Smart Dressing

Shear Talent – Savile Row Strikes Gold

The Golden Shears are the biennial Oscars of the bespoke tailoring world, and 2017’s competition - the finals of which took place earlier this week - was as inspiring an affair as ever

Words by
Aleks Cvetkovic
Photography by
Jon Bradley

It a well known fact that Savile Row and the bespoke community as a whole has traditionally been reticent to make a fuss about its work – gentlemen don’t shout after all. The Golden Shears, happily, is one of the few occasions where the tailoring world does seem comfortable banging its own drum a little. Held every two years, the competition is hosted by the Merchant Taylor’s Company and aims to draw attention to the current generation of young apprentices working in British tailoring. This year, the Shears was a particularly welcome cause for celebration, not least because given the current economic climate, to see British bespoke standing tall and championing its bright young things is rather heartening.

Held last Monday evening, dozens of immaculate looks paraded down the catwalk installed in the hallowed Merchant Taylor’s Hall on Threadneedle Street. Each entry, the result of approaching a year of work, is made to exacting sartorial specifications, designed and masterminded by each apprentice from start to finish. Judged first by a technical panel, consisting of some of British tailoring’s most adept craftspeople and then by a panel of guest judges including David Gandy, Jodie Kidd, film director Joe Wright, fashion designer Oliver Spencer and British GQ deputy editor Bill Prince, the competition is uncompromising as can be. There are three awards, the first of which is the Rising Star accolade, which went to Matthew Erik-Beale, a student currently studying at the University of Creative Arts in Rochester, for his dramatic sweeping black women’s belted overcoat and flowing trousers.

The Silver Shears (second prize), went to Jordan Barrett, an apprentice coat maker at East End tailor Couch & Hoskings. Barrett has long held a fascination for women’s couture tailoring and her immaculate embroidered evening tailcoat and white tie made for a glamorous prospect on the catwalk – with a distinct note of Marlene Dietrich about it. Several months of painstaking handwork were evident not only in coat’s close-cut, fluid lines, but also in the embroidery running through the lapels and in the flash of colour to be picked out in her contrasting hidden trouser side-seams.

The first prize, the coveted golden shears, went to Riki Brockmann of Gieves & Hawkes, who created a thought-provoking and directional ensemble. Hidden beneath a soft brown cashmere sports coat, cut in Gieves & Hawkes’ signature house style with some added sporty touches, was a  zip-through waistcoat and form-fitting tailored jumpsuit with dungarees attached. Evidently blending traditional Savile Row styling with heritage workwear was a winning formula, and certainly made a statement on the catwalk.

The Golden Shears, Savile Row Bespoke

The winner of the Golden Shears 2017, Riki Brockmann of Gieves & Hawkes, with his model

Speaking with The Jackal, Brockmann’s personal pride at winning the competition is evidently entwined with the sense of pride he has in his training and in the house he represents. ‘It feels incredible to bring the shears home to Gieves & Hawkes. We have such an established ready-to-wear presence now globally, I think it’s important for people to remember that we also have a thriving, innovative bespoke department. I am very lucky to learn under Davide Taub, who is regarded as one of the very best cutters in the trade. As well as the technical elements of tailoring, he’s taught me the importance of functionality and subtle detailing within design.’

This pairing of of technical precision with contemporary flair is a breath of fresh air for the bespoke world, and the design-led perspective of new talents like Riki is set to yield a generation of craftspeople who will doubtless drive British bespoke and couture menswear forward into cosmopolitan new territory. It was remarkable to see several couture looks for women on the catwalk, and to see so many talented female apprentices evidently keen to enter into what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry.

‘I think in fine tailoring clients can often feel limited with regard to design,’ Brockmann continues, ‘it’s important for people to see that Savile Row isn’t just a street making beautiful suits for business and weddings. We think progressively about our craft.’ There’s no doubt that this sense of progression filtered through the Golden Shears more strongly than ever this year and long may it continue to thrive.