Stylistic history is written in Savile Row in London: men of the world have been ordering bespoke hand-made suits there for generations.
“Since I started to explore the world of men’s fashion for myself and, thus, for you, I have concentrated on learning the meaning of technical terms and becoming acquainted with difficult names and a large number of different cloth manufacturers. I have shared my knowledge of suits and talked about famous tailoring businesses; every day I discover new addresses which are still unknown to me. However, I seem to have forgotten something that is very important, i.e. the beginning! Quite simply: how everything started … Since this article concerns Norman Dewis OBE (holder of the “Order of the British Empire”), I will begin with “Once upon a time…”. Because Norman Dewis has now passed away at the age of 98.
Once upon a time … Norman Dewis OBE (holder of the “Order of the British Empire”) provided the finishing touches to countless Jaguar models in his position as the company’s Chief Tester. During his 33 years with Jaguar in Coventry, the fearless and extremely talented Dewis became the most famous English test driver. No chassis problem escaped his sensitive popometer – series production of a new Jaguar could only start after Norman had given his “OK”. He soon acquired legendary status on account of his always friendly and unassuming behaviour, as well as the aura of being indestructible. In his capacity as a global brand ambassador, the man with the stature of a jockey retained his close connection with the Jaguar brand right up the very end. A brilliant story teller, he also enchanted Jaguar enthusiasts in Germany who were able to experience him during the Classic Car Grand Prix on the Nürburgring race track or during the Classic Days at Dyck Castle. Dewis’ story with Jaguar – captivatingly described in every detail in the autobiography “Norman Dewis of Jaguar – Developing the Legend” – is just as remarkable as the venue for this summit meeting on the premises of the famous men’s tailor Henry Poole & Co in Savile Row.
London, Mayfair, Savile Row. Norman Dewis was joined by the Jaguar brand ambassador David Gandy for the photo shoot. Just like Dewis, Gandy’s enthusiasm for the brand and classic cars in particular is very tangible. The gentleman among models also naturally made use of the opportunity to accompany the great test driver during the selection of a perfect outfit.
The workshop at the back, the fitting room at the front and the tailor’s cutting table in between; a handful of tailors sit at the back while Gandy and Dewis pass the time at the front recounting anecdotes. The talk – what else – is about old and new Jaguar models, along with style. The atmosphere is enhanced by steam emanating from irons and there is a smell of stiff linen and freshly brewed tea. Amy Shore has her hands full in capturing the atmosphere with her camera. Dewis slips on a jacket. He checks the lining, hem and lapels, and then consults Gandy.
Measurements are taken and retaken, cloth is cut and sewed, the suit is tried on and corrections are made until everything fits perfectly. Grandfatherly quality. You should know here that Henry Poole & Co was established back in 1806 and is the founder of Savile Row, the street that has been synonymous with bespoke tailoring tradition for over 200 years. It was the eponymous Mr. Poole who opened his salon in 1846 for the first time and where he served red wine and cigars to friends such as the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII.), Baron Meyer de Rothschild and other people. Even today, customers of Henry Poole follow in the footsteps of kings, prime ministers, presidents and eminent personalities from politics, finance and publishing. The cut must be perfect – apposite and stylish, the rest is craftsmanship.
At Henry Poole & Co everything that looks good is made by hand: jackets, trousers, shirts, waistcoats, single-breasted and double-breasted coats, two-piece and three-piece suits, dinner jackets, tailcoats and tuxedos. A suit costs between 3,000 and 4,000 Pounds; special requirements are extra; every request is produced as long as it remains refined, discreet and elegant. Precision work in perfection. Old English school. At Henry Poole & Co the tailors are masters of their trade. Just like at Jaguar. Norman Dewis would certainly have concurred. Just like in a fairy tale, the story ends here with “and although he has died” – he then lives on in my story.”