BESPOKE SUMMER SUITS
DAVIES & SON
Number 38 Savile Row, as you will note from the picture I reproduce with this article, has a shop front of modest proportions. If you were in a hurry – on your way from collecting a few shirts in Jermyn Street to bidding for a couple of lots at an auction of Old Masters at Sotheby’s, say – you might easily pass by without a glance. But it deserves your careful attention. It is certainly one of my favourite addresses in London, and many gentlemen who care about their appearance will share my enthusiasm for these premises. They house a firm which offers bespoke tailoring of the very highest order. Indeed, if anyone needs to know why Savile Row is famous throughout the civilized world as the location of mankind’s finest tailors, he need only be directed to number 38, the home of Davies & Son.
The firm was founded in 1803 and has traded with immense distinction ever since, moving to its present address in 1979. It has long been renowned as a court tailor and was once able to boast that its customers included every crowned head in Europe – at a period when heads with crowns were rather more numerous than they are in today’s republican times. Edward VIII wore suits from Davies & Son, and continued to do so after his abdication, into the 1960s. Today the company holds the Royal Warrant for the Duke of Edinburgh as military tailors.
With visits to St Tropez, Portofino and Lake Como approaching, I needed a new summer suit. For such a suit the most skilled craftsmanship is required. Pale colours and light weight are merciless in displaying the slightest imperfections of cut and stitch. Therefore only the best would do – which is why I found myself at Davies & Son, looking through books of cloth with the Managing Director of the firm, Mr Alan Bennett. (Mr Bennett, already an established Savile Row tailor, bought the firm in 1996.) This happy moment of choosing was caught by the camera, and in the resulting photograph you will note that I am looking at a sample which is white.
I love white suits. I have had many of them, and the wearing of each has brought me enormous satisfaction. Of course, a white suit has its problems. It becomes soiled with almost miraculous rapidity. It demands high maintenance. (So does my elderly Royce: one must just accept that good things deserve care and attention.) Also, there is the ‘see-through’ difficulty. Choose a cloth with sufficient weight to be completely opaque and it will hardly deserve the name of a summer suit; choose a really lightweight cloth and – even though your trousers will be lined – the world and his dog will know the style and pattern of your under garments.
I discussed the latter point with Mr Bennett, a man upon whose expertise I have found that I can rely with absolute confidence. He directed me to a white super 100 gaberdine made by Scabal, with a weight of 260 grammes per square metre (which, I think, in real money, is about 7½ ounces per square yard). This, he opined – and, needless to report, he proved to be absolutely right – would have the lightness I required and yet would protect my modesty in foreign parts.
Then we discussed the style. Whiteness – for reasons which might best be explained by a follower of Freud or Jung – has the effect of loosening my grip on some of the more conventional features of suit design. Here, then, are my departures from the accepted norms. I decided to have two outside pockets on the right of my jacket. The jacket – single-breasted, with peaked lapels, a white lining and a single rear vent – would fasten with a single button, to facilitate an opening sufficiently low to allow a glimpse of the waistcoat. (Two buttons would have been possible, but I am a one or three button man: a two button arrangement smacks of squalid compromise.) The waistcoat had been in my mind for some time. It would be double-breasted, with lapels. Mr Bennett told me that this was known as an ‘Ascot’. (I gave up the regular wearing of waistcoats at the age of thirty, worn down by the evil of ubiquitous central heating, so this would be a reminder of happier times.)
For the rest, my usual rules applied. The four buttonholes at each cuff (with real horn buttons, as always on Savile Row) would be working. The buttonhole on the left lapel would, of course, have a fixing loop behind it, for a flower. There would be three pockets inside the jacket, and the lower outside pocket on the right side would have an inner pocket (essential if one is to avoid the disfiguring effects of loose coinage). The trousers would have turn-ups, no back pocket, two pleats to each side of the front, straight side pockets, a button fly, an inner lining to front and rear, and a braces back (with the buttons for my braces outside at the front and inside at the rear – to protect the leather of the Royce, for I drive jacket-less).
These details decided, I toddled off for a decent lunch. One should always make important decisions before the mid-day meal. A decanter or two of decent claret can undermine good sense in many matters, and those sartorial are not exempted.
Many pleasant lunches rolled by, and then the call came for the first fitting. Mr Bennett cast his expert eye over the work in progress, and determined that the trousers should be shortened, the waist raised, and the left shoulder lifted. My own eye was much taken by the flattering shape of the jacket (yes, my waist had returned once more) and the proper length of the sleeves (just right for showing half an inch of shirt cuff). A second fitting indicated the necessity for some minor adjustments to the front of the waistcoat. Then my beautiful white suit was ready for collection.
I hope that you can see from the pictures what a splendid suit it is. The fit is exact. The cut is superb. The quality of the workmanship is evident in every detail. This suit is supremely comfortable to wear and imparts to its wearer a sense of timeless elegance. I venture that it would be impossible to encounter this suit and not think, ‘Savile Row’. I am, as they say, pleased with it.
Prices (including VAT) at Davies & Son start at £2,491.00 for a two piece suit, and at £2,923.25 for a three piece suit. My own white masterpiece cost £3,237.00.
Life offers many pleasures, but – for a gentleman who cares about his appearance – few are as sweet as the acquisition of a suit from Savile Row. And, when it comes to a summer suit, that joy is intensified by the association with the warmth and sunshine of the year’s happiest season. I recommend that you go to number 38 Savile Row and order your new bespoke summer suit from Davies & Son. You will not regret it.
DAVIES & SON
38 Savile Row, London W1S 3QE, England.
Telephone +44 (0)207 434 3016
+44 (0)207 734 1713
+44 (0)207 734 1748
Fax +44 (0)207 287 4348
Visits are made to various countries outside Britain. Ask for details.