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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Day In The Life Of Master Tailor Steven Hitchcock

I had first heard of Steven Hitchcock when I began watching and reading the Dandy Portraits. Rose Callahan had shot Steven during a trunk show in a New York hotel room. He was a meticulously dressed man and his open face and charming smile only served to add more charisma to his ensemble. Steven Hitchcock is a London tailor and he is the first English tailor I have interviewed for this blog, so it is quite nice that he took the time to answer our questions. 

Steven, I have always wondered about the daily functions of a Savile Row tailor. Can you attempt to describe to us what might be the daily routine for the staff at your tailoring house? 

My day starts the night before I go to bed. Before I go to bed, I choose my shirt, tie, shoes and suit for the next day. In doing this, it makes me ready for the new day. As I enter the shop, I check my window display is still looking good, I scan the shop for anything out of place, or for improvements.  My Girlfriend Celia, is also a tailor and works with me. Celia usually goes straight to the laptop to turn it on and to check the emails. While she is doing that I check the diary for the day’s upcoming appointments. We perch on our boards with a morning coffee and discuss the appointments, suits being made, what we are going to cut and what needs to be done by the end of the day.

Steven Hitchcock's tailoring house, located at 11 St. George Street, London, W1S 2FD

I base my lunch around my appointment diary and work load. On a busy day, it is a sandwich at my board. A good spare hour, sometimes Celia and I will go around the corner to the pub. On a really organised day, I will go for lunch with one of my tailoring friends to somewhere rather nice!

After lunch, it is back to work. There is always someone coming in to see me whether it is a customer, tailor, finisher, cloth rep or a curious by passer. I get interrupted while working a lot throughout my day, so this is why I have to be organised.

I understand that sometimes you do fittings in New York. It must be very alarming when you depart for the airport to make sure that you didn’t forget anything from fabric books to measuring tapes. Can you tell our readers some of the ins and outs of trunk shows and what goes on behind the scenes? 

I travel to New York three times a year, and have been for 12 years. I keep a trunk at the hotel that I stay at. The trunk has all the tools that I need, so I don’t need anything to forget!! A week before I travel to NY I contact the cloth reps to send their travel bunches. I always take any new cloth ranges and a good variety of cloths.

I stay in NY for 5 days. My American clients make appointments to see me for their fittings and also to commission a new suit. My diary always gets very full and I spend all day in my hotel suite meeting my clients. To relax in the evening, Celia and I like to explore Manhattan, meet friends for dinner and find a smart bar.

Of all the British mills still producing wools, do you have a particular favourite and can you tell us what wools stand out for you amongst the British bunches?

All wool used in suiting is sourced from Australia, and then milled in Huddersfield, by the various cloth houses. I favour H. Lesser and sons, this is because they have consistently produced a high quality cloth, in classic weaves and colours. They have found a formula that has worked and made it their own. I also like to use Harrisons of Edinburgh because they have a wide range of varying cloths.


We here in Australia don’t much understand winter weight wools because there are so few times of the year and in so few places that they are necessary. Can you tell us the differences in wool weights and types that one might choose for a Londoner between the seasons?

A summer weight in London is from 9oz to 11oz. It is always good to choose an open weave, such as a hopsack or even go for a fresco. This is so air can pass through the cloth, keeping the wearer cool. Linen is always a good option for summer, as linen conducts body heat away from the body, again, keeping the wearer cool. Winter weight is from 12oz to 14oz. Birdseye’s and twill’s are good winter cloths. This is due to their tight weave, which creates a good barrier to keep body heat in. A lot of people think that having a percentage of cashmere in the cloth helps with warmth. That is true to a certain extent. However, cashmere is a very soft fibre, and is not very hard wearing. Blending a percentage of cashmere in with wool feels good, but the cashmere weakens the cloth in terms of wear. Flannel is always good in winter, as it comes in good heavy weights and also has a ‘woolly’ finish, creating warmth. Spring and autumn are similar in London, so 11oz to 12oz would be a happy medium.

In the last five years you must have seen some trends change, can you tell us what are some of the things that have shaped that period in terms of styles, cuts, lapels and wool choices?

My cutting style never changes, that is my way of cutting. Clients come to me because they do not want to look like everyone else. They know that they can have a soft drape cut, be comfortable and feel confident in what they are wearing, as they know it will not let them down.

There has been a trend for ‘skinny’ lapels and super tight trousers. I am not a fan. It all looks ill fitting, tight, over styled. Where is the elegance in tight ill fitting clothes? It is a trend, and when people look back on it they will say, ‘what was I wearing!!’

I have also noticed a few of the cloth houses are producing ‘superduper’ lightweights with a high sheen finish. Again, I am going to put that down to trend! I think it is great that there is the technology to produce such fine and milled cloth, but it is not necessary for everyone to think the cloth is great.

Steven Hitchcock with girlfriend Celia admiring his English  'soft tailoring' work

In your opinion what is the most difficult aspect of a suit to get right in terms of the customer’s experience and what would you as a tailor consider the most difficult aspect of a suit to finish well?

When a customer or a new client visits me it is important for me to make them feel comfortable and assured in my company and my work. Commissioning a bespoke suit should not be a scary or nervous process. I like to make customers aware of various cloths and styles. I am happy to learn a bit about a person, what they like, what they do and what they are looking for in a bespoke suit.

As a tailor I am very passionate about all the aspects of a bespoke garment. I do hone in on the fit of the collar, shoulder and sleeves. It is important to get it all right, but some parts of cutting and making are trickier than others. My advice to anyone is, if there is something you are unconfident about, make it your business to learn more and become confident in bettering your weakness.

Is the British shoulder getting softer or does it remain much more V shaped than the equivalent in Italian suiting

I have seen an increased interest in my soft tailoring, and I think that people are becoming more aware of my soft shouldered silhouette. I have also noticed that more women are becoming interested in my way of cutting. They are seeing my suits on their husbands and deciding they want to try it too.

There will always be that ‘V’ shape, because it appeals to people. In a society obsessed with weight and health, having a small waist and accentuating it seems de-rigor. You don’t have to be slim and small waisted to give the illusion of waisting and shape, my suits are a testament to that. It is all in the cutting and tailoring.


Steven Hitchcock at work on the cutting table inside his London workroom.
I recently cut a suit and I did a full canvas in it to humour myself and much to the chagrin of my old Italian tailor who says that full canvas in the Australian climate is stupid. He was right, it is much too heavy for my liking. He showed me a new fusing which he said works a charm and never bubbles. Which brings me to my question for you – do you always insist on full canvas as a Savile Row tailor and if you do, are you always working with wool and horsehair canvas or do you experiment with other materials?

Full canvas without a doubt! The whole fusing lark is a waste of time and energy. It is a cheap short cut, to avoid canvassing. There is a good selection of lightweight canvas, you can use a light weight wool canvas in light weight suits. With fusing, you are simply re-enforcing the cloth that it is being glued to.

I always use a wool and horse hair canvas in my suits. If I am using heavier weight cloth, I will use a heavier weight canvas and vice-versa. Canvas is important as it helps shape the chest, it has to be worked and treated carefully. Always use canvas!!!

If you would like to know more about Steven Hitchcock, please contact him directly on:

Steven Hitchcock, Master Tailor
11 St. George Street, London, W1S 2FD, England
Tel: +44 (0)207 287 2492 or visit www.TheSavileRowTailor.co.uk

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