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Today, the SRBA has twenty-two member and associate member houses, who work together to protect and champion this understanding of bespoke tailoring and to promote the ingenious craftsmen that comprise the community of Savile Row. The SRBA sets the standards that define a Savile Row bespoke tailor, and all members of the Association must conform to the above definition of a bespoke suit and much more besides. A Master Cutter must oversee the work of every tailor employed by a member house and all garments must be constructed within a one hundred yard radius of Savile Row. Likewise, every member must offer the customer a choice of at least 2000 cloths and rigorous technical requirements are expected. For example, jacket foreparts must be entirely hand canvassed, buttonholes sewn, sleeves attached and linings felled all by hand.
In addition to promoting and securing the working practices of Savile Row tailors, the SRBA has played a key role in promoting Savile Row’s continued relevance as an international centre of modern, luxurious men’s style. Since it was founded in 2004, the SRBA has initiated and taken part in a number of events throughout the world, including presentations at the British Ambassador’s residences in Washington, D.C., Florence, Paris and Tokyo, the Friday Late exhibition at the V&A in London, the British Fashion Council’s London Collections: Men men’s fashion weeks and it’s own, widely celebrated, Savile Row Field Day. These showcases serve to both celebrate the art and craft of Savile Row and demonstrate to the fashion industry and international press how the Row remains at the zenith of its trade through its enthusiasm and willingness to contemporise and innovate. Many SRBA member houses design and tailor specific pieces for these events to convey their place at the centre of modern men’s style to a young, dynamic and diverse audience.
The SRBA is not only connecting the Row with a younger audience, but with a younger craftsman too. The Association has introduced over fifty new apprentices to Savile Row since 2004, ensuring that the lifeblood of The Row – the extraordinary skills of its master tailors – can be passed onto the next generation. Every member house must employ a salaried apprentice at all times, whose work is overseen by the Technical Committee of the SRBA, staffed by the Head Cutter of each member house. Crucially, through this initiative, the Association not only ensures that Savile Row’s future is secure, but also that the community of Savile Row retains a valuable connection to a younger, more contemporary customer, as well as its traditional, established clientele.
In the same vein, the SRBA promotes greater innovation within the industry through a connection with its associate members. Foremost amongst these are the abundance of world famous British woollen mills and cloth merchants that create the superior fabrics which each and every tailor uses. Firms such as Huddersfield-based Dugdale Bros & Co. and Huddersfield Fine Worsteds, historic London-based merchant Dormeuil and Harrisons of Edinburgh work closely with the SRBA to ensure that the tailors’ fabrics are not only of an appropriate standard, but that they too are innovatory. These mills work upon the feedback of the SRBA, producing ever more engaging and elevated cloths whilst still using the appropriate traditional weaving methods.
With the balancing of tradition and innovation in mind, it should be noted that although the Association’s primary objective is to promote Savile Row bespoke tailoring at its finest, it would be a mistake to ignore the continued modernisation of Savile Row’s retail practices. A number of houses have introduced beautifully conceived and crafted ready-to-wear capsule collections to complement their core bespoke offering, whilst others have transformed into extraordinary international retail destinations – expanding the appeal of Savile Row still further, without compromising The Row’s central values of quality and service, nor neglecting its core bespoke product, which every member tailor retains as the heart of their business. With the work of the SRBA, Savile Row has undergone a timely renaissance, retaining its global reputation for quality whilst developing a new vibrancy and dominance in the luxury retail sphere. Excitingly, the Association itself is continuing to grow alongside the Row, with three more member houses joining this year alone, helping to secure Savile Row’s enduring identity in an ordinarily fickle and changing industry.
In such an environment Savile Row continues to grow from strength to strength, demonstrating its relevance and confidence, promoting British style and retaining its reputation as a global icon of men’s luxury; a reputation which the Savile Row Bespoke Association is proud to play a dominant role in upholding.