For those who work in, or by, Savile Row, the phrase “The Row is finished” is repeated with as much certainty and cynicism as mid-July showers.
The birthplace of Western tailoring hasn’t had it easy over the past few decades; with a few centuries-old institutions struggling well before 2020. Some point at soaring rent prices. Others argue that the blame lies with the street’s stubborn refusal to get with the times (even if just a little bit).
Which is why this month’s new opening The Service is such a happy surprise. A collaboration between Cad & the Dandy, The Fresh Coffee Company, and creative agency Department Two, the vacant No. 32 Savile Row has been transformed into a superbly lavish coffee shop, becoming the street’s only retail space not exclusively selling clothes.
That isn’t to take away from what Savile Row stands for. But rather, The Service hopes to enhance the experience. “It’s definitely not Starbucks!” laughs James Sleater, co-founder of The Service and tailoring house Cad & the Dandy. “This is run by people who work on the Row and have its best interests at heart… We’re finally giving the area its community hub, and it's well overdue.”
To do this, menswear and tailoring exhibitions are curated by experts in the showroom. (It is currently the turn of style journalist and director of HandCut Studio, Aleks Cvetkovic, who is presenting his ‘Savile Row: Bespoke Casual’ throughout Autumn.) There will also be an exclusive marketplace, in the nature of concept-and-coffee stores like 10 Corso Como in Milan or—on a more local, casual scale—AIDA in Shoreditch, but with tailoring fans in mind. “Visitors can buy all the items, from clothing, furniture, artwork, sound systems, and the La Marzocco coffee machines we use,” James adds.
The layout is surprisingly large. The coffee counter and seating are located by the entrance, where people work, chat, or queue to takeaway; while the mannequin-crowded showroom sits at the back, organised into a museum exhibit. Unsurprisingly, it looks like somewhere today’s Don Drapers’ can be found, guzzling on Flat White coffees and typing start-up ideas into their MacBooks—with brass lamps, mid-century furniture, roomy seats, and a rich and inviting ivy-green palette. The vibe is much like The Ned’s. And James stresses that you needn’t be in a suit to feel at home here.
“It’s a community hub, but also a place that will attract passers-by to stop in Savile Row—perhaps for the very first time,” he says, “while also giving those of us who work in the industry a place to gather and create.”
British tailoring has a sizeable global following, with legions of people around the world (of all stripes, sexes, and ages) forging relationships on social media around their favourite tailors and brands. Savile Row is still commonly accepted as tailoring Ground Zero; the Pantheon. But unlike busy Jermyn Street, there’s nowhere to stop and soak it up (rather, the community finds themselves in one of the three local pubs).
At times, the Row is eerily quiet. Much of the foot-traffic is from Londoners using it as a shortcut to, or from, Bond Street. It shouldn’t be this way—this is one of the most historic and influential style addresses on earth, where the rule book was written, torn up, rewritten again, and is being adapted to suit modern needs (women’s tailor The Deck are now present on Savile Row). Tourists ought to be adding the street to their itineraries, snapping the quaint, mannequin-lined shop-windows on their cameras, and plunging into this unapologetically classic corner of London. This is what The Service is doing. It gives you a reason to go and hang out on Savile Row; because unless you’re shopping, you’ll simply be passing through. Or, as many tourists and Londoners admit, building up enough courage to actually step into one of the small, traditional houses.
“We chose coffee because, well, who doesn’t like a well-made cup of coffee?” says James. “As a result, we’re looking forward to welcoming customers in to immerse themselves in our community and to give them an insight into the world of tailoring.”
Of course, there are naysayers, assertive traditionalists, the ‘my-way-or-the-highways’—there always will be. But the team at The Service is simply reading the room. “Someone said, ‘it’s taken Savile Row 200 years to realise they needed this’, and I couldn’t agree more,” James adds. “Not just for the visitors—the people around the world who have heard of Savile Row, who have dreamed of coming, and now have a somewhere to stop and feel the energy of the place—but for Londoners, too, who want to get to know the history of their city a bit better, and who want a damn good cup of coffee in a great setting!”
You might still hear “the Row is finished” echoing between the same cutting rooms, store-counters, and pubs in the area. But the home of menswear always finds a way. And in this case, the way might be coffee.