It's war between the old buffers and the buff boys

US brand Abercrombie & Fitch stands accused of lowering the tone of London's Savile Row – again

There's a queue every day outside Abercrombie & Fitch's flagship London store on Savile Row. The "lifestyle concept" shop opened in 2007 and, given its conspicuously preppy image, its location seemed not entirely ill-fitting: if Abercrombie's customers really are the wealthy college kids portrayed in its advertising, they might conceivably be the sort to buy bespoke suits 20 years hence. In 2009, the veteran Savile Row tailor Richard Anderson told The Independent that the US chain's arrival was welcome. "Footfall has increased and that can't be a bad thing," he said. "Before, it was a destination venue. But now, while children are in [Abercrombie], their fathers will wander up and buy a shirt, a belt, a tie."

This year, however, some of the Row's exclusive outfitters are railing against Abercrombie's further expansion into their territory. It recently unveiled plans for a children's store at 3 Savile Row, once home to The Beatles' Apple Corps headquarters, but local tailors argue that this would fundamentally alter the character of the historic street, and are seeking to prevent it. Why, they wonder, must the brand concentrate its energy on Savile Row when there are other, more appropriate locations nearby?

Already, the original shop has drawn too many "uncouth" youths to the area and, one tailor complained to the Daily Mail, opening yet another would be "like adding orange squash to the best vintage champagne". In the past five years, the Abercrombie store has become famous not only for clothing retail but also for low lighting, loud music and semi-naked sales assistants.

The chain was established in 1892 to provide shotguns, tents and fishing rods to Manhattan's outdoorsy upper classes. But in its present, publicly-traded incarnation, it aggressively markets men's and women's wear to the highly-sexed, upper-middle-class 18 to 22-year-old. Its website's home page, and that of its spin-off brand Hollister, both feature topless young men in place of actual clothes. In 2004, Abercrombie was forced to pay $40m to settle a series of discrimination lawsuits after a US judge found its college campus image relied too heavily on white models. It was also accused of sexualising children by selling padded bikini tops and thongs in pre-teen sizes.

Alex Bilmes, editor of the men's monthly Esquire, works in an office not far from the Abercrombie flagship, and suggests that the influx of young people to the area might not be so bad after all. "It's not a bad idea for them to know what Savile Row is, and where it is," he says. "If Savile Row was simply made up of very expensive bespoke tailors, one wonders whether anyone but the people who could afford that would really know where it was. That said, we wouldn't want it to turn into a high street. Savile Row is an amazing thing that's specific to London. It ought to be protected, and it would be a real shame if it were taken over by chains."

There is something of a split, Bilmes suggests, between the traditionalists and tyros of Savile Row tailoring. "Sometimes there can be a sort of fuddy-duddiness, which younger tailors like Richard James and Ozwald Boateng have challenged. They know it's no good just getting old duffers to come and spruce up their tweed. You need to attract younger people, and I got the sense they thought it wasn't such a bad thing when Abercrombie first opened."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    £26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

    Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

    Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

    Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

    Day In a Page

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral