Beloved by many, we just adore this letter from Hardy Minnis' Hunt and Winterbotham archive, showing the letter written by the White House Special Assistant, requesting a length of rather special Fresco!
How long have you been in the trade?
I've been in the trade 30years this year!
Where did you start?
I started as a cloth merchant at a French company called Dormeuil, then H Lesser and Dugdale Bros before heading to Huddersfield Fine Worsted.
What is it about the history of HFW that attracted you to the company?
It's just the untapped size of the history, If you drill down into our history HFW are so important to the history of English cloth manufacturing!
What is your favourite cloth, and from which bunch?
That’s a tricky one for me as our Bamboo collection is without doubt the best cloth I've ever worn for comfort and feel, but how can it compete with Fresco, which is almost a perfect cloth!
What garment of clothing could you not live without?
Easy one, it's my Dugdale Dreadnought serge made by Huntsman and cut by a young cutter called Antonia!
In your opinion, who is the best dressed man alive today?
Prince Charles; he is smart and not over thought!
What was the first bespoke garment you ever got made, and by who/what cloth?
My first garment was a Tonic pair of trousers made by a tailor in East London, loved them!
What is the definition of a beautiful cloth?
Tough one as you have cloth for different seasons and reasons, but I'd say it's that jacket you pick out of your wardrobe more then the others around it, is it the cloth or the cut probably a bit of both.
Who do you see as the atypical Fresco client?
It's a client who understands cloth and tailoring and knows the properties of fresco suit, the fact he can travel on business with a suit that sheds its wrinkles so well.
It is the ultimate travel suit.
We are delighted to be teaming up with the brilliant cloth merchants Hardy Minnis to offer our customers a fantastic 15% off orders using J and J Minnis' iconic Fresco cloth.
Fresco is one of the most distinctive British fabrics we know, and although generally used as a travel suiting, is fabulously versatile. It's name translating to 'fresh', we understand exactly why, with it's multiple yarn, high twisted wool allowing for an open weave, breathable cloth.
Due to the high twist, it has a very dry, coarse handle to it, which, despite feeling less 'luxe', allows for long lasting wear.
Nowadays, Fresco is available in over 36 different colours and designs, and the weights range from 8oz–15oz per yard (248g–465g per metre), whereas the original fresco from the 1950’s was usually between 11 oz -18oz (341g -558g per metre) and a plain weave. More recently, the designs have been becoming more lively, with stunning puppy tooth and stripes making their way into the bunches.
We are seriously excited to have received our first batch of Courtney and Co buttons recently, after a long hunt for a new style. Don’t get us wrong, we adore horn buttons, but they seem to be getting heavier set recently, and we want something that feels a bit more like the older, more delicate buttons you find on vintage pieces.
So, that’s where David comes in. He (like us) loves all things hand crafted, and in his words: ‘when the opportunity presented itself to ‘rescue’ the manufacturing of natural buttons in the UK we jumped at the chance. Enthused and guided by a romantic and nostalgic desire to save and restore what was once a great industry in the UK, we have invested in machines and engaged experienced button-makers who could be persuaded to pass on their skills’.
Button blanks - jute bags containing Corozo (and horn in the background) at the start of the process -the raw material, so to speak.
Polishing barrels showing finished buttons in the foreground. They use traditional techniques to polish buttons and use such things as pumice stone and wooden/ceramic pegs. The buttons are introduced to the barrels and are turned for days, depending on the finish required. A top quality horn button can be polished this way for up to two weeks!
And these aren’t just any old buttons: they are made from so called ‘vegetable Ivory’, Corozo. Fundamentally, it is a nut but is every bit as hard as a regular horn button. And to top it off is fully ecologically sustainable. Grown on a Tagua Palm in Central America, the plant requires no human harvesting, as the nuts naturally fall to the ground when ripe. With each tree producing around 1800 nuts a year and living for around a century, we are lucky to have such a bountiful supply at our fingertips!
With their head office in Gloucestershire, Courtney and Co are bringing button making out of the shadows, with a horn button line in the pipeline.
Below: A double breasted blazer with our new buttons, and a close-up detail of a cuff.
A double breasted blazer with our new buttons,
and a close up detail of a cuff
We are over the moon to be working with them, and cannot wait to see where they go!
Visit www.courtneyandco.uk for more info.
'Women of Saville Row' is a creative radio feature made by emerging radio / audio producer Clare Lynch (clarelynchsoho). The piece is a conversation between three extraordinary women talking about working in the bespoke tailoring trade. Their voices are heard alongside the sounds of them hard at work in their workrooms in central London.
Clare Lynch who writes for the magazine Soho society spoke to some of Soho’s remaining craftspeople who are keeping its artisan traditions alive.
Part of the reason for branching out and starting Montague Ede was a chance to do something a bit different, a bit fun and a bit more creative. There is absolutely no reason why bespoke tailoring shouldn’t be a bit lighthearted, whether it be creating ridiculous pockets for niche objects or finding the loudest lining ever created for a flash of character on a pocket flap.
So when artist Olly Williams (www.ollysuzi.com) approached me to cut him something a bit different, I leapt at the opportunity.
Olly had obtained a length of tweed from the island of Jura, which was woven with the surrounding Scottish landscape in mind. The tone of the yarn combined with the ‘rough and ready’ tweed is sympathetic to the environment the cloth is designed to be worn in, and Olly’s request of a shooting coat he could ‘fling on’ and do anything in was perfect.
Taking Olly’s frame and the aesthetic he had in mind, we decided to cut the coat with bellow patch pockets, a storm collar and gun pleats at the back. Suede elbow patches and trim on the edge of the pockets in olive green really complimented the piece. Add to that Bernstein and Banley’s shark print lining through the sleeves, and you have yourself a blinder of a coat.
So, for the final installment, I asked our very patient intern and my even more patient colleague what they thought the last article of clothing for the ultimate wardrobe detox should be, and although they both said a jacket, they disagreed on what. SO. I thought back to the ‘homework’ Rachel has been doing each week since interning with us, a film we set each week for her to watch.
This is mostly for costume/style reasons, or because of cultural importance to us. Past films have been The Thomas Crown Affair (original) and The man In The Grey Flannel Suit (reason not necessary). The film for this week, however is Bullitt. Steve McQueen at his best; a broody cop with iconic sixties style.
To me, this is the missing jigsaw piece: the Bullitt Jacket. Totally versatile, this classic throw-on- and-go coat that works with either chinos, flannels or jeans. A rollneck or an open collared shirt with a cravat. Having made one for a client back at Hardy Amies, he still claims it as one of his favourite garments ever. We made it from a classic Scabal jacketing, however the cloth market is flooded with possible fabrics, from a tweed to a cashmere. As the ideal spring coat, we look forward to seeing more of these on the street in coming months!
GENERATION GAME: INTRODUCING MONTAGUE EDE BESPOKE - ALEKS CVETKOVIC
The Rake meets with Antonia Ede, a Savile Row stalwart who has broken with tradition to found her own bespoke house, and who isn’t afraid to do things a little differently.
Spend a few minutes chatting with Antonia Ede, bespoke cutter, tailor and founder of Montague Ede – London’s latest bespoke house – and you’ll immediately get the impression that you’re in good hands, not only because Antonia is a thoroughly confident figurehead for her new studio on Soho’s Brewer Street, but because her training speaks for itself.
For context, Montague Ede is brand new, and the first time in Antonia’s nine-year career in British tailoring that she’s had her name above the door. Prior to establishing the house only a few months ago, she worked as a Cutter for three years at Hardy Amies, before moving to Huntsman for a further two and a half years, and was mentored first by the remarkable Stuart Lamprell and then by bespoke-legend Pat Murphy, during his tenure as Huntsman’s Head Cutter. These two near-mythic figures combine almost a century of bespoke experience between them, this being something that Antonia evidently appreciates only too well. Strike up a conversation about tailoring and her time spent at Hardy’s and Huntsman will surface without doubt – clearly, she has no qualms about deferring to her mentors. “I learned so much from both of them,” she expands, “the way that they relate to their clients is so impressive. They’re both good-old London boys and they’ve worked on Savile Row for decades. At Hardy’s I learned everything from trimming to front of house sales. Huntsman was a different ball-game because its such a big house, but to work with Pat, a third generation tailor whose father even worked at Huntsman before him, was extraordinary.”
Even so, after nine years on the Row, the time came for Antonia to cut her own jib and to try something new. Indeed, freshness of approach seems key to Montague Ede, as is immediately apparent from Antonia’s new choice of address. Together with talented bespoke shirtmaker Deema Abi-Chahine, she chose to break free of tailoring’s golden mile and strike out in Soho. “We chose the Soho studio for two reasons,” says Antonia, “firstly, the set up here gives us flexibility. At the end of the day, we’re two chicks starting a company, its fairly unusual. Being in Soho gives us some freedom, we can be creative and not too traditional in what we’re doing. And then of course, logistically, finding the right property in Mayfair is impossible – Mayfair is very ‘closed doors’ and we didn’t want anything too polished. We wanted the workshop to be a part of the room.”
Clearly, this was the right call, because walking into the Montague Ede studio you’re immediately hit with a sense of relaxed intimacy, and creativity. Everything is a little bit quirky, work benches are suitably strewn with half-cut or half-finished jobs and one gets the sense that although its a small space with only two craftspeople in it, its still busy and bustling. “Part of the joy of bespoke is letting the customer see the work that goes into a garment, and letting them see the person who worked on it; so they can understand where they trained, where they are now and how long they’ve been in the trade. Some shops are so pristine, to me it’s counter-intuitive. If I was a bespoke customer, I’d like to know where my clothes were being made and cut.”
As you might well expect, this freshness of approach manifests itself in Antonia’s own philosophy on cutting and making. “Naturally, I wanted to take elements of my time from both Huntsman and Hardy’s, and put my own spin on them,” she explains. “I think its hugely important to be flexible in modern tailoring, people get fixated on the idea of a ‘house cut’ nowadays. I really believe that bespoke, and particularly Savile Row, has to be prepared to move with the times. Who am I to tell a customer what is or isn’t appropriate? We are there to use our technical ability to realise what the customer wants, and to harness his creativity – its a partnership. Personally, I love proper old-school British tailoring; a sharp clean shoulder, a good chest, nipped in waist and a bit of flair in the skirt (or as Pat called it, ‘bosh’). But if a customer wants a shirtsleeve shoulder, I’ll do it and I’ll enjoy it.”
Clearly, this new chapter in Antonia’s career is a tremendously exciting step. Moreover, her star is set to shine even brighter still with the coming of the Golden Shears this spring – for which she’s been selected as a technical judge – a clear mark of her reputation within the tailoring community. “The old timers know how to process everything,” she jokes, “As the newbie I was the last judge to get through everything when we were looking at the finalists work. But it’s such a great institution and having seen first-hand the love and workmanship that goes into each entry, it’s great to know that the next generation is so committed.”
The irony of course is that Antonia really forms a part of this next, fresh-thinking generation herself, and in establishing her own house she’s doing more than her fair share to move the story of British tailoring forward. One can’t help but feel that the future is looking rosy for Montague Ede, and so it should be. If you’re going to be in Soho any time soon and you’ve got a few minutes to kill, why not pay Antonia a visit? I guarantee you’ll leave hooked.