After receiving an email from The Chap, detailing the upcoming protest against Abercrombie & Fitch's expansion on Savile Row, I was inspired to take a look at the street on a recent walk around the West End. For those not familiar with it, Savile Row is the home of bespoke tailoring in Britain, with tailors having worked here for some 200 years.
Since I've lived in London, I've always taken time to walk down this historic street, and I never fail to stop and look at some of the beautiful displays of craftsmanship. If you're lucky, you'll see the staff in action in the workshops below:
Over the years, I've seen it change. Some of the old names have gone, some have modernised, like Gieves and Hawkes, and entirely new ones have established themselves, such as Ozwald Boateng and Richard James. It could be argued that Savile Row represents an outmoded elitism, but it has often been the site of rebellion - this was, after all, the road which the Beatles had their Apple headquarters located on, and where they staged their final concert, on the roof of no. 3 Savile Row.
|No. 3 Savile Row, the site of the Beatles last concert|
I also like this little oddity on the windows of Henry Poole:
Henry Poole, official tailor to Haile Selassie!
Whenever I walk down the Row, it's hard not to feel inspired, and a little proud that I live in a city with such a historic street devoted to such beautiful craftsmanship.
But then you get to the end, and you're confronted with this:
I don't know what makes me angrier - the fact that Abercrombie & Fitch feel they belong on this historic street, or that there are so many people taken in by their inane wares. They really are a triumph of style over content - the one and only time I went in, the majority of their stock seemed to consist of logo heavy t-shirts, with no innovation or craftsmanship whatsoever. Then I had to leave because the combination of heavy perfume, loud music, and no visible daylight was making me nauseous.
It's especially ironic when you look into the origins of the Abercrombie & Fitch name. Started in the late 19th century, it catered to the elite of New York, then all of America, specialising in sporting goods and travelling clothes. For example,they provided flying kit for Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh; over the years, their clients included Katherine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, and the Kennedys. But changing tastes and bad decisions led them into decline, and the company ultimately folded in the 1970's. (I actually remember my mum going to one of their clearance sales at the San Francisco branch. I seem to remember she came back with some beautiful brown brogues...)
So do what you can to stop this - join the protest on Monday, or sign the petition. I may never be able to afford anything from Savile Row, but I like knowing it's there, and that it helps keep alive a tradition in tailoring that we should be proud of.