Monday, 23 March 2009

E Tautz over another cup of tea

As you all know I met up with Patrick Grant last week and were talked through the E. Tautz collection. My time with the youngest guvnor on Savile Row did not stop there and I was fortunate enough to ask him a few more questions and it was an absolute pleasure to hear his thoughts on men's fashion. The last post was full of great quotes but my particular favourite was "we've got to the point where we'd rather have ten cheap things than one good thing" and the below picks up on this point. Here we talk about the effect of the recession on buying, the art of wardrobe building and the need for more tailors...


SS: What has the interest from buyers been like given the current economic climate?
PG: Japanese buyers have recently confirmed but there were only five buyers actually invited to the show itself. Budget cuts are an issue but the people who came really liked the collection and went away on the hunt for extra buying funds. We are still waiting on hearing back from a few but we will know in the next week or two, so we will see what happens.
SS: I am always jealous of the offerings available to Japanese consumers, they just have it too good!

SS: The art of wardrobe building is one we love but it certainly goes against the prevailing throwaway consumerism of today; what are your thoughts on this way of consuming?
PG: If you buy well you will still have it when it is sixty years old. I've got plenty of bits of clothing in my wardrobe, particularly knitwear and the odd jacket that I had bought from the likes of Gucci, Prada, Helmut Lang, Dolce & Gabbana to a certain extent and a few others and I've still got the best of those pieces and I still wear them. The only thing that doesn't really last are the trousers. If they had been made in the cloths that we use and in the way we make them they would still be fine. Machine hemmed trousers are always falling apart and it is amazing that no one knows how to sew anything anymore.

SS: That is so true, I've only recently started dabbling with replacing buttons on jackets but the effect and response to it has been so positive and it is so simple.
PG: We should put up a number of how to videos on the website instructing people how to get the most out of their clothes through simple tailoring, how to hem your trousers, how to sew a button on your shirt... We used to do it all the time at school, not particularly well but we did it. We used to shorten our trousers: I remember one of my roommate taking in peoples trousers in because we all wanted trousers that, basically you couldn't put your feet through. Few people are bothered to do that now. Now if a button falls off a shirt it is thrown away.

SS: Can you see this attitude changing in the foreseeable future?
PG: There is group called Slow Fashion at St Martins which I went to the first meeting of and it is so brave of them, I think, because it flies in the face of everyone who basically pays for their existence. The more care that is taken in the creation of your clothes, the more enjoyment you will get out of them and the longer you will get to enjoy that. I think, especially for men, there are fashionable men and stylish men and we are talking more to stylish men than fashion men but of course there is a little overlap. I think even fashionable men have a little space in their wardrobes for certain core pieces. Everyone wears black or grey slim trousers and if you have a really great pair that fit you beautifully, look good, kept their crease really nicely and were going to last twenty years, you might think that £800 isn't really that much... it might feel like a lot but think of the wear you will get out of them.

SS: It seems most people have forgotten about the whole cost per calculation.
PG: I mean I used to pay £1200 for an off the peg suit, this is going back a few years so I have no idea how much they are now but I used to wear them fifteen or twenty times and the trousers would be worn out in the crotch, I even had one and the tip of the lapel wore out.
SS: Ha, what were doing in that jacket?
PG: I have no idea but it was strange. I particularly have a problem with the crotch of trousers because I cycle and have big thighs. Of course we have lightweight cloths here that might not last but we would recommend a customer buy two pairs of trousers with their suit.

SS: You just would not get that service in most ready to wear stores.

PG: What's nice about the way we are coming at it is that the people involved in Tautz basically work at Nortons. We spend our lives dealing with the type of people we are hoping to sell Tautz to because they are the equivalent to our customers here who are unable to come here and have their suits made but we want to give them something of that quality. We cut it in a way we think feels like a good Savile Row suit, it has got shape in it and makes you look different, it's not a skinny, slim suit but a well cut suit and you very rarely see that. There aren't very many well cut suits kicking around this town and we want to give Tautz something of Savile Row about it. We eat, sleep and breathe great quality clothes and everything we do is done with integrity.

SS: Have you noticed a change in peoples attitude towards tailoring over time?

PG: Tailoring is an incredibly efficient way of buying clothes cost wise and you really get what you pay for. At Nortons the first suit we make, we don't actually make any money because we have to sew it, fit it, take it apart, re cut it, sew it, fit it, take it apart... you know, it is only when we've made one and have a pattern for you that we actually start to make some money. You are getting tremendous value for money if you go to a tailor and it just so happens that we are in the middle of a community of the best tailors in the world. Certainly what you get here is expensive tailoring but there tailors... actually, sadly there are almost no tailors left.

The country should be filled with tailors and everyone should be buying their suits from a tailor. I used to go to a little tailor in Liverpool and his suits were less than the Prada suits that I was taking in to be altered. My perception then was that Prada was very cool but the fact is he could have cut me and made a better suit for less money and I would have looked better if I wasn't such an idiot swayed by a label which I was at that time. 'The only name in your suit should be your own' is the old adage and that is a nice way of thinking about it. Most of my early suits came from a tailor in Edinburgh which doesn't exist anymore... in fact there is only one tailor in Edinburgh now. A city of half a million people, a capital city with a financial centre and only one tailor.

SS: I remember being tempted by a one page ad featured in GQ which called for more tailors.
PG: If you are good at it you can make a good living. The guys who work on this street certainly do but they are bloody good. It is a difficult street and you have to be really good to make a living here but if you are good, you can do very well. Most sewing tailors are self employed and we share with a number of firms. There are some great young tailors who work very hard, there are some old ones to who start at 6am and work right through to 9pm.

SS: It is such a shame that there are so few...
PG: The problem we have is the cost of training people. After years of lobbying by the Savile Row Bespoke Association they have given us £1,000 per apprentice per year but it costs us more like £20,000 so we can only afford one apprentice here at the moment but ideally we could train three people at a time. The biggest file I have in my drawer is full of applications for apprenticeships and we get about one a day. The thing is, we are flat out here and we desperately need more good tailors.

SS: Lastly, there has been a great deal spoken on luxury in the downturn and this must be on your mind as well...
PG: Many people have asked why we would start a new brand in the midst of this economic disaster and for me it doesn't really matter as to when we start but it feels as though people are interested in proper products, quality and integrity... everything we stand for. Whether or not the economic cycle is poor or good should not affect the decision to do this but there is also this belief that these are the type of thing people retreat to when you haven't got a surplus of cash to spend it should be spent on the items you know are worth it and will last. People will continue to want to dress well and wear nice things, which isn't always the same thing. We have seen this with Nortons which has a heavy British based client base and we actually had our best year in eight years last year, we saw a big jump on the year before despite a disastrous US economy and dour forecasts for the British economy. The start of this year has been really strong with this February being better than the last.

4 comments:

Michael said...

Another exemplary post. Have to say I'm growing to really like your blog. It is just not a case of just presenting items as others do - it is the commentary and analysis that makes it.

The idea of building a wardrobe - buying fewer, but better quality items really appeals to me. Its exactly what the man at Crockett and Jones said to me when I bought some chelsea boots there at the end of last year - having bought some cheaper corrected grain ones previously that looked terrible and I'd binned within three months - "a customer said he couldn't really afford to buy cheaper shoes". When it comes to cost per wear, its almost always more economic to buy better quality things.

Not that I have the budget to patronise the lovely Mr. Grant unfortunately, but he's absolutely right.

James said...

I've enjoyed these two posts immensely, Mr Grant speaks a lot of sense. The art of wardrobe is such an appealing idea.

naboonies said...

I can't afford to throw away a shirt just because its buttons fall apart, so I resew them by myself. But I don't even know how to shorten my pants.

I understand Mr Grant's view on having a quality piece rather than a bunch of cheap clothes. But how does it apply to people like me who can't resist shopping every now and then?

Style Salvage Steve said...

Michael: Thanks so much! People will think we've slipped you a tenner to say that. We do try and will continue to do so. For items that you know you'll want to wear season after season you should always push yourself on the budget because they will last much longer.
James: I could speak to Patrick Grant all day, he offers so muych insight and a refreshing voice.
Naboonies: There is so much that I want to learn in terms of simple tailoring. Hopefulyl within the month we will offer some how-to guides, that way we can learn together. Our thirst to consume is hard to quench but I'm trying to get the balance. The answer is to invest more in the pieces that you'll know will last and think a little harder on the more trend led pieces.

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