09 March 2010

ciné(screen): savile row

The bespoke spell. That is the underlying theme of this three part documentary. Savile Row chronicles the present day state of the famed Mayfair street,
Its craftsmen and women are aging — the average tailor on the Row is 55 — and international merchandisers are entering the marketplace.  Documentarian Ian Denyer explores Savile Row’s illustrious tradition and how it is adjusting to the challenges of the 21st century.

During the three episodes, viewers see tailors' reactions as retailer Abercrombie & Fitch opens an outlet on the Row, the tailors' efforts to promote the Row tradition to customers abroad and fledgling apprentice tailors compete for the profession’s top award. As I watched, it was easy to be sentimental about an era, in some cases even more so than some of the tailors. For example, we accompany one digging around in a basement, going through the records of every single customer that has ever walked through its doors - figuratively. He is looking for the records of Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie de Montijo, which have been misplaced; recorded either under 'M' for Montijo or 'E' for Empress - even though 'E' doesn't make sense, since there "has been so many of them." The correct book is finally found in an dusty old cupboard with a radiator, chair and other retired equipment blocking the sticky doors.

I guess it is hard to get worked up about every single famous client when there have been so many, but there is something about having those records in a boiler room and not in some climate-controlled display cabinet. I am still waiting for someone to put on white gloves before flipping through the pages. The Row has such a rich tradition of tailoring that hasn't changed that much since the 1800s. However, as a 'brand' Savile Row has failed to keep up with the times and there is its catch-22. The introductory question:

      "Can the tailors get brand savvy without selling their souls?"      

photo cred: sundance channel

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