“Give Three Piece a Chance” was the slogan seen on protest banners on Savile Row just the other day. After the announcement that Abercrombie Kids would be occupying the historic Number 3 Savile Row, traditionalists literally took to the street. I have mixed feelings, and here they are.
I want the Row protected. That’s obvious. One side is already mostly boutiques and the other has more than one non-tailor already firmly rooted. It’s not a perfect state of affairs. Far from it in fact. Abercrombie & Fitch, parent company of Abercrombie Kids already occupies the former bank at the top of the Row and the smell of chemical-laden cologne can be smelled as far down as Huntsman on a breezy day. Gaggles of screaming teenagers swarming in their flip-flops and torn jeans. Far from perfect is a generous assessment, no?.
And, to finish establishing the facts, the local council and government committees were less than forthright with the surrounding businesses during zoning/protection talks. Abercrombie Kids will generate a lot of traffic and revenue, and those in power obviously chose sides long before the battle could be fought.
But this protest might not be the best way to show our collective displeasure with the selling out of what is an international institution and a national treasure. Most people these days think the Row is irrelevant and a historical relic, and I’m not sure showing up in three-piece tweeds with handlebar mustaches is the most tactful way to dispel this myth. I applaud the bravado of the protestors, and this is by no means a condemnation. I’m just worried about how most people will look at their actions.
Savile Row is as relevant as ever. They make clothes, not costumes. Its heart is craftsmanship and the dedication of individuals to producing something that possesses a bit of humanity. It is not simply a costume shop.
As someone who was privileged enough to get my sartorial toes wet for the first time in these hallowed houses, I am obviously protective. The owners, operators, and tailors have become my good friends over the last few years, and I abhor the very idea that somehow the British government does not understand what a treasure it has in the Row. The key though is making them see that it is as much a modern treasure as a historical one.
The funniest thing here is the nature the invader itself – Abercrombie & Fitch, once a great outfitter which stood for many of the same values as the Row itself. But, while Abercrombie traded dapper jackets for distressed denim, the Row has stayed true to its mission. Innovators have advanced tailoring without letting it go altogether.
It is just too ironic to think that having destroyed their own heritage Abercrombie now has to steal someone else’s.