18 Jul 2011
Richard James is a definite staple of Savile Row, and something of a pioneering force within the menswear arena. Founded in 1992 by the man of the same name and his business partner Sean Dixon, the label’s ethos is defined by a modern take on classic British tailoring brought together with an uninhibited use of colour. Craftsmanship is high on the agenda, too, as is consistency in fit and quality. By adhering to this formula, Richard James has racked up a faithful following.
Design skills aside, Richard James is considered something of an iconoclast. A decade and a half ago, he went about paving the way for the new breed of tailors that currently line Savile Row. Shunning the deeply rooted traditions and somewhat intimidating nature of the noble tailoring bastion in favour of a more commercial approach, Richard James’s campaign to bring Savile Row into the new era included the introduction of non-tailored products along with the launch of Saturday trading.
Having developed a great deal over its lifespan the label operates two London stores as well as a retail establishment in Tokyo. The ready to wear ranges are available in several spots across the world, including Mumbai, Paris and New York. Tailoring might be at the heart of the brand, but the array of products doesn’t stop at suits and shirts. These days, it would be more suitable to call Richard James an all-encompassing lifestyle brand as its product categories span everything from jeans to cologne.
Aside from offering every wardrobe essential imaginable, the label also serves up many different sartorial services. Richard James’s Personal Tailoring Service is one of them. Clients choosing this option can expect a unique hand-finished garment at the end of the procedure. Encouraged to take an active part of the creative process, the customer is invited to choose from an extensive selection of exclusive fabrics, as well as applying personal design preferences in terms of trouser cut, pocket shape and buttons specifics.
What inspired you to get into tailoring?
If you have an interest in creating clothing for men, tailoring is the absolute key component. The opening of our first store in 1992 on Savile Row cemented the passion.
What signifies Richard James and what sets the brand apart from other tailoring names?
Our starting point is to infuse uniqueness in everything we do – obviously a bespoke suit is wholly unique as it is a one-off set of garments created for an individual – but we extend that philosophy to each component within the brand, be it shirts, suits or swimwear. We are a British tailoring company at heart, and we fully recog- nise and respect all the qualities and traditions of Savile Row, but we always add a modern spin to our work, both in terms of style and service.
Colour is an important part of your work, and you’ve managed to “educate” men that it’s acceptable and indeed attractive to wear colour. What’s the best way to incorporate colour successfully? Colour is important to me indeed. Most men like the idea of wearing colour, but many are too scared to actually incorporate it into their wardrobes. There are many ways to subtly introduce colour – it can be incorporated via the lining of a suit or a pair of socks or even a vibrant coloured tie. Some men will stop at these subtle measures, but we’ve found that a lot of customers are eager to experiment further by opting to wear a shirt or a piece of casualwear in an interesting colour. The best way to wear colour is to make sure the fabric used is of the very highest quality. A vibrant yellow shirt in a super 170’s extra fine Egyptian cotton looks and feels elegant and expensive, whereas the same shade in a nylon mix looks cheap.
Recently, the dandy expression has taken centre stage in fashion, with tailored looks being de rigeur. Is this a fleeting trend? Tailoring has always been important, since a well cut suit makes a man look better. The emphasis on tailoring that we see now will continue, and it’s particularly important in times when it’s crucial to make a good impression to stay ahead of the game.
What’s your top tip for dressing well in the boardroom?
At Richard James, we dress many top executives, and they all share the same appreciation of quality. A well cut bespoke suit is a powerful tool. To increase impact, the suits should be worn with a plain cotton shirt, not just in white, but in colours like lilac, aqua or pink. To add the finishing touch, complement the look with a patterned tie in an interesting colour. This approach to dressing is not about reflecting your personality, but rather to stand out from the crowd.
What’s the biggest sartorial mistake a man can do, and how can pitfalls be avoided?
There is only one mistake men do when it comes to tailoring and that is wearing a suit that doesn’t fit. This can be easily resolved by taking advice from an expert or tailor.