May 3, 2013 by Ville Raivio
‘I am 63 this year and I am the owner of Davies and Son. I went to a local school and left at age 15 with no qualifications. Fortunately, I got an apprenticeship with Huntsman who sent me to a tailoring college, where I got my City and Guilds certification. I have 3 children, my eldest son is very interested in tailoring and has worked with me now and again over the years. My wife has a master’s in History of Art and I met her while working for Madame Tussaud’s, where she was head of costume. My mother was a machinist and my father was a window cleaner. They thought I would end up working on the building trade, so they were very pleased and very supportive of me. Without my mother’s support in the early days, when I was earning £3 a week, I probably would have given up.
I first got interested [in tailoring] at school. It was the swinging 60’s and I was a mod. Unfortunately, I did not have the money to buy the clothes, so together with my mum we used to make them. My apprenticeship was with Huntsman, a very traditional tailor, so I got into that side of the trade and not the fashion or “RAG trade” side. It started when Huntsman sent me to a full-time college for one year at the London College Of Fashion. Following that, they had their own night school, 2 nights a week. When I left Huntsman, or “they let me go,” I joined Kilgour, French and Stanbury. It was there that I became a coat maker and realised later that I needed to learn cutting. I enrolled at night school at the London College Of Fashion and did 3 years of night school. I then got a job as an under cutter at Dege and Skinner.
I like polo chinos and t-shirts, I do not wear jeans. I wear Tricker’s or Crockett&Jones shoes. Other than that, I make most of my things, such as sports jackets, shirts, trousers and overcoats. I had my own business on Savile Row, and in 1995 they wanted to pull the building down. I had to find another home and I heard through the tailoring grapevine (it’s a small industry and everybody knows everything about other companies through the cloth reps) that the two directors at Davies and Son were thinking about selling. So I bought the business and got a new home in one go. I trebled my size overnight. The goals I set were to move the firm back to Savile Row as soon as the new building was rebuilt, and to become one of the leading and most respected tailors on the Row.
It’s hard to describe our house style as we cut for the individual. We have to make the customer look good, he might be fat, skinny, short, tall, round back, erect, bottle shoulders. So we have to adapt to do the best with whatever shape we have to work with. However, we do like a straight shoulder line with medium padding, a roped sleevehead, slight waisting and a little bit of drape. We cut a high armhole and aim to make you look good without the suit being tight. There are dozens of tailors in London, but not all tailors are TAILORS! Half of them are made to measure, or alter stock fittings. We make a hand-drafted paper pattern for every customer. All cloths are hand-cut and made. As a customer you deal with your own cutter who sees you every time you visit. Apart from our shirt cutter, all of my staff have been with me for over 5 years and some of my tailors have worked for me for over 30 years.
I am inspired every day. I love my trade and never get tired of the challenges it throws at me. You never stop learning in tailoring. Style is hard to define, but you definitely know when someone has it. It’s like looking at a French woman. It doesn’t matter if they are beautiful or not, but you can tell they have a certain style. I am a keen fly fisher. When I get the time, a day on the test is my idea of heaven. [As a guardian of Savile Row’s history,] I collect clothes hangers from other tailoring houses, and old tailoring or cutting books. I also have a collection of tailoring shears going back at least 100 years. I just like tailoring memorabilia. I also have a small collection of uniforms and old clothes that have some interesting points.
A few tips for the readers:
– Never do up the bottom button on a single breasted jacket.
– On a double breasted jacket, if you don’t want it done up, always leave the jigger, or inside button, buttoned.
– Never wear your sleeves too long. Always show at least 1/4″ of shirt cuff. Do not let the salesman tell you they will ride up, because they will not. Get them shortened.
-Your jacket length should be about half the distance from the nape of your neck to the ground. This will keep your jacket in proportion to your height whether you have short legs or long legs.
– If you cannot afford an expensive suit, invest in a good shirt and silk tie with a polished pair of shoes.
Pictures: © Davies&Son