We are told that formal dress is dying, its mortal wound inflicted by the pandemic and the lockdown embrace of more casual attire. Certainly there are worrying signs: Marks & Spencer has stopped selling suits in many of its stores, and in the market as a whole sales are down dramatically.
I have written in defence of bespoke tailoring, encouraged people into black tie and party frocks, and championed the wearing of tweed; I am convinced, by observation as well as inclination, that there remains a market for high-end luxury tailoring, and that London, with its critical mass of tailors and manufacturers around Savile Row and Jermyn Street, is in a position to be a world leader in that market. We have an offering which combines quality with an enviable image, and we need to capitalise on it.
Recently I visited a new bespoke tailor in Soho Square, Fedro Gaudenzi. The firm has been operating from these stylish premises since January—chutzpah points to a man who sets up in the middle of a pandemic—but prior to that Fedro was an experienced hand on Savile Row. His background is impeccable, but his new enterprise, close by the traditional clothiers but distant enough to make a point, has allowed him to stretch his creative legs.
Gaudenzi’s motto is “if you can think it, we can make it,” and it sums up his approach to tailoring. During the depths of the pandemic, well-heeled customers were coming to him still with money to spend and an absolute expectation of luxury – but they didn’t want suits and formal dresses.
He found himself making cashmere tracksuits, loose pyjamas in fine silks and other garments sumptuous in construction but workaday in appearance. He says he found the experience liberating.
Suits remain a key part of his business, however. By instinct he constructs in a characteristically Italian style, with firm shoulders but a loose drape rather than the stiffer style of English tailoring, and he has a quirkily creative mind for eye-catching detail. I saw suits in progress with wide peak lapels, and Fedro himself sported a square-shouldered double-breasted suit with a louchely unbuttoned shirt. He knows the meaning of sprezzatura.
It is not simply suits for gentlemen. Fedro told me he “adored” dressing women, and several mannequins in his showroom had part-finished dresses.
Gaudenzi appeals to a very specific (and moneyed) audience, and this kind of specialisation is, in my view, the future of UK luxury tailoring. Do what you do, and do it well; whatever the circumstances, people will pay for quality. But he has also identified an interesting niche. Fedro spoke warmly of his relationships with the established Savile Row houses, especially Henry Poole and Co., but quietly affirmed that his appeal was different.
Here you will still find the highest quality fabrics, from legendary names such as Holland & Sherry, and Loro Piana, but cut and constructed with a subtle but distinctive Italian flair; the whiff of a Negroni among G&Ts and sherries. You will also be warmly and elegantly welcomed. Although the studio is in theory only open by appointment, customers often drop in not simply for a transactional fitting or payment but for a drink and an opportunity to chat. I suspect that such easygoing hospitality makes Fedro’s repeat business substantial.
One to watch, then: a Gaudenzi suit will stand out from Savile Row offerings for its Mediterranean influences and there will be customers who will value and crave that. He is another arrow in the quiver of London’s high-end tailoring, and a welcome one.