With 450 years of combined tailoring expertise, it comes as no surprise that anything made by Gieves and Hawkes is created with military precision. The company’s flagship home in the oldest Georgian building in London’s most stylish street, is a fitting personification of this heritage brand: it is quintessentially English – and this is not something that money can usually buy.
Established in 1771, its first Royal Warrant was received in 1809 in recognition of Thomas Hawkes’ outfitting of the British Army during the reign of King George III. Once described as ‘helmet, hat and cap maker to the King’, Hawkes apprenticed his nephews to the business and it was under their leadership that the Wolseley pattern pith helmet, still in use by the Royal Marines today, was developed.
In the meantime, and at the tender age of just thirteen, James Gieves was employed by ‘Old Mel’ Meredith of Portsmouth, outfitter to none other than Admiral Lord Nelson. When, in 1974, Gieves Ltd and Hawkes and Co. regrouped under one roof at No.1 Savile Row, the company’s campaign to become a world-leading military and court tailor was accomplished. But livery and military outfitting is only half of this success story. Today Gieves and Hawkes holds no less than three Royal Warrants and boasts a long and prestigious client base which includes HM Queen Elizabeth II, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, HRH the Prince of Wales and HRH the Duke of Cambridge, along with royal houses in every corner of the world and an impressive register of A-Listers past and present, including Charlie Chaplin, Michael Jackson, Princess Diana, Bill Clinton and David Beckham.
Thankfully the pursuit of sartorial excellence is no longer the sole reserve of the rich and famous. Today Gieves and Hawkes is synonymous with London style and the company’s 21st century success lies in its willingness to weave innovation through the fabric of its rich history. It has always been a forward thinking company becoming, in 1929, the first tailoring house to offer ‘ready-to-wear’ suits. Now the brand heritage has been adapted for new markets in Europe and across the globe: whilst remaining faithful to its niche client base through bespoke and private tailoring, the company has won the loyalty of a whole new generation of men through its expansion into ready-to-wear suits, shirts, knitwear, shoes and accessories. With fourteen stores in the UK, 92 stores and concessions worldwide and a strong e-commerce platform, Gieves and Hawkes is reaping the rewards of its ability to combine timeless elegance with beautiful fabrics, unrivalled expertise and impeccable service.
So, what qualities does the modern Gieves and Hawkes man possess? According to Creative Director Jason Basmajian, the answer is an interest in style and quality over fashion, and a masculinity that is expressed through the structured silhouette and pronounced shoulders of Savile Row tailoring, an architecture which is quite different from that achieved by Italian fashion houses. As Basmajian reminds us, the Italians only reinterpreted British style for the continental market – they didn’t invent it – and the stricter lines of traditional London tailoring are cutting edge in today’s market. And, of course, the other quality of a Gieves and Hawkes man is an understanding that one perfectly crafted suit that lasts for twenty years is a much better investment than three imperfect suits from a department store.
Gieves & Hawkes, 1 Savile Row, London W1
020-7432 6403; www.gievesandhawkes.com
Author: Laura Crassus