James Sherwood

Curator of "London Cut"
01 April 2008
An interview with the curator of Savile Row suits "London Cut," currently at Isetan
James Sherwood is the curator behind "London Cut" — the globally-touring exhibition of Savile Row bespoke suit tailoring. We caught up with Mr. Sherwood at Isetan department store in Shinjuku where London Cut is currently open along in conjunction with "UK Best Selections for Men" — a commercial fair where Japanese men can order directly from British clothiers like Richard Anderson, Timothy Everest, and Turnbull & Asser.

How did the "London Cut" exhibition come to be?

It started in January 2007, first shown at Palazzo Pitti in Florence. We showed there for a month. The whole point of that exhibition was that it was the first time ever that all the great Savile Row bespoke tailors showed together. So it had to be pretty good. After two hundred years, it had to have some sort of an impact.

What convinced the tailors to all work together for the first time?

They were most excited that they wouldn't have to spend a penny on the exhibition. Pitti put a million Euros into it. I curated it. Pitti orchestrated it. Over and above making fifty bespoke suits, they didn't have to do an awful lot.

Then they saw the results of it and the attention that the exhibition and their suits got, putting the suits in front of an international fashion audience as well as a museum audience. Bespoke's a closed world, pretty much. What you order is between you and your tailor. And you don't photograph the suits. So all this magic happens, and then it disappears. In this case, we made the suits for the mannequins, so they don't disappear.

The suits just started the world tour, which is really exciting. I never thought this would continue the way it did, but Florence got enough attention in the press that everyone got very excited.

The show's pieces seem to be a mix between old and new.

There are archives in Savile Row, but not a massive amount. Once you make a suit, you shouldn't get it back. There may be a few uniforms. But what they do have is the ledgers, and those seem to excite people. Particularly, Anderson & Sheppard are unique in that they asked all of their customers to sign the ledgers and write who recommended them to the house and where they were living at the time. That is being made into a book that should come out next year. You can find Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich, Lawrence Oliver recommended by Noel Coward, all of their signatures. Cary Grant's signature is very rare, because he never signed autographs.

So they had all of these magnificent things, but I asked some of the houses to recreate pieces: like the North by Northwest suit that Kilgour repolished for the last show. I had the tailor who made it in the first place recreate it. Just showing dead men's clothes... I swear to God, I defy anybody to do a good job with men's tailoring if it's old. It doesn't do so well. They're not in good shape in the first place, so it's not going to happen.

So we re-cut pieces that inspired or have the spirit of Cary Grant but updated. So the Cary suit from North by Northwest — if you remember the film, it was pretty shapeless. It had to be because he was being chased by planes and hanging off Mount Rushmore. So the new piece was tailored in the new Kilgour style, with one-button and much more fitted. Much sexier actually.

The perception of Savile Row is that it's pinstripe, dusty, aristocratic. It is all of those things as well, but it also can be extremely glamorous and have a certain amount of sex appeal and always have relevance.
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