Made in Sheffield April 2011

Dear Rowley,

Just when you thought you’d heard it all, that ghastly slug of a Tory politician Oliver Letwin makes a remark about increasing airport taxes because ‘we don’t want to encourage people from Sheffield to take cheap flights’. This is what we are up against, darling. Wasn’t it priceless when Nick Clegg sounded off about social mobility and levelling the playing field? The man got his internships and his first job thanks to family connections. He went to Westminster. There’s nothing the British like less than double standards.

I went to a reception at Smythson last night – a delight to see Suzy Menkes  - but the evening was pretty much spoilt when a senior staff member of Vogue  purported to have never come across my name before and mentioned ‘the other James Sherwood’ who owned the Orient Express. He said this looking at me like a fly that needed to be swatted. Maybe he didn’t know me from Adam, but in his position he should be aware of my work on Savile Row if nothing else. Of course I always make the remark that I used to get very good restaurant tables because of my namesake and I do recall a butler at Elton John’s white tie and tiaras party asking how my father was with a knowing nod. But it stings. It shouldn’t, but it gets right up my goat as Kath & Kim have it (frequently).

I am quite cross with people making cracks at Sheffield and am very proud to have come from Northern stock. One of my grandmothers ran a silver and steel works. The other was the boss of a hairdressing salon. She liked furs and diamonds and was Sheffield’s answer to Doris Speed. I tell you, I wouldn’t be half as tough if I hadn’t come from where I did. Can’t bear snobbery, can you? I find the British royals and aristocrats I’ve encountered totally free of it. The luxury goods media – the Mediocrity as they should be known – are, however, petty, catty, ill-mannered and labouring under the delusion of self-entitlement.

I recall Vogue’s jewellery editor Carol Woolton introducing one former Conde Nast editor to me at a Cartier do at the Natural History Museum. Before his hand even touched mine, he spied Prince Michael of Kent over my shoulder and was off like a rat up a drainpipe. As Private Eye’s Glenda Slagg would say, ‘life’s too short for a greasin’ and and a grovellin’. Anyway, I scarpered from Smythson after saying hello to Sam Cameron and hot-footed it to much more convivial company: the Academy Club above Andrew Edmunds in Soho where I was spending a quiet evening with Susan F and Mr Bowering.

I do like the Academy. You find disreputable people playing vicious bridge in the corner and the club’s founder/den mother Mandana training her new puppy Jezebel to roll over and kick her legs in the air. We had duck breast, lashings of Valpoliparrot and hopped a cab home before the witching hour. It is always a joy. I enjoy Mayfair by day but do feel much more amongst friends in Soho by night.

I spent a day on the Row at Henry Poole yesterday working through the measure book ledgers dating back to the 1860s. In one book alone, I found the Kings of Italy, Norway and Denmark. We haven’t even scratched the surface of the collection of archives at Henry Poole & Co. I unearthed one intriguing 19th century letter from ‘Poor old Tom’ to ‘Dear Old Joe’ that has been pasted with theatrical prints of Lady Teazle and Princess Pocahontas. It is full of in jokes and Pocahontas has been hand-captiponed ‘Joe looking killing’. It is intriguing. I might take the item down to David Drummond on Cecil Court – the greatest living dictionary of the London stage – and he may be able to shed some light.

A lovely interlude yesterday. I have been advising a fashion student called Yaelle Caplan whose father is a friend of my father in Sheffield. Yaelle graduated, she’s set-up her own company hand-painting designs for silk scarves that feature adorable charms linked to one corner of the hand rolled scarves and they are all made in England. Yaelle hopes to relocate to London so that’s one more talented Sheffielder to add to the crew when she does. I rather like her work. Have a butchers at her website and tell me what you think of her prints. I think the kid’s got talent.

TV director Ian Denyer – on whose dimples I dote – was my front row partner at the Golden Shears last month. Anyway, the chairman of the Golden Shears Simon Cundey sent me this fabulous picture of Ian and I suited and booted and looking not dissimilar to the Gilbert & George of Savile Row. The book cover is the French edition of Savile Row that was snapped in the window of a chi-chi little bookshop in the 7th Arrondisement. My American friend Eric Hartline was in Paris this week and saw Savile Row getting a good show and took a snap. I never thought I’d say this but God bless the Parisians for agreeing to reprint Savile Row: The Master Tailors of British Bespoke as are the Brits Lord love ‘em.

My last picture – best legs in the business darling – is of my new red Budd sock suspenders. They do feel ever so slightly Weimar Berlin but they do pull your socks up and what could be better than that as a motto every Spring morning? So I shall finish this letter with a final hurrah for Sheffield. Here’s to us, there’s none like us and those that are be dead. I recall the Savoy archivist, another Northerner, saying to me early on in our acquaintance, ‘don’t worry, I’m not from anywhere common like Sheffield’. I took great pleasure saying ‘No but I am, mi duck’. Until next time…