To the Merchant Taylors’ Hall on Monday night for the Golden Shears Awards held every two years and open to Savile Row apprentices and fashion colleges alike. The shortlist is drawn-up by a technical team of Row cutters Richard Anderson, Alan Bennett, Peter Day, Joe Morgan and Kathryn Sargent and the finalists judged by Joanna Lumley, Raymond Blanc, Nick Hewer, Hilary Alexander and Lloyd Johnson. The catnip for the press was the promise of Dolce & Gabbana dreamboat David Gandy giving out the prizes.
The battle for the Golden Shears sounds such a glamorous, Arthurian affair and the Merchant Taylors’ Hall in the City is one of the architectural jewels of the ancient livery companies. Constructing a catwalk in the oak paneled hall is rather like hosting a pop-up Clothes Show Live in St George’s Chapel, Windsor and you rather wished for a salon-style walk through allowing the hall to be seen in all its glory. I rather like the juxtaposition of stately grandeur and fashion forward tailoring but there we are.
Interesting to see the front row was populated by Neo-Edwardian gentlemen of the press with clipped beards, brilliantined hair, jazzy check double-breasted suits and highly polished tasseled loafers while the male models cast were of the pallid, long-haired emo Interview With The Vampire school of fashion. We saw a higher proportion of women’s tailoring this year and a rejection of the classic suit in favour of rather extreme separates: hunting pinks with tartan dress trousers, a patchwork blanket coat with narrow claret doeskins and a sapphire velvet frock coat with Tattersall jodhpurs.
With only one exit per finalist, you appreciate that the tailors throw everything at the outfit so we saw a lot of tricky inserts in contrasting cloth, trims, treatments and embellishments like a jewelled French lace or gold silk lapels that tend to gild the lily. Mr Hewer employed his signature Apprentice raised eyebrow more than once though Ms Lumley was as inscrutable as a Modigliani Madonna throughout. Of all the judges, Hilary Alexander is the veteran of many thousands of catwalk shows and was perhaps best equipped to separate show-offs from showstoppers.
Turns out the winners were a Savile Row one-two with Anderson & Sheppard apprentice Jennie Marie McWalter taking the Silver Shears for her hunt coat ensemble and Henry Poole’s Emily Squires winning Gold for the blue velvet and jodhpurs. I think it was a good result. Miss McWalter wafted down the catwalk leaving most of the males on either side swooning like a cornfield in a breeze. I suspect she might be part Veela. Couldn’t have been happier for Emily who bounded towards the photographers like a Labrador pup wearing a rather natty pair of tailored grey dungarees with a smile like the cat that got the canary.
One always thinks ‘whither Savile Row?’ after the Golden Shears. If the winning three are anything to go by, the future might just be female. It is certainly in safe hands when looking at the work in detail. The A&S hunting pink tail coat was exquisitely made and what I think won Poole’s the gold was the skill displayed in the hand-quilted lining combined with the style to put together blue velvet, navy moleskin and Tattersall check jodhpurs. The look could have descended into fancy dress but had the swagger and flamboyancy that speaks to a contemporary dandy.
I did feel justified surveying the winning images shot in the staterooms of the Merchant Taylors’ Hall that the sartorial splendour looked so much more at ease in a stately home setting than on a runway lit like a cold case on the slab in Silent Witness. I think I probably mentioned in my last letter that I judged the Golden Shears in 2009 with David Furnish, Caryn Franklin, Gerry McGovern and Patrick Grant. Not coincidentally perhaps the winners then were a Poole’s gold and an A&S silver. Poole’s apprentice Rory Duffy now has a thriving bespoke business in achingly fashionable Brooklyn.
Attending as a guest this year did feel rather Banquo’s Ghost for more reasons than one. The change of focus from Mayfair to St James’s for my next project is not a little overdue. Until next time…