Tailoring often comes with great history. A brand that has been in the business for over 100 years is particularly reassuring. Although their British showroom has only been open since 2002, Apsley Tailors have been making the finest bespoke suits since 1889 when they were established in Hong Kong as outfitters to the British military based there. They quickly became popular with the trading community and diplomats of the Far East, becoming a tailor for the establishment.
Named after the Duke of Wellington’s house on Hyde Park Corner, Apsley Tailors family-run business has all the signature traits of London’s luxury bespoke tailoring community. Despite such an established history, they are also as contemporary as you will find in this antiquated world of chalk stripes and measuring tapes. Apsley has an army of followers signed up on Twitter and Facebook and they embark on an annual world tour, taking the showroom experience to the US, Canada and Australia. Also, like any modern tailor worth their hand finished stitching, Apsley is not based on Savile Row but a stone’s throw from St James’s Palace on Pall Mall.
Savile Row is facing the challenges of modern times as much as any industry. Rising rents have meant that some of the best names have been forced to move, causing grumblings from tailors as well as their well-heeled customers. In 2005, Anderson & Sheppard, one of Savile Row’s most famous names moved just around the corner from its home of 78 years to Old Burlington Street. Recently, the announcement that US brand for the under-25’s, Abercrombie & Fitch, will open a children’s store on Savile Row has the traditionalists choking into their Kummel frappés.
Change, however, has only had a positive effect for Apsley. Opening a showroom on Pall Mall provided an excellent space where their extensive UK customer base can be measured up while they choose suiting fabrics. Suits are churned out with military precision at their base in Hong Kong, as they have been since 1889.
While Apsley continues to dress the military (two Field Marshalls at the last count), their customer base reflects the diversity of suiting that they can offer. Those wearing an Apsley suits today include Presidents, Prime Ministers, High Commissioners and Ambassadors (the Pakistani High Commissioner opened a recent in-store event), while HRH The Duke of Kent, Lady Rees-Mogg, Sir Malcolm Rifkind KCMG QC MP, are regular customers, along with business leaders Duncan Bannatyne and Mohammed Al-Fayed. Apsley also continue to sponsor West Ham and Fulham football clubs as their official tailors.
On embarking on a career in London, I had a bespoke suit made that still hangs in my wardrobe and is regularly worn 20 years later. While I have bought many ‘off-the-peg’ suits since, these have already perished. If cared for properly, a bespoke suit will last for decades. Rather than enforcing a house style, Apsley believes in the old adage, ‘The suit shouldn’t wear the man; the man should wear the suit’. Customers can therefore create any style of they want.
Although there are several styles of suit that my wardrobe would greatly benefit from, I decided to go for the classic English drape in a two-button single breasted grey suit – simple but elegant. Sitting on a deep leather sofa with Apsley’s showroom manager, Sunil Chopra, I was shown sample after sample of the types of cloth on offer. Fabrics range from cottons, linens, tweeds and silks (from Lora Piana, Holland and Sherry and Scabal). Apsley also has exclusive luxury offerings including a gold thread and a diamond dust fabric, as well as a pinstripe that can be personalised into any repeated script in any language.
On describing a grained grey cloth I was looking for, there were 20 cloths to choose from! I was stunned by the impressive selection available fitting my description. But thankfully Sunil declared the weave and hang of the fabric I’d chosen to be ‘an excellent choice.’ For the lining, I settled on a royal blue that I could flash on opening my jacket.
Every part of my anatomy was measured and re-measured while I was questioned on how I would like the style of the jacket and trousers. Belt loops or side fasteners? Braces buttons? Lapel style? Working cuff buttons? Pleated trousers? Turn ups? With all these fine details confirmed and measured up, I left knowing that I would be called in three weeks time for a second fitting.
This is a fraction of the time that other tailors take to create a suit and something that Apsley prides itself on. Their speed and affordability while maintaining Savile Row standards has given them a global fan base as well as an entry into the Guinness World Records for the fastest bespoke suit ever made in a mere six hours.
On my return for the second fitting, I was greeted like an old friend and a delicate frame of a suit was presented to me. Once the trousers were on, I had to be sewn in as no buttons or fasteners were yet in place. The jacket was just the skeleton of the final product covered in lines of thread to mark the cuts and vents of the finished suit. A few changes were made – the shortening of the sleeve to show a little more cuff and a slight intake in the jacket to give a more sculpted finish, but otherwise near perfect. A mere 20 minutes of measuring and furious scribbling of notes and placing pins was all that was needed – I could collect the finished suit in a couple of weeks.
After receiving the phone call that my suit was ready, I was back in the Apsley showroom within the hour. The finished product was as elegant and timeless as I could have imagined. After trying it on I was immediately struck by how slim I looked – the suit shaved off about a stone in appearance and was the most comfortable item I had ever owned. On further inspection, I noticed that my name had been embroidered on one of the inside pockets and I was also presented with an elegant bespoke shirt that had been made specially for me. All this elegant finishing comes as standard service.
Before leaving, I was reassured that if any changes were required should I change shape over the years, then just bring the suit back to the showroom. But with linens, tweeds, morning suits and black tie still required in my wardrobe, I hope that I will be back at Apsley soon for one of these, rather than alterations to my new masterpiece.