Well, we’ve finally got to the business end of the Henry Poole book. The main texts are written and all that is left is to study each of the Hall of Fame great and good’s orders to fill in the important blanks about their dates, their orders and the amount of money they spent with the company. It is a daunting amount of research but these things need putting into perspective.
When I first encountered the Henry Poole archive there were over 100 principal books in a dusty basement room rotting from the inside. Water damage during World War Two had done a fair amount of damage and yet we still had the most comprehensive customer order books on the Row and arguably in the world.
The task of rebinding was an expensive proposition that to Poole’s credit they took the decision to complete working with the Wyvern book binders in Clerkenwell. Over the years, each book was lovingly stripped back to the pages and rebound in house green cloth then embossed in gold with the dates and the series number. The task was huge and without it my work would have taken years instead of a matter of moments my having catalogued each of the books with an index of famous or infamous customers.
This is worth remembering now I have the privilege to work in a custom-built Archive Room at No 15 Savile Row with all the ledgers fully restored and shelved by date. I was proud of the Gieves & Hawkes archive work but this is nothing compared to the task I was fortunate enough to contribute to at Poole’s. Now any researcher worth his or her salt will be able to negotiate the gold mine that is Poole’s historic archive and find exactly who they are looking for in the labyrinth of ledgers and boxes.
I work on project based terms so it is rare for me to have an association with a company that can be counted by years. In this respect Poole’s has been a constant friend and one that has seen me through many peaks and troughs. At times the archive seemed overwhelming: overwhelming that is until you give up an important part of the work to another craftsman such as the Wyvern bindery only for the magic to return once their work is done.
Several projects are reaching their climax at present. We should have the advance copies of Jewelry for Gentlemen - it being a Thames & Hudson protocol to use the American spelling – in the London office imminently. Jewelry for Gentlemen took over a year to write and photograph then had to wait like a plane on the tarmac for the optimum September launch date.
I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to see a book in its final form. No number of uncorrected printed proofs can prepare you for seeing the images sing out in the most luxurious paper quality and all of the cut-out images perfected. Jewelry for Gentlemen is a special book for me. It was a chance to step back into a world that I covered for the FT and the Trib for many years and inspired the formation of my own jewellery business Jewellery for Gentlemen Ltd.
I am taking a punt on pearls for men with the next mini collection produced by the Lucas Rarities workshops in Mayfair. In addition to white flawless Akoya pearls, I am going to produce pink, grey and black pearl tie studs and hope to produce a pink and grey diamond-tipped pearl cufflink before the end of the month. I am thinking about single pearl pendants on an 18ct white gold chain as well but these will have to wait for sales to fund.
It is terribly important for me to know what I want to achieve with my writing and designing activities. I think the optimum is for one to compliment the other at any given time. As an advertisement for fine jewellery for gentlemen, the J4G book is more than fit for purpose. I hope it sells to the fashion industry and to students and collectors of fine men’s jewellery. We have a launch party in September at Piccadilly fine antique jewellery showroom Bentley & Skinner and I am exploring launches in Paris and New York.
One thing that has become clear is that without a project to sink my fangs into, I find it terribly hard to relax and wait for the results of the previous one. In this respect Poole’s has kept me busy and will continue to do so while we research surviving garments in private as well as public collections. Who would have thought that a pair of plush peacock blue breeches made for the Khedive of Egypt’s entourage would have found it’s way into the Museum of London or that Buffalo Bill’s black frock coat with black silk facings would survive in a museum in Wyoming?
The Poole’s book publication in 2019 will be the culmination of almost a decade’s work. I have been so fortunate to work for the first Savile Row tailor to be christened ‘king of tailors, tailor of kings’. Those forty international Royal Warrants were never matched by another British business let alone a tailor though Mayfair gunsmith Purdey might come close with European Royal Families.
So what else is new on the Rialto? Well, I’ve been a bachelor boy for too long now and am ready to dip a toe into the dating game again. I’m repainting Bloomsbury Towers to reclaim the space after all the ghastly burglaries at the beginning of the year and am saving-up to have sufficient funds to remake my grandmother’s diamond and ruby ring that was stolen in January.
Then again, fate may be kind and the ring that meant the most to me might be found on the secondary market. We shall see what we shall see. Until next time…