I stopped by W&J and had a friendly chat with James Cottrell and Ying Mei Quan. When I visited a couple of years ago, Mei was an apprentice but she is now a full partner with James, who bought out the business from the now retired Malcolm Plews.
Mei is capable of cutting men's and women's clothes but is smartly focusing on women's clothing, bringing in a new set of clientele that normally does not frequent Savile Row. As the photos below suggest, she's creating some very smart, striking jackets inspired by the equestrian side of Savile Row's history.
Below is Mei's winning entry in the 2011 Golden Shears competition.
W&J is making their first NYC trip in a few years this March. Incidentally, we were chatting about overcoats and got on the topic of heavyweight overcoatings. In particular, James shared that the stock of traditional British warm overcoating is slowly dwindling (down to something like 30 yards if I remember correctly). Cutting this woolen fleece or melton fabric is like cutting a carpet, and rather painful on the fingers doing the cutting.
Given my recent interest in smoking jackets, we also got to chatting about velvet. Mei shared some of the challenges in working with this particular fabric. For one thing, velvet tends to be a bit shifty during fittings unlike firmer, worsted fabrics. It also needs to be ironed at a lower temperature with matching velvet underneath as the resting fabric (rather than wool). Lastly and perhaps most interesting, velvet needs to be "pattern matched" in the sense that the jacket pieces need to be aligned so that the nap of the fabric moves in the same direction. Good stuff (literally and figuratively)!