Row modernised the style and approach of the traditional tailors; a modernisation which continued in the 1990s with the arrival of designers like Richard James, Ozwald Boateng and Timothy Everest. 

With increasing rents and criticisms from Giorgio Armani of falling behind the times, the number of tailors on Savile Row declined to just 19 in 2006. Some tailors had expressed concern in 2005 that an increase in commercial development in the area could lead to the death of the business locally, as tailors — many of whom traditionally manufacture their suits on the premises, in basement studios — could be priced out of the local propertymarket. The Savile Row Bespoke Association was created to address these problems, and to encourage training, organise events and other initiatives. There is frustration among many remaining that even some established British brands use the 'Savile Row' designation on imported clothes.

But despite these problems the Row continues to be a mecca for men around the world who want the very best of tailoring and it also continues to attract new recruits. Some of these may be 'old' recruits, in that they have had long experience in Savile Row before starting their own businesses, while others are younger newcomers attracted by its elegance and craftsmanship.

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