A Word on the row
by James sherwood
Davies & Son wasn’t the only casualty on post World War Two London’s bespoke tailoring landscape. Henry Poole’s was demolished in the early 1960s to make way for a municipal car park and temporarily forced off-Row until 1981 when the firm returned to No. 15. The stark economic reality was underlined in the mournful 1979 letter:
‘Our business was built on the clothing requirements of the aristocracy of Europe and Great Britain. Today our business is mainly with the affluent and famous abroad: an ideal commercial profile we are advised in times when exports are of prime importance’.
Once an English tailor’s castle has been captured by avaricious landlords who see only profit rather than the preservation of what makes London men’s style lead the world, the firms can never reclaim that past. Like Poole’s, Davies & Son was fortunate to return to Savile Row albeit in more streamlined premises appropriate to the times we live in and the reality of the reduced (if refined) bespoke trade. Post World War One, bespoke orders at all Row firms were culled by an average of 50%. That figure was halved again after World War Two.
In the 1970s Davies estimated 90% of its bespoke customers were international rather than British, that figure has levelled at an average of 60% for most of the tailors currently on Savile Row. The theatre of grand Mayfair townhouses is much to be missed but now only the likes of Ralph Lauren and Victoria’s Secret can afford such prime square footage in the West End of London. Turning Mayfair into a facsimile of any other world retail capital such as New York or Singapore is not only unwelcome but also ill-advised. We have seen in the Burlington Arcade what happens when ‘retail engineering’ forces independents to flee leaving empty shop fronts for the first time in the arcade’s almost 200-year history. Long live survivors such as Davies & Son.