Thursday, 8 July 2010

Book Review: Bespoke - Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed

The majority of tailoring and style books seem best suited, as I usually observe when reviewing them, to the coffee-table. Full of pretty pictures, but short on really engaging content, they seem to lack a clear purpose.

'Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed' suffers from no such problem. Entirely free of pictures it is, instead, a genuinely fascinating and entirely gripping story. It is the remarkable autobiography of Richard Anderson, who started a gruelling Huntsman apprenticeship at seventeen and went on to become head cutter and then to found his own firm, Richard Anderson Ltd. at 13 Savile Row.

Mr Anderson's story is certainly interesting enough in itself, and his depictions of the many funny, horrible, tragic and simply mad characters on Savile Row, tailors and customers alike, are endlessly entertaining. However, he makes the sensible choice to intersperse his story with the sort of detailed descriptions of bespoke tailoring technique, process, protocol and culture that absolutely fascinate me. Few other authors touch on this for the simple reason that, however much they might like suits, they do not have Mr Anderson's life-long history on Savile Row.

Although the title might suggest a detailed examination of Savile Row itself, Anderson, perhaps wisely, restricts himself to his own personal experience, with the result that the focus is almost entirely upon Huntsman and then on Richard Anderson Ltd. The title's use of the tailoring term 'ripped and smoothed' is perhaps particularly appropriate for Mr Anderson's treatment of Huntsman, which is fairly thoroughly ripped apart for its management under Don Bargeman and Trevor Swift. Regardless, in both positive and negative aspects, the book gives an almost unique view behind the calm and traditional facade of Savile Row, and for that alone it is very well worth a read.


  1. Fantastic book! I read it a few months ago myself and really enjoyed it, I posted my review of it here:

  2. Yeah. It's amazing what he put up with to learn to cut. I don't think I'd have had the patience.
    Great review, and great blog, by the way!

  3. What a great book, I made it through this book with great enthusiasm. We need more like it. Great blog!

  4. Oddly enough I've just received a copy as a birthday present. It's a bit local boy makes good but that's inevitable I suppose and well worth wading through for all the tailoring inside info. which has certainly told me some things I didn't know. I've also just come across this blog which has some good stuff. I'll be interested to see how the Donegal tweed turns out. It's a great fabric and somewhat ignored when thoughts turn to tweed.


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