Congratulate me darling. I’ve just been to a tailoring do at the Merchant Taylors’ Hall – the bi-annual Golden Shears Awards – and I am home with a bottle of Valpoliparrot at 9.30pm. Usually it’s 3am and Keith from Poole’s and I are regaling the bar staff in some burlesque club in full black tie holding court at the bar with a flaming Sambuca. Anyway, I had to be responsible because this is a big week dotting the i’s on Fashion at Royal Ascot: Three Centuries of Thoroughbred Style.
The Golden Shears has a Grecian mythical ring to it, doesn’t it? Well, it does have elements of the Labours of Hercules about it. Twenty-four tailoring students good and true compete to produce a suit that passes muster with the master tailors of Savile Row. Actually, that’s half the story. A panel of judges (read the Royal Family of Savile Row) shortlist the entries: this year’s being Richard Anderson, Alan Bennett, Peter Day, Pat Murphy and Brigitte Steputtis.
Brigitte is the head of couture at Vivienne Westwood who I have known of old at London house parties and latterly at Royal Ascot where Vivienne shows every year. Richard Anderson was in Tokyo when the tsunami struck so Pat M had a lot of fun calling him ‘Radioactive Richard’ and commenting on the orange glow around him not dissimilar to the Weetabix commercial. Anyway, I digress.
Once the Gods of Savile Row have had their say, a panel of industry experts judge the competition on the night. I judged the Shears last time (Savile Row apprentices scored a 1/2/3 you won’t be surprised to hear). This year we had the lovely Jeremy Hackett, tailor Charlie Allen, Dragon’s Den panelist Deborah Meaden (owner of the Fox Flannel mill), a dapper chap called Gerry McGovern who is the Chief Creative Officer for Land Rover and a couturier called Roubi L’Roubi who made one of Suzi Perry’s frocks for Ascot a gazillion years ago and who arrived wearing a Japanese Hakama in support of a country he and I love.
The show was slicker than the year I judged and infinitely better styled. But the fundamental problem is that these pieces were not cut on the body of the models wearing them so there were far too many trousers puddling at the ankle like a Shar-Pei’s double chins and very few shoulders/waistlines/cuffs hitting their marks. Also, a lot of the work needed a bloody good press before it went out on the catwalk. But was there potential on show? In spades. There was a lot of creativity on show and not all of the ‘let’s reinvent Savile Row’ variety that always makes the heart sink. Some respect is necessary when playing to an audience of industry insiders.
Needless to say, my winner – a knockout Inverness cape and matching slim trouser cut by Carly Reeve – didn’t even place. When you’re not on the panel it is rather like having a guess at the winner of Miss World or a General Election. One rarely goes with majority taste. Anyway, Miss Reeve has talent and she has style appropriate to the Row. The winner – cut by a feisty little thing called Yingmei Quan dressed in a Cheryl Cole soldier costume – was an absolute masterclass in coat making that marched a baroque pattern in shades of grey to absolute perfection. It was worthy of a Sarah Burton Alexander McQueen collection.
I can’t really discuss the third prize because it didn’t even register for me: instantly forgettable. But the second prize distressed puppytooth coat was inventive and amusing as cut by Royal College of Art student Ichiro Suzuki. What pleased me most about the result was that the winner was an apprentice with Welsh & Jefferies. It just goes to show that all the college degrees in the world don’t really add up to hands-on experience with a Savile Row house. The presentation of the Golden Shears is getting slicker by the year but I would still question repeating the fashion show a second time to introduce the designer after we’ve already sat through it once. And as for thanking everyone from the lighting designer to the janitor, it is all a bit am-dram.
Perhaps the Golden Shears should decide if it is a tailoring industry event, a fashion happening, a Merchant Taylors’ Hall occasion or a student diploma ceremony. It can’t be all these things and be a successful evening or a hit with the press. The press need things kept simple – God bless them – and get bored after 15 minutes of Versace never mind an hour of student work. Still, it is easier to criticise than to praise and the evening was a success. Will it get the press it deserves? Not, I think, until Savile Row is written all over it rather than having so many interested parties taking credit.
Perhaps making the event black tie would help ramp-up the sense of occasion. Still, you know the trouble we all got in when I suggested black tie for the Savile Row book launch at the Savoy. That way trouble lies. One of the reasons I left the event so early was because I was not, unfortunately, exclusively amongst friends. The Savile Row book is, thank the Lord, a hit but it is terribly interesting which of the houses has said thank you and which still bear a grudge for whatever reason. Still, onward and upward towards the Hollywood exhibition at the Savoy and the Royal Wedding.