Wardrobe: English as a Second Language
Tremors continue to be felt throughout the fashion world as the Brits seek to reclaim their positioning as sartorial leaders, and 8 Savile Row is the movement’s epicenter. This is the address of the former Kilgour, French & Stanbury, the 122-year-old classic suitmaker, which—after a $2.5 million buyout earlier this year by partners Hugh Holland, Clive Darby, and Carlo Brandelli—suddenly is poised on the cutting edge of English style.
Within the last six months alone, the partnership, after renaming the company to the more svelte Kilgour, has unveiled two bespoke clothing collections, one of which is designed to introduce men to custom garments at an earlier age. The partners also have launched ready-made suit and sportswear collections, a first for any Savile Row tailor, and remodeled the London flagship, replacing the antiquated furnishings and circa-1960s carpeting with sleek marsh oak walls and cabinetry and dark chocolate mahogany floors that mirror the building’s elegant Art Deco limestone facade.
“I saw Kilgour as an old, traditional company that needed someone to come in and take it forward,” says Brandelli, Kilgour’s 36-year-old creative director, who compares his role to that of Tom Ford’s in the turnaround of Gucci. “The company always had the craft and skill to make this amazing product.” However, he adds, the previous owner, Scottish cloth supplier Holland & Sherry, was shortsighted and resistant to change.“Our idea was to bring the Savile Row tailoring skills to a broader market by introducing ready-to-wear,” says Holland, Kilgour’s managing director. “But [Holland & Sherry management] felt ready-to-wear was beneath them and not of any relevance. They also didn’t want to see money tied up in any projects where the payback was five to 10 years down the road.”
Working with a team of silent investors, the entrepreneurial trio has employed master tailors throughout the world to produce both custom and ready-made suits and sportswear in a cost-effective fashion. Kilgour manufactures cashmere knitwear in Scotland, classic footwear in England, suits in China, and leather goods in Italy. “Wherever we find the best craftsmen is where we make the product,” says Brandelli. “This is a very modern way to work.”
Savile Row stalwarts still can acquire Kilgour’s lean-shouldered, nip-waisted custom suits that are made entirely by hand in England and start at about $4,500, but now the company offers alternatives. “It’s like the difference between one diamond and another: There are different qualities,” says Brandelli. The entry-level bespoke suit collection, which is made in Shanghai and starts at about $2,500, features about half the handwork of the completely bespoke garments. The cloth is the same as that used for Kilgour’s British-made suits, but the cut and construction are slightly different, Brandelli explains, adding that the intended client is “a younger guy graduating from designer wear who doesn’t immediately want to start off spending $4,000.”
Of the Kilgour suits’ lean, tailored look—a style that Italian suitmakers have been copying for years—Brandelli says, “There has always been this notion of le style Anglais, as the Europeans have coined it, but there hasn’t been a British brand that defines it—until now.”