5 Minutes With Richard Anderson, Co-founder, Richard Anderson Ltd

Richard Anderson has worked on Savile Row, London's famous street of heritage menswear tailors and retailers, for over 35 years. He felt "The Row" was missing the opportunity to serve a wider demographic for the sake of tradition and wanted to break that mould. So in 2001, he opened Richard Anderson Ltd - the first bespoke tailor on Savile Row in 50 years.

Richard Anderson

Tell me a bit about the Richard Anderson story.

Richard Anderson Ltd opened for business on London’s world-renowned Savile Row in 2001 – the first bespoke tailoring house to open on the row in 50 years. Our team represents the perfect combination of tradition and innovative creativity.

After working at Huntsman for 17 years I felt very strongly that there was a gap in the market between traditional houses and the newer brands on The Row. I wanted to take some of the flare and newness that appealed to a younger generation and marry it with the tradition and quality of the older tailors.

I remain head cutter, while my business partner Brian Lishak heads up the sales. Brian and I have nearly 100 years combined experience working on Savile Row and I believe our enthusiasm, continued passion for tailoring, and experience has certainly assisted with our success to date. We both have our strengths and weaknesses and together we have managed to build a successful business that we’re both very proud of.

I hear you have a passion for the history of Savile Row. Care to elaborate?

Since my beginning on Savile Row at 17 years of age, I’ve always had a passion for the street. I find the history and longevity fascinating.

It had been nine years since I wrote my first book, Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed and I thought it was time to look at writing another one. My first book was biographical and I felt the need to do something different – I wanted to create a coffee table book. It struck me that there are no books by Savile Row cutters or designers in a coffee book style or manner.

My second book Making The Cut is a visually appealing book on garments that combine the two but all made relevant to today. I guess you could say a reflection of the type of tailoring Brian and myself dreamed of when we opened up Richard Anderson Ltd. Even morning coats have been given an up-to-date contemporary breath of life. I wanted to combine the history of the garments with a bit of fun as to who wears them – a book that clothing enthusiasts, tailors and students would find interesting.

“I felt tailors of The Row were missing the opportunity to service gentlemen of a wider demographic for the sake of tradition”

How is your retail business different to other Savile Row tailors?

When we opened the doors in 2001, Brian and I wanted to create an atmosphere that was less intimidating and more welcoming to appeal to a younger audience, customers of my own age group. We painted the shop white, introduced modern art and created a workspace where the cutters and tailors were visible and able to interact with clients to create a sense of welcoming.

Myself and Brian had many years of experience on Savile Row, so we weren’t entirely the new kids on the block. Some of the older generations of tailors looked at us with their eyebrows raised, but they were also very supportive and thought we were brave given the background both myself and Brian had come from.

We have a different and distinguished style. Every suit that leaves our workshop is cut in the inimitable house style. All jackets are cut with a high armhole, slim shoulders with minimum padding, high gorge and long lapel, the waist cut with a slight flair to disguise the round of the hips.

Another difference would be the weight of fabrics. I would say that has been the greatest shift since I started working on Savile Row at the age of 17. Tailors are now working with much lighter weight fabrics around the 11oz – 12oz, back when I started working, we were working with 16oz to 17oz.

How much as Richard Anderson grown since it was founded?

Although we are based on Savile Row, our name and tailoring has a global reach. We have a strong network of clients worldwide and since our inception, we continue to travel the world offering the finest cloths and fabrics to our bespoke customers from the US, Japan, Hong Kong and across Europe. We’re seeing an increase in customers in Asia and as a result we’re considering yearly trips to Shanghai. It excites us to provide old and new clients all over the world the chance to be fitted for a British suit in their own country.

What gap in the UK retail market does Richard Anderson strive to address?

Traditionally Savile Row serviced the “older” man, but when we opened, it was our mission to make it more friendly for the younger generations too. We have such a wonderful array of customers at Richard Anderson, we have been lucky enough to dress some incredible talent, businessmen and those who have a general appreciation for tailoring and want to invest in a suit for themselves.

I felt tailors of The Row were missing the opportunity to service gentlemen of a wider demographic for the sake of tradition. Having spent all those years working for Huntsman, a very traditional tailoring company, where the clientele were of aristocracy, CEOs of companies and predominantly 60 years of age, I decided I wanted to make tailoring less intimidating for gentlemen of my own age and younger.

It was then, I decided to go into business with my business partner Brian Lishak, whom I worked with at Huntsman.

What’s in store for Richard Anderson for the rest of 2019?

Savile Row is of course traditionally known as the very best in the tailoring business. It’s extremely important that we continue to inject new talent into the industry. I probably get over 10-20 applications a week for work experience or apprenticeships. We currently have four tailors who are in their 20s: two on the making side and two females who have completed their apprenticeship. Krishan on the sales side is only 25 years old and then my assistant, who’s 21, has been with me for three years.

The future of Savile Row and our business will always be bright as long as we continue to produce talented, technical cutters who maintain the quality, service and make. This is something that I am very passionate about and I hope we continue to support as tailors.

“It’s extremely important that we continue to inject new talent into the industry”

I also think that ready-to-wear has influenced the tailoring sector. It would be a missed opportunity as tailors to not invest in ready-to-wear and appeal to a wider market. We recently refurbished our workshop to accommodate the expansion of our ready-to-wear collection. Last year we also took on a new workshop in Soho to help improve and increase production – we will still have a workshop and tailoring presence on Savile Row, but the addition of a new workshop meant that we were able to expand both our bespoke and ready-to-wear services.

How is Richard Anderson addressing some of the challenges facing the retail industry as a whole?

We have recently refurbished our store, to increase our ready-to-wear range – this isn’t because we are seeing a decline in bespoke, it’s merely because we have recognised that our ready-to-wear collection is a stepping stone for our customers into bespoke. It offers them the opportunity to first-hand experience our product and style. We regularly see the return of customers who started out purchasing ready-to-wear and then come back for a bespoke piece.

We have also introduced denim into our range – although we are tailors, we understand that trends change and with the increased combination of a sports jacket and jeans, we saw an opportunity for gentlemen to have perfectly tailored jeans along with a jacket.

What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector, given the current climate?

The biggest threat we have found within the retail space is the ever-growing costs of rates for businesses over the previous years. They have doubled in the past four to five years. Savile Row offers a service and the quality of suit that cannot be matched anywhere in the world, there will always be appetite for bespoke services globally, but the continued rise in rates year-on-year means companies are hit with additional costs they weren’t faced with the previous years.

Describe your role and responsibilities

Part of my job being a cutter is to improve the body. Make anyone look a little bit taller and slimmer, disguise any concerns they have – you have to take it all in to consideration. When I’m taking my series of measurements, the measurements don’t tell you everything. They won’t tell me how the customer stands, how they sit and it’s my job to adjust to these and create a suit that accommodates each person’s different movements and some would say quirks. Many people come to us for bespoke, because ready-to-wear suits often don’t look good on them. It’s my responsibility to share my expertise with the client to ensure they are more than happy with the final product and the journey they’ve had to get there.

“The biggest threat we have found is the ever-growing costs of rates for businesses over the previous years”

Each tailor has their own house style, a style which differentiates them from other tailors on Savile Row. It’s important to be able to take a series of measurements and turn them into a pattern. It’s almost like a dot-to-dot, but it’s the artistic eye of the cutter that allows the pattern to be turned into a beautiful piece of clothing.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background before Richard Anderson Ltd.

I was 16 when I got my very first job. It was selling Levi’s and Lee jeans at a store on Watford High Street. It was through my part time job that my appreciation for clothing and tailoring began.

I started my career on Savile Row working at Huntsman at the age of 17. After working at there for 17 years I felt very strongly that there was a gap in the market between traditional houses and the newer brands on The Row.

My parents had a hard-working attitude. My father was an engineer and I always admired the technicality of his role and his attention to detail – it resonates closely with my role now as a tailor. I think my mother’s get up and go busy attitude was a very positive influence on all aspects of my life. Both parents were always very supportive of whatever I was enthusiastic about.

It was after I graduated from school that I became an apprentice at Huntsman, one of the most traditional tailors on Savile Row.

How has your previous experience aided your current job?

I trained under Colin Hammick, one of the greats for his artistry and through my apprenticeship soon found a passion for cutting. I loved the formalities that came with tailoring. I started at the bottom and soon came to realise that as a tailor you could develop your own style and work your way from the bottom upwards. My team of hard-working tailors, salesmen and loyal client base has certainly helped me getting to where I am now.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

The day-to-day challenge for me is maintaining the quality and standard of our products and to never let that slip.

On a long-term basis, as previously mentioned we have taken on new premises in Soho which means an increase in costs and therefore we need to increase the production of both our bespoke and ready-to-wear offering. It’s a pivotal moment for the company and I’m excited for what the future holds.

And the most rewarding?

Sharing my expertise with the client to ensure they are more than happy with the final product and the overall experience. As a tailor I understand the quality of a bespoke suit, but can appreciate that it is a big cost for most gentleman. For clients who come to us to commission their first bespoke piece its important that we give them the best possible experience and product. It’s a great reward seeing a new customer return for their second bespoke piece. It reinforces incomparable quality that bespoke offers.

What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail?

Do your research on the sector and know the industry inside and out. Make sure you are passionate about the career you are going to embark on and trust yourself.

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