A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be put in contact with Steven Hitchcock by our mutual friend Rose Callahan. Up until that point I had only heard of Steven, I had never seen him or his work in person. And by his work I mean his bespoke suits; he is a tailor, mind you. He champions what he calls the ‘soft drape,’ a cut that he has developed. And he has worked on or around Savile Row for his entire career. Needless to say, the quality of his pedigree is not in question. Some of you regular readers may wonder why I am covering a Savile Row tailor in depth when the focus of this blog is more on affordable mens tailoring. The answer is threefold. First off, I have received numerous requests over the past few months asking about tailors who cost more than many of the companies we have covered. Second, this blog is about mens dress, fashion and style and a Savile Row tailor certainly fits into that. And third, because I want to and I think that some of you will find Steven’s work and ethos as elegant and interesting as I do. So anyway…
Steven started his career with an apprenticeship at Anderson & Sheppard, first working on jackets for five years and then he was invited to serve under his father, John Hitchcock, and Alan Pitt to learn cutting. Which for Steven was an important step, for he noted that “to be tailor you need to learn to cut and to make.” He served under his father and Pitt for four years before he decided it was time to break out on his own. So in 1999 he opened his own shop, first on Old Burlington Street and then in 2009 he moved back to Savile Row at no. 13, he has been there since. And of course, like all Savile Row tailors, Steven has his own cut.
“I was trained for 9 years at AS for the Scholte cut, the softer style, it really got drummed into you, you really believed that was the way.” But he went on to say that he did not believe it was still possible to do the true Scholte drape because the lack of quality heavy fabrics that are so essential in the success of the Scholte drape (as a side note, Steven’s favorite fabrics to work with are heavy ones, as they do drape better). So instead, Steven has his own take on it, “a Steven Hitchcock coat is always natural shoulder, high armhole and big sleeve so you can move” he also noted that there is a bit of manipulation of the canvas to give a little more shape to things. Steven also went on to say that “if you didn’t want a soft shoulder, go somewhere else, pick another tailor.’ A mans got to have a code. And Steven Hitchcock stands by his.
The fitting and selection process is not much different than most Savile Row tailors, at least from what I know. You have your initial measurement and fabric selection, followed by as many fittings as is needed to get a properly fitting suit, usually 2-4 and starting with a basted fitting. However, for repeat customers only one fitting is typically needed. Although most of his time is spend in his shop at Savile Row, he makes three visits a year to New York City to serve his US based clientele. The process is no different for those who handle everything from NYC, however, it may take a bit longer given Steven is only here every four months.
I felt compelled to ask Steven about a few controversial topics in the world of mens tailoring. First, was on Abercrombie’s intended expansion on Savile Row, which he has mixed feelings about, “I don’t mind it because it brings in a lot of people… they will remember Savile Row… but this new one, they have a massive queue… we haven’t gotten the space, its going to be a nightmare for clients… They do not want to be walking in the road, walking around these people.” And second I asked him about his thoughts on made to measure or ‘bespoke’ suit production overseas (namely Asia). To this he remarked “no skill, no love, no passion, nothing.” True or not, it gives you an idea on how strongly Steven feels about producing suits the old way; by hand and by trained artisans and tailors.
You see, for Steven his art and his craft is all about skill, love and passion. Not much more need be said than that.
Justin L Jeffers