How Maurice Sedwell champions the art of true bespoke tailoring on Savile Row
Published by: The Industry London, 14th February 2016 by David Watts
Andrew M Ramroop OBE is most definitely a traditionalist but with one eye firmly fixed on the future of bespoke tailoring. As Master Tailor and owner of bespoke Savile Row tailors Maurice Sedwell (Est 1938) he certainly cuts a dash in one of his own handmade suits when we meet at his Atelier – and with prices starting at £5,500 a suit, these suits are certainly not for the faint hearted.
He began his London training as a backroom trainee for another Savile Row institution, Huntsman & Son in 1970, having arrived from his native Trinidad, West Indies. Offered a position by tailor Maurice Sedwell himself, Ramroop mastered his craft, worked his way to the top, becoming managing director of the business in 1982 and then buying the company in 1988.
Bespoke tailoring inhabits a somewhat rarefied world and almost has a shroud of mystery surrounding it. Most Savile Row tailors won’t discuss who their clients are, but I must confess to spotting the paper suit patterns for one Samuel L Jackson hanging on a hook in the Sedwell atelier. Clients who buy bespoke suits say it’s like belonging to a very exclusive (and rather expensive) club.
Ramroop explains that his client base is far reaching and wide ranging (from movie stars to diplomats), with clients as far afield as Texas (this client orders 12 suits at a time) to Abu Dabhi (seven suits at a time) South Africa and Nigeria, where businessmen have an incredible appetite for bespoke tailoring. He tells me that Maurice Sedwell has clients in 60 countries with 70% of his business being from overseas and the likelihood with emerging markets like China, his business has great future growth opportunities.
He sees no slow-down in the appetite for bespoke and suggests that while Savile Row is not usually thought of as a street for browsing, Maurice Sedwell gets at least one new walk-in client a week. Ramroop cites that while these are new clients, they have done their research and usually arrive knowing what they want.
International clients are a mainstay of Savile Row bespoke and neighbouring powerhouse Huntsman has recently opened a pied-à-terre in New York City to expand its US client base. Other Savile Row tailors have diversified into ready to wear, made to measure and even licensing, such as Huntsman, Gieves & Hawkes, and Richard James, who’s “Mayfair” line is produced under license. Ramroop doesn’t rule this out but for now the Maurice Sedwell business is really only about bespoke.
Maurice Sedwell also caters to women and Ramroop recounts that 25 years ago when he set out women’s tailoring on mannequins in the windows of his Savile Row store, that it cause quite a stir with other tailoring houses on “The Row”.
In an age where fashion and menswear in particular is changing rapidly, added to this the impact of e-commerce and digital, I asked Ramroop for his take on where bespoke menswear sits in today’s hyper-fast fashion industry and how digital affects it.
DW: Would you agree that the premise of bespoke is the same today as it has been traditionally?
AR: Today bespoke is confusing to the prospective customer. Bespoken is an original word derived from the tailoring trade when a length of cloth was “spoken” for a customer. Now you can get a bespoke suit from a ready to wear company that has been made in China.
DW: How is Savile Row dealing with the digital age and how does that impact on future business?
AR: The digital age is very favourable in that we can communicate via Skype (for example) to choose cloth, design, and oversee someone else taking the measurements. Communication is efficient and updating customers on the progress of their suits with photographs is an excellent way of keeping in touch and even exciting customers in a way that was not available ten years ago.
DW: Is Savile Row embracing digital technology?
AR: Not at Maurice Sedwell! Our “Ultra-bespoke” tailoring is like original art, whereas ready to wear is more like a print!
DW: Should it embrace digital technology?
AR: The traditions of Savile Row’s hand crafted method of fine tailoring cannot embrace technology; individually designed, hand-cut and hand tailored cannot be surpassed by technology.
DW: What is the future looking like for bespoke?
AR: There will always be a place for luxury “Ultra Bespoke” regardless of the shrinking market. Many Savile Row brands sell ready to wear and made-to-measure but bespoke gives them respect.