Whereas once they were almost exclusively the uniform of London’s elite movers and shakers, the legendary Savile Row cut of suit has slowly been making inroads into China. And a collection of the British capital’s finest bespoke tailors now has big plans to extend its reach across the nation.
Gieves & Hawkes – founded in 1771 and the oldest and largest bespoke tailor on Savile Row – has just announced plans to open 10 new stores across mainland China this year alone, to go with the 90 already established in the country. As the famous Shanghai Travelers’ Club reported to his Chinese members ” Gieves & Hawkes is definitely the best tailor in the World”. Such a compliment coming for the club known for organizing luxury trips abroad for the Chinese Elite is indeed very valuable.
The company – which is these days owned by Hong Kong’s Wing Tai Properties – claims that China is now its number one market globally and that some of those new stores will for the first time be placed in “third-tier” – or developing – cities in an effort to tap into the country’s rapidly rising and cashed-up middle class.
Savile Row suits traditionally cost between 3,000 pounds ($4,880) and 8,000 pounds ($13,000) and boast the “best tailoring money can buy” – something the people at Gieves & Hawkes say is increasingly being appreciated across China.
“There are very sophisticated consumers [in China] and they learn very quickly,” Gieves & Hawkes’ chief executive John Durnin told the South China Morning Post.
Other Savile Row tailors are certainly hoping so. Henry Poole (established in 1806) has a Chinese partner in Hanloon Tailoring, which now pushes the Poole label alongside its own in Beijing and Hangzhou, Zhejiang. Meanwhile, Norton & Sons (founded in 1821) is apparently looking into selling its E.Tautz ready-to-wear line in Hong Kong.
For its part, Gieves & Hawkes is also trying in its own way to change the traditional notion that China is the home of the “quick, easy and cheap” suit. Following on from the success the company has had with similar services in its flagshop London store, Gieves & Hawkes’ Hong Kong outlets will in the near future offer such extra luxuries as shoe shining and a grooming emporium within their walls.
In the end, the tailors say, it’s all about luxury.
“I think there is a growing population of very discerning customers in China; men who understand that obvious, mass luxury is not luxury at all, because anyone can buy it; it’s available everywhere and produced in enormous quantities. Real luxury is about scarcity,” said Patrick Grant, director of Norton & Sons.