Recently at SHOWstudio, we've been thinking a lot about the rise of 'slow fashion'. By that I mean, old-school luxury, things like bespoke tailoring and logo-less classic pieces - great coats, immaculate trousers, crisp white shirts. That's the appeal of Celine and Balenciaga, or even relative fashion newbies like Victoria Beckham. These designers seem like a real antidote to the bright prints and showy accessories - you could call it 'fast fashion' - on show on some other ready-to-wear runways.
That's why it made perfect sense that Selfridges - a retailer that's always one step ahead of the curve - opened Selfridges Bespoke, a new bespoke tailoring department in November 2012 to offer their clients timeless garments with a perfect fit. At the helm of the service is renowned Savile Row master tailor Henry Rose, who creates women's and men's suits from his workshop on the second floor of the store, right in the middle of the Womenswear Designer Galleries. Rose has an incredible tailoring pedigree. He opened his own workshop at the tender age of 19 - his mother had to sign the legal documents as he was so young - and went on to work with Peter Moore, Nutters, Haywards, the Helman Bros, Edward Sexton, Lew Fuirst, Bobby Valentine and Robbie Stanford. It was during his time working with Haywards that he began to get involved with dressing the celebrity circuit. He made suits for the likes of Kirk Douglas and John Mills - apt given that his introduction to Stella McCartney, who he worked with for 10 years between 2003 and 2013, came when she asked him to make the kilt jacket for Guy Ritchie and Madonna's wedding.
At the time of the 'Selfridges Bespoke' launch, SHOWstudio helped promote the initiative by exclusively launching Four Tell, a fashion film by Kathryn Ferguson that - alongside celebrating International Women's Day by featuring four inspirational women, including Zaha Hadid and Bella Freud - showed off Rose's expert cutting skills. We also pulled in their front-of-house expert Jack Tobin, who also works as a freelance fashion consultant, to speak on our signature live panel discussions where he dissected the cutting skills and commercial savvy of designers across New York, London, Milan and Paris. Hear him in action discussing Victoria Beckham, Prada, Saint Laurent and Mary Katrantzou.
Having spent hours considering the benefits of bespoke, and the importance of perfect fit when it comes to tailoring, I approached the process of getting my own suit fitted with trepidation. Choosing a suit felt as important as choosing a husband - it would be with me for life after all! Seduced by Raf Simons' first couture collection for Dior and - though I'm slightly shy to admit it - intrigued by the allure of Hedi Slimane's skinny tuxes at his Saint Laurent debut, I opted for a black evening suit, lined with inky green. The trousers were to be slim and slightly cropped and furnished with a braid up the side, while the jacket would be sleek and fitted. Finally, the waistcoat was to be simple and snug - what's the point of getting a bespoke suit if not a three-piece?
As always with bespoke, the wait for the suit was long and required several visits to Rose's Selfridges base. You develop a close relationship with your suit during this process. You watch it grow from a fantasy, real only in a series of measurements noted down by the tailor, to a series of chalked, half-constructed pieces, to a glorious final look. The process of fittings and re-fittings and final tweaks can be intimate. But, just as you're letting a tailor in on your deepest darkest secrets (your measurements and actual body shape), they're also letting you into their strange world, full of heritage and tradition. This is a world of 'snob's thumbs' and 'crushed beetles', a place of immense history and skill - real fashion secrets and tricks. I found that Rose's eye worked at a super-human pace, he saw inaccuracies and errors that no normal shopper, no matter how great their love of fashion, could have noticed. 'Swing your arms...drop your shoulders', he'd say, as I stood before him at fittings, looking not at the style in general but the minute details, the button holes, the cuff lengths and the waistband. Rose is not interested in trends, but perfection.
My finished suit is a true masterpiece. Already, pulling on a pair of jeans off-the-peg or a ready-to-wear shirt feels alien. Once you go bespoke you can never go back it seems!
For more information on Henry Rose and Selfridges Bespoke visit www.selfridges.co.uk/bespoke and www.henryrose.co.uk