London Calling: Interview with Oliver Cross, Savile Row Crafter
Meet Oliver Cross. He is a young cutter at one of Savile Row’s oldest tailoring houses, Meyer and Mortimer, where famous figures have been getting bespoke garments for centuries, and today holds the royal warrant to create pieces for Queen Elizabeth II. The role of a cutter is to draft an entirely unique pattern for each customer, which is then passed to a tailor to be hand crafted. In an era where most people see the world in pixels and factories can produce thousands of items a day, the craft of creating high quality, custom clothing by hand is especially luxurious and endangered. Oliver proudly carries on the rich heritage and artistry of true bespoke tailoring. Transitioning from finance to fashion where he discovered his passion, Oliver has trained with one of England’s most renowned tailors and is at the epicenter of Savile Row, where quality, elegance, and timeless style reigns. From the Meyer and Mortimer studio in London, Oliver gives Zady his perspective and advice on all things sartorial, and what he sees for the future of his beloved trade.
Have you seen a resurgence in the appreciation for bespoke tailoring recently?
Absolutely. As a young cutter, I would like to see a mass of younger people (both male and female) interested in bespoke, but the issue with a true Savile Row suit amongst the masses is the price difference between a ready to wear or even a made to measure. Because all of the Savile row suits are made in the Westend from outset to delivering to the customer it is unrealistic for us to compete with the prices of ready to wear or made to measure. What I have seen is a mass of interest from social media. Thanks to some excellent bloggers and forums, it has made it much more accessible to gain knowledge of the craft and different house styles without actually having to come into a Savile Row shop. It is great exposure for keeping the bespoke trade alive and it also enables people to think a bit more about what they are buying and where it is made.
What I have seen is a mass of interest from social media. It is great exposure for keeping the bespoke trade alive and it also enables people to think a bit more about what they are buying and where it is made.
How does the bespoke trade aim to compete with economics pressures of mass production ready to wear?
Savile row cannot really compete with the mass market and never really has - that is what makes it so charming. But looking around on the streets of London and even images on Instagram from worldwide inspirations, the styles that were born on Savile Row are everywhere. The trade has dissolved a vast amount in the last 20 years, and tailoring houses have had to amalgamate to survive, but the body of tailors houses that are left I feel are solid and protected.
How are Savile Row tailors trained?
As with many other trades and companies - business and craft will not survive without the skills being passed on. Obviously, the modern era has allowed new techniques and machinery to become more efficient. However the components of cutting a suit and constructing a suit have remained the same.
Obviously, the modern era has allowed new techniques and machinery to become more efficient. However, the components of cutting a suit and constructing a suit have remained the same.
Savile Row is synonymous with its training programmes via apprenticeships. The only way to truly learn the skills and knowledge of our trade is to do so whilst working on the job and training under an experienced tailor. It is not like becoming a doctor or a financial adviser when there is a generic ladder to climb and tick boxes as you go along. Many of my peers whom work for different Savile row houses all have a different journey to tell.
What was your path to Savile Row and the tailoring trade?
I was in financial services before but was not a happy bunny. I had a very young daughter and at 23 finally l realized that i was out for job satisfaction - my passion was tailoring. I enrolled at a local college course and apprenticed with a local tailor in Warwickshire. A year later I got into the London College of Fashion to study Bespoke Tailoring so I hung my financial services coat up for a more tailored one. I studied for two years and began working at Meyer & Mortimer. I am taught by one of Savile Row’s finest cutters, Mr Malcolm Plews, whom holds a royal warrant for making garments for The Prince of Wales. Meyer and Mortimer has also held royal warrants for many royals for 200 years. I pinch myself regularly and do not take anything for granted. I love my job and do not worry about retirement because I don’t think I will ever want to retire from this trade!
What is your favorite sartorial style? Which type of suit do you think every man should have in their closet?
My favourite sartorial style would have to be a nice autumn/winter smart casual combination. A pair of tan English shoes (maybe a double monk strap), a pair of grey flannel trousers, with an open shirt (or knit tie) and a tweed/brownish hues sports jacket. Pocket square stuffed into the out breast welt pocket. The sartorial list is endless!
I think the wardrobe staple would have to be a versatile three-piece suit for a gent, maybe something charcoal or navy. This way the jacket may be worn on its own with a nice pair of brushed cotton trousers or the suit trousers can be dressed down, worn with a sports jacket or a nice short tan leather jacket with a roll neck. And of course when all three pieces are worn together with a quality shirt and tie it will make for the perfect gentleman.
What is the difference between made to measure and bespoke
In true Savile Row terms, a Savile Row bespoke suit should be an individually drafted pattern for each and every customer, hand drafted by a cutter, study of figuration, hand-made in the west end of London using quality cloths and using methods that have been used for centuries.
Made to measure - a great option if you want a custom fit suit at a fraction of the cost of a true hand made bespoke suit. Generally, made to measure requires a salesperson with a tape measure to take some measurements and study the figuration of a body, be knowledgable on cloths and styles. The measurements will then be sent off to a factory where the suit is made - the standards vary immensely. There are some excellent made to measure companies out there that finish and make their suits using the similar components to a bespoke suit. However, there are companies that make them very cheaply, with minimal or no inlays, cheap cloths and cut corners using minimal trimmings inside. Do your research if you want quality. Ask about any possible hand finishing options such as if they use machine buttonholes or hand stitched ones. For the body canvas ask if it full length or half and hand padded. Ask about inlays, how much do they leave in the jacket and trousers. You may find that these options may well be available for a little extra cost or may be standard for that particular company. These questions apply to both made to measure and bespoke as there are some made to measure companies out there selling as full bespoke.
How has bespoke tailoring evolved over time?
The tailoring techniques used at Meyer and Mortimer today have remained the same from the beginning - little has changed and that is what makes a true bespoke garment very special. We have customers today that will bring in suits that they had made 40+ years ago for alterations. They have been very well looked after and the elements are just as they are today.
The only changes that have been made over time are minor adjustments to style, such as lapel widths, more waisting, pocket styles and button positioning etc. These have all evolved through trends.
If you could create a suit for one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
The Duke of Windsor! He dressed incredibly well for the time. He was tastefully flamboyant.