The man who changed Savile Row

THERE are times when Edward Sexton could seem straight out of a Guy Ritchie movie, with his wizened pink features, shock of punkish white hair and thick cockney accent – especially when he says, of the suits he’s created with ready-to-wear specialists Chester Barrie: “It’s a steal really, one of these suits, a bloody steal!”

Equally, though, he resembles a modern day Beau Brummell, even as he approaches his 70th birthday, with a style that’s an immaculate mix of elegance and quiet flamboyance. When we meet he’s sporting a double-breasted blue suit with luxuriously wide lapels, a sky-blue shirt with high white collar held in place by a whopping tie-pin, and natty brown suede Derbys.

If anyone should know how to dress well it’s Sexton, one of the most gifted cutters of his generation and the man who, together with the flamboyant salesman Tommy Nutter in the 1970s, brought the spirit of rock’n’roll to Savile Row at a time when it was still a hive of stiff upper lips and snooty orthodoxy.

Having met at a previous tailoring house in the late 1960s, the pair drew up plans to shake up the traditional scene, opening Nutters of Savile Row in February 1969, when London was in its swinging pomp.

“At the time there was Carnaby Street or the King’s Road, and then there was Savile Row – all of them very different,” Sexton says. “But there was a huge clientele out there that wanted Carnaby Street or King’s Road style but with Savile Row quality, and it wasn’t around – so we filled that void.”

That meant expressively cut suits with huge lapels and flares, and clientele like Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton. And it wasn’t just the cut of the suits that changed.

“We were the first company ever to have a window display. Savile Row then was a closed shop, you went there because your father went there or your regiment did, so there wasn’t the walk-through feel it has today. So when we had our showroom and a window display where you could see really beautifully made clothing that had a different look to it, they were all horrified. But we got huge interest, and of course their clients would look in our windows and then got to their tailors and ask for their lapels to be made a little bit wider or to have more flare in the trousers. So we influenced them that way, and gradually things started to change.”

The Savile Row stalwarts who had thought Nutter and Sexton would be gone in six months hadn’t reckoned on the sheer quality of the work they were producing, largely down to Sexton’s talent. Forty years on and with a lifetime of experience behind him, Sexton runs his bespoke business in Knightsbridge, to where clients come by appointment only from all over the world.

He’s also plugging some of that wealth of knowledge into the world of ready-to-wear and made-to-measure, designing beautiful new looks for Chester Barrie, the company set up in 1935 with a view to bringing Savile Row quality to off-the-peg suits. The results are formidable – suits that carry all the hallmarks of Sexton’s handcraft, his eye for balance and proportion and his profound understanding of structure, but for relatively affordable prices (ready-to-wear starts from £595).

“You can go and buy a readymade suit anywhere that looks beautifully made, but they die – the shoulders don’t work, the collar doesn’t quite fit, and it’s because of all these little things that technicians in a factory, who don’t work with clients, can’t do,” Sexton says. “This is different – it’s investment clothing. All my previous life experience that’s gone into this – my history is Savile Row, that’s all I know.”


Cad & the Dandy’s bespoke jeans
If you’re used to going bespoke when it comes to your suit, why not apply the same to your casualwear? in the past one might have imagined that would result in, well, not the most contemporary of casual looks, but in these times when tailoring is itself the height of fashion, it could be just the thing. Sprightly Square Mile tailors Cad & the Dandy – founded by former City boys James Sleater and Ian Meiers, mark it – have cunningly launched a bespoke jeans service, constructed to customers’ requirements in their London workshop.

Alexander McQueen comes to the Row
Anyone walking up Savile Row of late will have noticed the shop front at number 9 bearing the announcement of the forthcoming appearance of an Alexander McQueen boutique. McQueen himself, of course, originally trained as a cutter on the Row, and the brand will be working with one of the great houses of the street, Huntsman, for its bespoke service. The “Huntsman for Alexander McQueen Savile Row” capsule will team the McQueen silhouette and block with Huntsman’s expertise, and will be available in a choice of fabric weights and designs.

Travel in the ultimate style
Well-dressed travellers take note: Rubinacci, the Neapolitan tailors with a beautiful shop on Mount Street in Mayfair, must be the only bespoke outfitter with its own boutique hotel. Casa Rubinacci is a gorgeous Naples villa run by the Rubinacci family, in which each apartment is named after a different fine fabric. Guests can not only enjoy eight nights of princely Italian luxury, but will have a bespoke Rubinacci two-piece suit thrown into the bargain, all for €4,200 (£3,380). For more information go to