Savile Row Master Tailor: Steven Hitchcock

Steven Hitchcock

Steven Hitchcock

Hitchcock is a name familiar to many. It may conjure glamorous cinematic images of beautiful-but-troubled blondes, shadows of villains, violin-squeaking suspense and bloodied shower curtains.

But for the tailoring fraternity, the name Hitchcock means something quite different.

A Savile Row trained cutter, tailor and lifelong bespoke tailoring enthusiast,

Steven Hitchcock is a master tailor on Savile ROw
Hitchcock’s cutting table.

not to mention an accomplished and sophisticated dresser, Steven Hitchcock is a member of the tailoring Hitchcock dynasty.

The son of Anderson & Sheppard doyenne John Hitchcock, who worked there for over 50 years, Steven, like his father, began the trade at the tender age of 16.

He also started at Anderson & Sheppard, under his father’s watchful eye, but in less than a decade he had started his own tailoring business. However, those early years sewing buttons and buttonholes downstairs in the strict, formal “Yes, sir” environment of Anderson & Sheppard in the 1990s left an indelible impression on a young Steven.

Steven Hitchcock Trained with the best

“When I was there in the 90s, it was different. Lee McQueen (Alexander McQueen) was there and he was taught by Con (O’Callaghan)…My dad obviously had an influence on me.But it was also the guys who were working at Anderson & Sheppard in the 90s, the likes of Colin Harvey [of whom G Bruce Boyer was a client and admirer], they were all very stylish gentlemen. So you would learn about ‘style’ from them.”

His father’s lessons focused more on the practical than the aesthetic.

“My dad taught me a lot. He said ‘Steve, if you want to be a cutter, you have to learn tailoring first’ – in those days the cutter was the best job but now a coat maker, for the money, can earn more than a cutter,” said Hitchcock

“That meant I knew how to put a coat together after I had cut it; it sounds ridiculous but there are lots of cutters out there who can’t actually make a suit,” Hitchcock said.

Experience seems to be the Hitchcock watch-word. Knowing how something is made, how it works, and being interested in how it could be done well – and better – is clearly a family trait.

It was a fortunate part of a classical 5-year apprenticeship that Steven Hitchcock learned under some of the leading craftsmen of the late twentieth century.

“You can’t buy that now, as that was a classical apprenticeship. There’s probably only six proper, 5-year apprenticeships on Savile Row now. The man who taught me tailoring has recently, sadly, passed away – he was 94. He was in his late sixties when he was teaching me. There’s no one like that around now,” said Hitchcock.

Steven Hitchcock is a master tailor in England on Savile Row.
Steven Hitchcock in his studio.

Hitchcock’s business is located a few hundred metres from Savile Row, opposite the magnificent St George’s Church (where Handel played the organ) on George Street. The building, a tailor’s shop since the time of the First World War, is packed full of tailors sharing the space.

Steven Hitchcock occupies the ground floor front room, looking very much the same as it did when it was first built. Despite not being on the Row itself, sharing digs near Hanover Square suits Hitchcock very well.

Bespoke Production is limited

“We only make 150 suits a year, because we’ve got a little team together who can make 3-4 suits a week. We only have a little place here which we share,” said Hitchcock

“If you’re in Savile Row with rent and rates, it’s a quarter of a million quid before you start – forcing you to turn over 20-30 suits a week, or sell ready to wear suits. We don’t have their overheads because we share the space, and that means we can stick to making 150 suits a year of the highest quality,” Hitchcock said.

“I think people coming in to Savile Row and selling stuff that is made overseas are just suit salesmen. They don’t have any passion for bespoke Savile Row tailoring. They just want to sell suits and make money and they’re living off what we have done in the past,” said Hitchcock.

“If you look on the West side of Savile Row, there’s not really one proper Savile Row tailor anymore. They have big financial backers who want them to just sell suits, sell the postcode. But the suits aren’t any good. It’s like buying a Lada in a Rolls-Royce showroom,” Hitchcock lamented.

Hitchcock’s ire on the topic of non-traditional made-to-measure companies masquerading as bespoke Savile Row tailors is such that I fear the other buccaneers of Savile Row – a certain Californian ‘lifestyle’ brand – would prompt frothing volcanic lava to appear from his mouth. However, on this he is pretty sanguine.

“Abercrombie & Fitch? That’s not any threat to our reputation. At least they’re getting young people to go down Savile Row. They’re just selling t-shirts. No harm in that,” said Hitchcock.

This is central to Steven’s philosophy – ‘you do your thing, I’ll do mine. Just don’t tell me your thing is my thing, and I won’t tell you my thing is your thing.’

Spending his late teen years in the dimly lit basement of Anderson & Sheppard – with the shoes of royalty, Hollywood stars and great men pacing the Persian carpet above – seems to have had a profound effect on Hitchcock. He is very no nonsense, no b.s.

The golden rule is know your Cutter

“The basic rule is, if you don’t know your cutter and you can’t see the workshop where it’s being handmade, then it’s not a Savile Row suit. It all comes down to the cutter and tailor,” said Hitchcock.

“All this PR bollocks, all this “We are the oldest tailor”. The only thing that matters is going in and asking; ‘Right, who is cutting the suit – is he any good?’” Hitchcock said.

Though reverential of the experience that has been passed down from generation to generation – and he a direct recipient of it – Hitchcock doesn’t reserve admiration for all organisations connected with the Row. The Savile Row Bespoke Association, of which Steven’s firm is not a member, doesn’t inspire any awe in him.

“We’re not part of Savile Row Bespoke Association. I don’t really want to be a part of it, because we do our own thing. We can only make 3-4 a week because I do all the cutting. There’s more tailors here in this shared building, craftsmen, people who make things with their hands than the whole of the west side of Savile Row.”

The nattily attired Steven describes his own style – which is very elegant and well put together – very modestly. Almost too modestly.

It’s fun to wear colour

He admits that whilst it can sometimes be flamboyant – “particularly with the colours – I use colours more than other tailors” – it is still a traditional style. He demonstrates more enthusiasm for the style of former Anderson & Sheppard employees and clients, and downplays his own credentials.

“The Duke of Windsor, Cary Grant, Fred Astaire – they were all dressed by Anderson’s. Even when I first started in the 1990s, there were a few clients who still dressed like them. They were Americans. They dressed immaculately, really quite dandy – I’m not a dandy myself though,” said Hitchcock

As in many father-son relationships, clothing is what connects and also divides Steven and his more traditional father.

“I wear grey and blue in England. But that jacket over there, the pink one, I wear that in America. It catches their eye. Some of them love dressing up like that. My father would never wear that jacket. He thinks that’s vulgar, spivvy; it would look like you’re trying too hard to sell,” Hitchcock said.

Dedicated and hardworking, Hitchcock mentions to me casually that he was cutting a suit at home on a weekend.

As he does all of the cutting work himself, he often has to work out of hours, even with a lighter load of 3-4 suits a week. However, there is no air of dreary oppression about this. Hitchcock feels lucky.

“I do enjoy all of it, the cutting, and when I’m matching up all the patterns on the sleeves…when I see the look on their face when they try on the suit is my favourite. I cut one on Sunday actually. It’s like a hobby, I do enjoy it but I’m fighting for excellence,” Hitchcock said.

When it comes to his weekends, Steven appears much the same as he does in the week – save a pair of Levi jeans and a jumper from John Smedley. In fact, like many in the trade, he doesn’t enjoy shopping for clothes.

“I’m wearing suits five days a week for work. I don’t really buy clothes. My girlfriend buys me a Smedley for my birthday, but I’m not really into buying clothes,” Hitchcock said.

The Big brands borrow from savile Row

Despite this lack of interest, Steven is no fool when it comes to the ready-to-wear brands that do things well – and make a tidy profit in doing so.

“Ralph Lauren Purple Label do a nice coat, but they’re more expensive than mine! And I think they’re all made at Zegna anyway. There’s Kiton, and Richard Anderson have some nice ready to wear suits. But I don’t really look at it that much,” said Hitchcock.

Hitchcock is also candid in his view that tailoring houses have been ripped off by big name clients from the fashion industry who have simply recycled other men’s work for their brands.

“When I was at Anderson & Sheppard, they made for Tommy Hilfiger. They made for Ralph Lauren – then he brought out Purple Label. They also made for Tom Ford, he had stuff made by my father” said Hitchcock.

“Then he [Tom Ford] went down to Zegna and ripped it all off, copied it. Some Savile Row tailors could have done ready-to-wear, but they didn’t. It would have made them a lot of money,” Hitchcock said.

Money and money-making appear as themes in our conversation several times, but Steven is clearly not motivated primarily by profit.

Tailoring is a passion for Steven Hitchcock

“With me, it is a business, but it’s also my hobby, my life. I cut out suits at home. It’s a lifestyle. I travel the world, meet interesting, individual people and we are making some of the best suits on Savile Row,” said Hitchcock.

This happy disposition also extends to his fellow tailors, some of whom he holds in very high regard indeed, as masters of the trade – amongst which he aspires his own firm to be ranked.

“I like [Edward] Sexton because he’s a cutter. I don’t like talkers. When I ask them “What do you do?” and they say “Oh I don’t do anything, I’ll call Adam in” that’s bollocks,” Hitchcock said.

“Richard Anderson is fantastic. Malcolm Plews – the best. Andrew Ramroop at Maurice Sedwell too, he’s making some lovely stuff. The quality of the stuff he is making is far, far superior to the average Savile Row stuff,” said Hitchcock.

Steven’s clients clearly warm to this magnanimous attitude, which they encounter each time they visit as Steven acts out all the required roles himself.

“It’s personal. They speak to me straight away. There’s no salesman, a trouser cutter and a tailor – it’s just me. They get their point across to me, no Chinese whispers. We’re also quite a good price, 20% less than Savile Row,” said Hitchcock.

The internet has changed savile row

Steven also holds a special approval for the internet, and how it has boosted his business from having no clients when he left Anderson & Sheppard to making visits to America to see regular clients who found him through online forums or his website.

“For Steven Hitchcock I think having a website is more important than a shop in some ways. It’s brought in younger clients, international clients,” he said.

Hitchcock also thinks it has been valuable in breaking down the barriers between traditional tailoring houses and new clients, bringing them a fresh crop of bespoke enthusiasts who would otherwise have felt unworthy to cross the threshold.

“Back in the day, a tailoring shop had blacked out windows, it was intimidating. At Anderson & Sheppard, you had to be recommended by someone, otherwise you weren’t allowed in the shop,” said Hitchcock.

Now they can see my shop, my work – I’m taking pictures every 3 hours on Instagram. By the time they come in, they know me, about my work, everything,” Hitchcock said.  ML

Steven Hitchcock. 11 Saint George Street. London. W1S 2FD

http://thesavilerowtailor.co.uk