BESPOKE SUMMER SUITS
HENRY POOLE & CO.
When I walk down the steps of the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, I need to look my best. And that means, of course, that I have to be wearing a suit from Savile Row, for – despite a lot of silly talk from certain foreign ‘designers’ – there is no equal in the world to a gentleman’s suit from Savile Row. Thus it has been for the last two hundred years, and thus it is today. And, since a lightweight cloth mercilessly displays the slightest imperfection in the tailoring and demands the very highest standards of cutting and workmanship, it is entirely proper that I should go for my summer suit to the firm from which the whole of what we call ‘Savile Row’ sprang – Henry Poole & Co.
Established in 1806 and accustomed to dressing those with a taste for the very best – Emperor Napoleon III, King Edward VII, Winston Churchill and Charles Dickens among them – the company wears its distinguished history with a pleasing lightness of touch. Its Managing Director, Mr Angus Cundey (pictured), is an English gentleman of the old school: courteous, unassuming and possessed of an easy charm. He has set the tone at number 15 Savile Row, and a pleasing tone it is. I always have a slight sense, as I walk up the steps and in through the front door, of entering a decent gentlemen’s club. I am immediately comfortable, at ease and sensible that I am part of a noble tradition.
I have mentioned Monte Carlo, but – since the English weather has now taken on many of the characteristics of that to be found on the Indian sub-continent – I also needed this suit for my summer strolls down Piccadilly to The Ritz. It had therefore to be not only light, but also possessed of a degree of stylish formality.
I consulted the Senior Cutter, Mr Alan Alexander (pictured). Aware of his skill, expertise and good taste (he has made for me in the past), I was happy to seek his advice. Together, we selected a cloth from Italy, made by Loro Piana. Beige with a white stripe, it is made from 60% wool and 40% Karoo’s Kid mohair (from Tasmania). This meant that the price of the two piece suit would be £2,789, including V.A.T. (The prices of two piece suits begin at £2,500.)
The cloth’s weight is 7½ ounces per square yard. For a winter suit, the weight is usually between 12 and 14 ounces, and for a summer suit the weight is usually between 6½ and 9 ounces. This was therefore at the lighter end of the range, which is what I wanted. I usually like to have a red lining in my jackets, but we decided that this might show through so light a material, and I therefore opted for a beige lining.
My jacket would be single-breasted, but with peak lapels, a combination which I find has the advantage of combining coolness with a hint of gravitas. There would be three buttons on the front and four buttons to each cuff (all working).There would be a buttonhole in the left lapel. At the back would be one vent. The trousers would have turn-ups, two front pleats on either side, a button fly, straight side pockets, no back pockets and a back shaped for braces. The braces buttons would be inside at the back (to protect the leather of the Royce, when I drive without a jacket) and outside at the front.
I asked that the stripes should match over the shoulders and in the lapels. I am aware that my liking for matching stripes is a matter of some controversy, and that some tailors have suggested that I am promoting a style which distorts the jacket. My reply is that matching stripes give a more harmonious appearance and that, for my body at least, no compromise in the fit has ever been discernible. Perhaps it is that I only go to tailors – like Henry Poole & Co. – who are so good that they can achieve the impossible…
Soon it was time for the first fitting (pictured, in the fitting room). And there, I was delighted to see, were my matching stripes. Mr Alexander explained that they had been achieved with even greater difficulty than usual, for the material did not have the ‘give’ of heavier cloths. Still, there they were, and they looked jolly fine. Adjustments were needed to the length of the left arm, the back shoulders and the length of the legs. At the second fitting, it was decided to lengthen the right arm by ¼ inch and take ³/8 inch off the trouser length. At the third fitting, Mr Alexander – ever the perfectionist, thank goodness – decided that the stitching on the fly was too tight and that the left shoulder was still not quite right. And then, a week later, all was perfection.
I ought to emphasize the importance of what some might think trivial changes during the course of these fittings. A Savile Row suit must fit properly, or it is not worthy of the name, and a proper fit will often require several visits. Indeed, it is beyond my belief that anyone would be allowed to leave Henry Poole & Co. with a suit which was in any way less than perfect. Mr Alexander and his colleagues would, I know, be outraged even at the suggestion of so heinous a crime against sartorial standards.
And so I have my summer suit from Henry Poole & Co. Light, elegant and stylish, it will grace the salons of The Ritz in London and of the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. Indeed, my suit would be at home anywhere, for it was made by one of the best tailors in the world, in the street which still reigns supreme as the home of the finest in gentlemen’s bespoke tailoring – Savile Row.
HENRY POOLE & CO.
15 Savile Row, London W1S 3PJ, England.
Telephone +44 (0)207 734 5985
Fax +44 (0)207 287 2161
2 pieces suits from £2,500 (inc. V.A.T.)
3 piece suits from £2,661 (inc. V.A.T.)
Blazers from £1,579 (inc. V.A.T.)
Fittings are available at selected cities in the U.S.A., Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria and France – ask the office for details