This exclusive interview with Angus Cundey of Henry Poole & Co was conducted by Nicola Linza and Cristoffer Neljesjö in London September 2010
Henry Poole & Co has an incredible history, how do you work to maintain the high quality and traditions?
I consider myself most fortunate to have inherited one of or perhaps the most famous tailoring firm in the world. I am the sixth generation in the business, my great grandfather was cousin of Henry Poole.
It was Henry Poole who became the first to open a tailoring company on Savile Row in 1846 after his father started the firm in 1806 with addresses in London’s Bloomsbury, Regent Street and Old Burlington Street.
The Company has always instigated its own training programmes for cutters and sewing tailors and thus maintained the high quality for which Pooles is renowned.
In light of current trends that some of decided to follow what is your view of the wave of often unqualified people improperly using the term bespoke.
I find it both depressing and annoying that the term Bespoke Tailoring is being pirated in the UK, the country where the word originated. In many countries including France, Germany, Japan and the USA, Bespoke (custom) cannot be applied to Ready to Wear or Made to Measure clothing which are made in factories and cut from block patterns whereas a Bespoke Garment has an individual pattern cut for each client and put together by hand in a workshop.
We like the phrase, “Water seeks it’s own level.” Do you believe that to be a similar truth for the future of true bespoke?
In 1890, Henry Poole and Co were producing 12,000 bespoke suits annually, employing 14 cutters and 300 sewing tailors. The orders have declined steadily since 1900 due to the ready to wear industry and more sadly, partly due to the First World War, the elegance of the frock coat, dress coat, court dress and even yachting and golf blazers were superseded by anoraks, pullovers and the uniform office suit. Thankfully there is still a demand from the discerning few who require dress suits, morning coats, dining suits and comfortable and elegant lounge suits.
We have become a niche industry with Pooles now with a payroll of only 68 cutters, tailors and tailoresses but I am confident they have an assured future as the skilled craft will continue.
What are the big differences between British and Italian tailoring?
To put simply and in general terms, an Italian jacket is styled with wide shoulders, loose fitting and deep gorge (long collar, shorter lapel). The London Cut is more natural shoulders, shape in waist and long lapels with high gorge.
What should men think about when buying a suit?
Firstly the tailor will want to know when and where the suit is to be worn in order to determine weight and formality of the cloth from which to make the selection. Being a bespoke garment, pockets, colour of lining, front buttoning, vents in back and with trousers whether turn ups, cut for belt or braces (suspenders) will be discussed with the customer.
Trends and fads come and go but what is it about fine traditional clothing in your view that makes it solid and tasteful to men of style, which indeed is always fashionable?
As we make suits to last for many years, it must always remain in fashion. Therefore a Savile Row garment is seldom made to extremes of any current fashion but built for comfort and elegance.
Where do primarily obtain your fabrics?
We still obtain 90% of our worsted wool cloth from Huddersfield in England’s Yorkshire, woollen flannel from the West of England and tweeds from Scotland.
Is proportion the primary significant factor in a successful suit?
A true bespoke suit fits the customer but disguises certain features like a drop right shoulder or corpulent waist, all to achieve an elegant look.
Please describe the idea trouser length and break for a tall man and is it the same for all men?
Trousers should have a half inch break at front over shoe, whether the man is tall or short.
It is 1970 and we are meeting in Rome for a private party hosted by Luchino Visconti. What are you wearing? In addition, whom do you want to meet?
Rather than answering this question, I maintain that every man should have a dark blue herringbone suit in his wardrobe for weddings, funerals and formal board meetings and in addition, a blue blazer for travel which will be smart for a private party or if summoned to an hastily called business meeting.
The above interview with Angus Cundey 2010 © Manner of Man Magazine/Welldressed. All rights reserved. Reproduction is strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.