At Ape, we greatly value learning from the masters – those who have spent decades striving to perfect their craft. One example of such is renowned Savile Row tailor Richard Anderson. Starting at Huntsman in 1982, he became the youngest Head Cutter in their 150-year history, before setting up his own shop in 2001, which he continues to run to this day. We spoke to Richard to find out more…
Starting as an apprentice with Huntsman, what were your initial thoughts and impressions going into the tailoring business?
I started my apprenticeship at Huntsman at just 17 years of age, I was lucky enough to be trained by Colin Hammick, one of the greats. It was an overwhelming environment to work in, being welcomed to my interview by a roaring fire and a mantelpiece with deer heads on the wall was not what I was expecting! It was a very tough, very male-orientated environment which was difficult to get used to initially but ultimately fabulous.
During your 19 years at Huntsman, you became their youngest ever Head Cutter. What was that like?
It was an honour and a challenge to follow previous head cutters Colin Hammick and Bryan Hall, both who had 50 years’ experience cutting at Huntsman. I had big shoes to fill, to maintain the quality of work coming out of the workshop, but I absolutely loved the responsibility of it. In our first year we were able to improve sales and production by 20%.
What made you decide the time was right to set up your own shop in 2001?
After working at Huntsman for 17 years I felt tailors of ‘The Row’ were missing the opportunity to service gentlemen of a wider demographic for the sake of tradition. Having spent all those years working for Huntsman, a very traditional tailoring company, where the clientele were of aristocracy, CEOs of companies and predominantly 60 years of age, I decided I wanted to make tailoring less intimidating for gentlemen of my own age and younger.
Some of those older companies- as fabulous as they were and still are – I found intimidating with a ‘don’t come in’ atmosphere. I wanted to do away with that. I knew that with mine and Brian’s combined experience, we could provide clients with a more welcoming experience but without sacrificing the quality of the cut, make and service. My dream was to give life back to ‘The Row’ and 2001 presented the opportunity to open the first bespoke tailor on Savile Row in 50 years, it was the perfect time for us to immerse ourselves with some of the most traditional tailors and offer a point of difference, taking the age-old craft of bespoke tailoring forward.
How does it feel to have created and built up your own personal brand and business over the last 16 years?
I feel extremely privileged to have grown the business to where it is today and also thankful to my business partner. We have grown drastically since opening the doors in 2001. We travel to the US three times a year and have recently returned from our first trunk show in Hong Kong, which we will continue to visit twice a year moving forward.
For myself and Brian, it’s incredible to watch the business grow, to be able to offer our clients the very best service and high quality tailoring. For me the best part is when someone recognises our house style. Each tailor has their own style, and for clients to recognise our house style outside of the shop is an incredible feeling.
Who are some of the most memorable famous faces you’ve created suits for?
- Henry Kissinger
- Gregory Peck
- Senator John Warner Andre Leon Talley
- George Michael
- Benicio del Toro
- Bryan Ferry
- Kiefer Sutherland
- Hugh Laurie
- Ian McKellen
- Lucian Freud
- Duke of Beaufort
- Gianni Agnelli
- Bill Blass
How has the industry changed since you started, and what do you foresee happening in the future?
Ready-to-wear and made-to-measure have definitely influenced the tailoring industry. Nowadays most tailors on Savile Row stock seasonal ready-to-wear collections and offer made-to-measure services, you would not have seen collections as such from Savile Row tailors back in the day.
I wouldn’t say ready-to-wear has threatened the existence of bespoke suits, if anything it has helped increase gentlemen’s appreciation for the quality of bespoke. For us at Richard Anderson, we understand that ready-to-wear and made to measure are always going to exist and we need to embrace that, our biggest desire when we set up shop was to combine tradition with innovative creativity and we’ll always stay true to that. It’s up to us as experts to ensure that the quality of the cut looks great, the making as well and the service that we give our clients in the absolute best.
Tailors have come to understand that there is no need for the sense of secrecy anymore. Since I started at the ripe old age of 17, I have seen a huge change in the sales approach to customers; it’s much more personable and open.
As long as cutters and makers maintain the quality of style and make, the industry will remain in good shape. The amount of talented of young people coming in to the trade is extremely encouraging for the future.
What’s new for Richard Anderson in Autumn/Winter 2017?
We have launched our very first ready-to-wear raincoat made from Ventile fabric- a staple fabric supplied to The Royal Air Forces. Its light weight and perfect for wearing over a suit on rainy days, whilst offering protection and comfort. Taking influence from the 1930s our raincoat displays a fly front with vertical welted pockets, wrist wraps and tab and button on the collar. Inside detailing includes the chain hanger with two vertical inside pockets complete with zips.
This season’s ready to wear collection features all the high-quality fabrics you would expect to see gentlemen wearing in the cooler months, from wool-flannel suits to deep hues of velvet and worsted flannel. Each collection we stay true to our house style but enjoy playing around with different materials and patterns. Our limited edition tweeds are 14/15oz, and entirely exclusive to us; they are made in Scotland and available in a wide variety of colours and patterns.