BESPOKE SUMMER SUITS
It was perhaps the most famous television interview ever. A beautiful young woman talked about the difficulties in her marriage and of her hopes for the future. For her appearance on ‘Panorama’ Princess Diana wore a dark cashmere jacket whose under-stated elegance perfectly matched the seriousness of the proceedings. It was made specially for the occasion by a brilliant West Indian tailor who works on Savile Row.
Great practitioners of any art sometimes seem to spring from nowhere, sent by the gods to give us a glimpse of perfection. There was no tailoring in Andrew Ramroop’s family in Trinidad. So why, at the tender age of ten, was he making clothes from old newspapers ? A mystery – but one which was eventually to carry this talented individual to the very top of his chosen profession. By 17 the ambition to work in Savile Row was overwhelming. He travelled to London by sea and found a post at the renowned establishment of Huntsman – hired on the strength of the suit he was wearing (which he had made himself).
Thirty years later, I went along to Savile Row to the prestigious firm Andrew Ramroop now owns, Maurice Sedwell, Bespoke Tailors.
Obsession can be an intimidating quality. But when it is applied to the making of a suit for me, I find it wholly admirable. At our first meeting, Mr Ramroop was softly spoken and unfailingly courteous. Yet there was no doubt that his considerable intelligence was being directed to but one end: to make me the best jacket and trousers human hands could devise. I needed something for summer wear. As we looked at lightweight cloths he told me that my suit would take 130 hours and 15,000 hand-stitches to produce. It made the price of £2,100 plus VAT (total £2,467) seem absurdly low.
This charming perfectionist is dismissive of the ‘made-to-measure’ outfitters beginning to invade the sacred Savile Row area – those who know not the true nature of bespoke. “This is not the true image of Savile Row. We have to maintain standards. This is a street by appointment: it is not a shopping street. Bespoke is not about being fashionable. It is about being well-dressed, with one-to-one attention to detail.”
As the weeks passed and the material I had selected – an Italian 8 ounce fawn wool gabardine ‘superissimo’ by Cerruti – started to take shape, I began to appreciate why clients from 23 countries (both male and female) love these clothes. The attention to detail is remarkable. Andrew Ramroop’s eagle eye missed nothing. Back, front, sleeves, shoulders, cuffs, lapels – all were subject to repeated modifications and minute adjustments at each of the three fittings.
The buttons are real horn – not plastic. The hand-stitching around the edge of the jacket is every 2 millimetres – closer than that done by machine. The fit is designed to enhance the figure (even mine), working with the body shape to produce a comfortable elegance. The trouser back has the proper swoops for braces buttons. The buttonholes, being handmade, are slightly irregular. And – of course – the four cuff buttons on each sleeve are working buttons.
To examine the exquisite workmanship, I paused for a moment with a cuff unbuttoned. Not something one wishes to do for long… Recently, I was shocked to observe – in the Paris Ritz, of all places – a well-suited young man with two buttons on each cuff left undone (one must suppose, deliberately). This is simply not on. Such vulgar ostentation is very definitely not Savile Row. The point is that the cuff buttons can be undone, not that they are.
Before I went to try on and collect my finished suit (on my fifth visit to the shop), Mr Ramroop had a request. Would I please be sure to wear a blue shirt, a blue tie and brown shoes? Of course. I appreciate the demands of a perfectionist.
My suit is ethereally light, perfectly cut, marvellously made and makes me feel a full decade younger. Andrew Ramroop is a sartorial magician, indeed. No wonder the Princess of Wales was such a fan. If you, too, wish to sample some of the magic, the door of 19 Savile Row beckons.
Maurice Sedwell (Savile Row) Limited
19 Savile Row, London W1X 1AE.
Telephone +44 (0)20 7734 0824
Fax +44 (0)20 7437 0529