Written by DAVID COGGINS
Photography by CHARLIE GRAY
Savile Row has represented the gold standard of tailoring since before any of us — or our fathers — were born. But to men from around the world, whether they’re anglophiles or not, it stands for something more than that: It’s the platonic ideal for proper-ly made clothes. Even those who never make the pilgrimage to London feel they have a stake in the last bastion of old world craftsmanship. So when young Patrick Grant swooped in and took over the venerable tailors Norton & Sons it made an impact. Were eyebrows raised by his venerable neighbors? Did they worry Grant would try to fix something that was not broken?
It turns out that he was very welcomed indeed. “For the Row to continue to thrive all the individual houses need to thrive,” Grant explains. That means “men of discernment need a genuine choice of bespoke tailors, keeping the cloth and trimmings merchants busy, training new tailors and cutters.” It’s all connected. The old-timers’ faith was rewarded — not only did Grant restore luster to Norton he turned out to be the best ambassador the Row could possibly have. It helps that he’s dapper and handsome — Tumblr sites around the world have Grant in varying ensembles, and they’re all distinguished, singular, fearless.
Grant remains hands on: When you visit Norton, he’s there at the front desk willing to offer counsel and wisdom. He might have just purchased a very embellished British army uniform on eBay. Or he might be preparing for his role as panelist on the BBC reality program “The Great British Sewing Bee.”
More than his own celebrity, however, Grant is an advocate of old world. That extends to fabrics from all the British Isles, which means tweed from small sheds in Scotland. “The quality of their cloth is far superior to the cloths that come out of Italy for the English style of tailoring,” he notes. The resulting suit has a strong silhouette that falls somewhere between the most traditional Row tailor (H. Huntsman) and the least structured (Anderson & Sheppard).
When he is not traveling around the world helping clients with fittings, you might find him enjoying a martini at Dukes Hotel. He rides his bike to work everyday, which is very much in the analog tradition. You can find him at Brooklyn flea markets scouring outerwear bins for inspiration. Oh, and he’s now helping design Barbour’s Beacon line. And he also oversees E. Tautz, the former military tailor that is now his more contemporary line and is available around the world, off the rack, at more earthbound prices. Yes, it’s all very perfect, and yet Grant is never less than gracious, always looking forward to raising a glass with friends. In short, he’s somebody you want to succeed.
“It’s harder now to see a new young Norton, or Tautz or Nutter having the money for even a small shop on the Row these days.”
In the end, a Savile Row suit remains fiercely expensive, but that is as it should be. The money goes to expert craftsmen who have spent their lives perfecting what they do. In fact, the margins for the houses are actually quite small. Grant is surprisingly nonchalant about the future of the Row. “I’m not sure it needs to do much that it hasn’t done before,” he explains. “Old houses need to bring on exceptional new tailors, some of these need to leave and set up their own houses with a unique style.” It’s not the talent of tailors, it’s something far more prosaic: real estate. Savile Row is, to a degree, a victim of its own famous name. And rent is high and heading higher. “It’s harder now to see a new young Norton, or Tautz or Nutter having the money for even a small shop on the Row these days.”
What is a modern man looking for in a tailor that requires at least three fittings for the first suit? “He looks for consistently excellent quality tailoring but moreover for exceptional personal care and attention.” You can get a good suit from many tailors, he notes. “But for us the customer wants to enjoy a personal service in a world where increasingly we have very few relationships with the people that supply us with our everyday goods and services. It’s about simple human interaction.” That sensible simplicity is something that will never go out of style.