This week our Menswear Dialogue Series brings Savile Row to DC. Benson & Clegg recently paid their first official visit to Washington and held court at Sterling & Burke. However, before their trip we had the pleasure of speaking to Mr. Kenneth Austin, head cutter and Mr. Mark Gordon in London to get their insight on the current and future state of Savile Row tailoring, menswear in DC, and a summer party for the queen. We've also been fortunate enough to have something special made by Ken and Tony. More on the fabric selection and fitting coming soon. In the meantime, we're pleased to introduce you to Benson & Clegg.
Image Granted -What is your title/trade/profession? How did you get into this industry? What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
Benson & Clegg - I am Kenneth Austin, the head cutter at Benson & Clegg. I started working for the company when I was nineteen, and have been with the company throughout my entire working life. As such my work flows through the very essence of the company. What gets me out of bed in the morning is my passion for quality and clothing, and the union between the two. It gives me a real sense of satisfaction when I am able to look at my hand crafted garments and know that my work is a symbol of human craftsmanship and dedication, and that my work will be an integral part of a customer’s wardrobe for year’s even decades to come.
IG -Benson & Clegg is synonymous with tradition, heritage and quality. Can you tell us how the brand is progressing today? How is B&C different today than it was 20 years ago? How is it the same? How is B&C staying relevant on "The Row" and in the bespoke tailoring world?
B&C - Our methods and philosophy are very much the same as they were back in 1937 when we were founded. We believe in basing the foundation of our tailoring on the principles of handmade construction and precision expertise. These are values which are timeless and permeate the company to this very day. However, we don’t believe in standing still, and as such we have endeavoured to move forward to reflect our customer’s taste and demands. That is why we have expanded our range of offerings to include neckwear, cufflinks, buttons and badges.
After all, a gentleman doesn’t just wear a suit in isolation. It is important to match the suit with the right colour tie, the sterling silver cufflinks, or the personalised blazer buttons. This is why our range of cufflinks, buttons and other accessories are so important to us. We try to stay relevant by offering a holistic approach to our tailoring and we will continue to expand and look at new ways of providing quality and style to our customers.
IG - We hear you have scheduled your first visit to Washington, DC with our colleagues at Sterling & Burke. This is very exciting for the man of style in the District. What attracts B&C to Washington? How did the partnership with S&B come about? What plans do you have for long-term growth and success in the Washington area?
B&C - Sterling & Burke had contacted us to discuss the possibility of adding our products to their extensive range. When we looked at their brand we realised straight away that this was a company that was very much of the same outlook as ourselves with a commitment to quality and heritage. After some great discussions on how we could work together we hit upon the idea of not only offering our extensive range of accessories, but also our tailoring services to those in Washington.
We felt that being able to offer Savile Row quality garments to those unable to visit London regularly would be a fantastic opportunity for customers who value sophisticated style. This trip marks our first foray into the Washington area, but we plan to incorporate it as part of our tri-annual US tailoring visit that had previously focused on New York. Working in collaboration with Sterling & Burke we think we have great potential in moving forward, with future plans already being worked on.
IG -B&C advertises its Made to Measure (MTM) offerings in a place where one would assume only bespoke garments could be purchased. Has this positively or negatively affected business? It seems other houses such as Richard Anderson and Huntsman under new management are offering MTM and/or ready to wear (RTW) collections. Will B&C ever offer a RTW collection? If so, how? If not, why?
B&C -We don’t view MTM as a threat to our business, quite the reverse. We are very pleased to be offering our MTM service for the first time on our overseas visits. MTM offers clients a tailored suit with a very large range of customised options at a price that doesn’t prohibit the style conscious consumer from engaging with the tailoring process. It can also offer a comfortable stepping stone for those moving from ready to wear garments, who then wish to graduate to bespoke. Our MTM tailoring is very popular in the UK where dressing smartly for work is making a resurgence, and we feel that it will be a very successful service here in the US.
There is no question that there is a significant demand for ready to wear collections from the tailoring houses of the West End, and in fact we have already launched a range of ready to wear blazers which have proved immensely popular with our customers and sit very well with our existing product ranges of buttons and badges. A larger ready to wear range is something we are actively looking into, though we wish to ensure that it truly reflects our dedication to quality and embodies our unique style.
IG -We recently became aware of the Coronation Festival at Buckingham Palace this Summer and we hear B&C will be exhibiting. Tell us about this event. Why is it important for B&C to participate? When and where will you be displaying your product? Do you have anything special planned for the event? How can the public take part in the festivities?
B&C - To be given a Royal Warrant is one of the highest accolades that any British company can hope for. It is the ultimate hallmark of quality and service. For Benson & Clegg to participate in this event is our way of showcasing those credentials, as well as flying the flag for British craftsmanship. The event will be taking place between 11 – 14 July 2013 and we will be displaying both our tailoring and accessories to the Royal Family, international delegations, diplomats, VIP’s, as well as the general public.
We don’t want to give too much away at this stage, but we are planning to recreate our actual shop at the festival, complete with wooden panels, cabinets and tables. The effect should be quite extraordinary in bringing people into the Benson & Clegg shopping experience. We will also be formally launching a brand new blazer button to add to our extensive range in honour of Her Majesty’s Coronation anniversary that will have a very patriotic feel to it. Watch this space….
People who wish to attend this prestigious event can purchase tickets through https://www.coronationfestival.com/
Photos courtesy of imijphoto.com