If you’re a regular Robb Report reader, you might have caught a story in the September issue about the spiritual home of British bespoke tailoring, Savile Row, and the street’s struggles to adapt to changes in the retail landscape. In recent months, a mixture of travel restrictions that prevent tailors from visiting international clients and a widespread lack of e-commerce platforms have spelled trouble for most of London’s tailors.
Most, but not all. Thom Sweeney, a contemporary tailor based just a few blocks away from Savile Row, has always made a point of doing its own thing. Now, while most British style brands are on the retreat, co-founders Thom Whiddett and Luke Sweeney are in the midst of an ambitious expansion plan. The duo has just opened a stunning 3,100 sq ft townhouse on Old Burlington Street in Mayfair, a stone’s throw from the Row, which has shot straight up the charts as one of the most elevated men’s shopping destinations in London.
“Everyone’s commented on the fact we’re expanding at a strange time,” says Whiddett, “but we think now’s the time to stand out. When other brands are quiet we’re working to send out a positive message to our clients. We believe in what we do and if you can get the fundamentals right—people, product and service—then you’ll grow no matter the time you’re in. We opened our first store in 2007, just after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and that worked.”
Set across four floors, No.24c Old Burlington Street brings the brand’s two previous smaller London stores under one roof, featuring a purpose-built bespoke tailoring workshop, two floors of retail space, a cocktail bar-cum-clubroom and a luxury barber’s shop in the basement. Original Warhols line the walls, while bespoke furniture, custom-built drinks bars and one-of-a-kind midcentury design pieces populate a space that feels more like a swanky hotel than a tailor’s shop. It’s radically different to anything else in British menswear, and that’s the point.
“We’re excited to present a modern vision for a tailor’s shop with space to unwind as well as to meet our team and browse our ready-to-wear collection,” Whiddett continues. “This new store is as much a home away from home for our customers, as it is a hub for our tailoring.”
It’s a bold move to invest in brick-and-mortar, particularly at a moment when most other tailoring brands are suffering due to a historic over-reliance on physical retail. But alongside a healthy domestic client base, Thom Sweeney has an established online business too. In fact, it was the first thoroughbred British tailor to be stocked on Mr Porter in 2013. “We talk about dressing our guy from Monday through to Sunday,” says Whiddett. “Yes, we’re a tailor first and foremost, but you can also come to us for luxurious casualwear or cashmere loungewear. In recent seasons, we’ve grown our casual collection substantially and our clients have encouraged us throughout the process.”
This is a refreshing perspective from a British menswear brand—particularly a tailoring house that operates in what is often thought of as an uptight space. From exquisite Italian-made parkas to hand-finished, deconstructed blazers and, yes, even cashmere jersey track pants, Thom Sweeney’s ready-to-wear collection offers a breadth rarely seen at the suiting stalwarts ‘round the corner. In short, the brand is working hard to innovate its way through 2020, and it shows.
It’s a bold claim but, if there is such a thing as a British Brunello Cucinelli, Whiddett and Sweeney are surely in the running for the title.