Friday, September 25, 2009

Welsh & Jefferies: Dressing the old and new guard

I happened to be in London again this month and visited Welsh & Jefferies, a tailor at the north end of Savile Row. As I tend to do, I walked in without an appointment and ended up having a very cordial and friendly chat with James Cottrell, who was working on a jacket at the table in the front of the shop. James is a senior cutter and has been at W&J for four years but has 40 years of experience in the trade. Prior to W&J, he worked at Poole, Nutters and Kilgour. If I remember correctly, he also trained under Roy Chittleborough at Chittleborough & Morgan, whom I wrote about in an earlier blog post.

Welsh & Jefferies storefront

W&J make a straight, square shoulder with a shaped waist. The detail work and finishing looked quite good for those who care about the details (e.g. very fine buttonholes). James kindly pulled out a number of examples - a blue velvet smoking jacket, a tweed jacket and couple of suits. They offer an excellent selection of fabrics: Lesser, Smith, Dugdale, Holland & Sherry, W. Bill, Cacciapoli, D'Avenza and Dashing Tweeds.

For new customers, the initial order will take 4-6 weeks and multiple fittings. The garments are cut entirely on premise but sewn off-premise due to space constraints. Although Malcolm Plews was not in the shop when I visited, I also met a young cutter in training named May who is now able to make coats. She showed a remarkable military-inspired white cutaway coat with gold piping and braiding with matching trousers which she cut and made entirely herself. May is shown wearing just the coat in the photo below (which was cut and sized for another person). Note also the trim shape and shoulders on James's jacket - a classic Savile Row look.

James Cottrell and May

What I like about talking with the smaller shops on the Row is the ease with which you can get a good sense and familiarity with the cutters. In other words, it's quite easy to know who will be working on your clothes, how they work and what interests them. As the title of my blog post indicates, they have customers who have made some very interesting and unusual commissions in the past. It may not be apparent immediately when you walk in, but W&J are comfortable with commissions with fantastically different fabrics and patterns. If you're thinking of marrying an impeccable Savile Row cut with flair in the fabric and pattern, you may have just found your shop.

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