Style: Another Nutter on the Row: Richard James, like Tommy Nutter before him, is shaking up Savile Row with his range of designer clothes, says Roger Tredre

THE NEW boy on the block did not get off to a good start. Richard James could not work out how to switch off the burglar alarm outside his shop on Savile Row.

He stood in the street looking up at the alarm with an expression on his face that might best be described as sheepish. To his dismay, the old guard of the Row took a disturbing interest in the volume of noise filling up their street.

The tailors gathered on their front-door steps in the lunchtime sunshine to see what the fuss was all about. 'Oh my God,' wailed James, 'they're going to hang, draw and quarter me.'

Bernard Weatherill, former Speaker of the House of Commons and president of his family's tailoring business, came out of his shop opposite and looked James up and down. It seemed highly unlikely that either man recognised the other. James certainly did not know who Mr Weatherill was until he was told later. He clutched his head with both hands: 'Oh, no. It wasn't really him, was it?'

In Savile Row, the celebrated bastion of English men's bespoke tailoring, new boys are few and far between. James, 39, is stepping where few have dared to tread before. To make matters worse, he is not even a tailor. He is one of that new-fangled breed of chaps who call themselves - wait for it - 'designers'.

In the late Eighties, Richard James was a hot name in men's fashion circles. He was one of a trio of British designers who staged fashion shows in Paris that excited huge international attention; the others were Paul Smith and Katharine Hamnett. He was rather like the naughty schoolboy alongside Paul Smith. He shared Smith's love of English eccentricity, but he pushed it that bit further, with a range of colours and clashes of fabrics that had rarely been seen before in men's clothing.

James, one always thought, was in danger of being sent to the back of the class. But the store buyers (from New York, Los Angeles, Milan, Tokyo) loved his work. What then happened was a chain of incidents that is wearily familiar to anyone in the fashion industry. James expanded faster than his means allowed, orders mounted up, cash-flow problems developed - and the naughty schoolboy was indeed sent to the back of the class, by his creditors.

This is ancient history now. But moving from fast fashion into the exclusive echelons of Savile Row is not quite as dramatic a switch as it sounds, for he has always considered himself a quintessentially British designer and greatly admires classic British tailoring.

We gave up on the burglar alarm and left it ringing, going round the corner to the cafe at the Museum of Mankind ('It's good, it's cheap, the people are nice') to talk. I had been warned that he liked to drink at lunchtime and that he was garrulous beyond belief. He did not disappoint. 'I don't want you to quote me as slagging off Savile Row. I don't want to end up being the vulgar person in the Row,' he said. 'I love it, everything about the place. I love those old gentlemen with nipped-in waists and narrow trousers. I love everything about English tailoring.

'If there is a difference, it's that I believe that while you should respect the past, you have to push forward, too. People get grouse in Sainsbury's now, not on the moors.'

James will sell ready-to-wear clothes and also provide a made-to-measure service in the best Savile Row tradition. He wants to soften up the structured Savile Row suit, doing away with some of the canvases and interlinings that give the suit its rigidity, and experimenting with colour, fabric, and pattern.

'The true English style is much more eccentric than the French and Italians seem to think. There were some crazy fabrics about in the Thirties and Forties. The idea that the English are always dressed in brown is total rubbish,' he said.

I returned to the shop this week for its opening, and found him darting about with enthusiasm, showing off his lightweight tweed jackets with overchecks of burnt orange and apple green, and soft pink cashmere cardigans to be worn with roll-neck sweaters (the new male twinset). There were multi-coloured square ties, shirts in blue and lilac, and a wonderfully comfortable alpaca overcoat. ('There are more on the way,' he promised. 'I'm still waiting for deliveries.')

There was also some fine and restrained tailoring. James, the arch-colourist, quixotically says he wants to dress head-to-toe in charcoal grey.

Where does James the designer part company with the tailors of Savile Row? 'I'm not keen on the fuddy-duddiness of Savile Row, that snobbery that says you have to wear this type of jacket with that type of shirt,' he says.

'Savile Row does have a problem. The fathers are not bringing their sons anymore. Maybe I can change that because I'm not blinkered. I know about Comme des Garcons and Yamamoto and the other designers. Maybe I can be a catalyst to bring a new generation to the Row.'

The parallel with the late Tommy Nutter is striking. When Nutter opened up shop in Savile Row in 1969, he was like a breath of fresh air, selling a wide-lapelled and big-shouldered look that brought a new kind of customer to the area. He dressed Mick and Bianca Jagger, Eric Clapton, Diana Rigg, Twiggy, even the Beatles (there are three Nutter suits on the album cover of Abbey Road).

The old stalwarts of the Row gave Nutter no more than six months, and watched in amazement as his business flourished. Now the tailors are more wary about writing off James, who could be a worthy inheritor of Nutter's mantle.

Henry Holland, managing director of Kilgour, French & Stanbury, positively welcomes James's arrival. 'It's good news for Savile Row. I hope that like Tommy Nutter he livens up the place and brings in a different type of customer.'

An even warmer welcome has come from Anthony Hewitt, the tailor opposite at number 9. His workshop is making James's made-to-measure suits, and also helping with the manufacture of his ready-to-wear clothes. It is the combination of new-boy design skills and old-school tailoring excellence that really promises something special (Tommy Nutter had a similar partnership for many years with the tailor Edward Sexton).

Hewitt, 57, has worked on and off for years with designers. 'I've always had a deep appreciation of what they're trying to do. Richard's arrival in Savile Row is very encouraging.'

The Row has felt the recession as much as the high street. Earlier this month, Wells of Mayfair, a company dating back to 1829 and once one of the Row's largest tailors, went out of business.

Hewitt is more recession-proof than others in the Row, with a strong following of British customers to counterbalance his export business. Prices for immaculate hand-stitched suits start at pounds 850, and James's made-to-measure suits will be similarly priced. This is a lot of money, but it is a long-term investment: the suit that Hewitt wore for the Independent photographer was six years old, but looked as if it would last for ever.

Richard James, 37a Savile Row, London W1 (071-434 0605). Anthony J Hewitt, 9 Savile Row (071-734 1505).

(Photograph omitted)

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Life and Style
Customers look at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store in Hong Kong
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Primary Supply Teacher - Loughborough

    £90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Teacher looking fo...

    Primary General Cover Teachers

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Newly Qualified Teacher lo...

    Part Time Primary Teacher

    £90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Part Time Primary TeacherOur...

    Science Technician

    £7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:School Science Technici...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week