In just a few short years at the helm of a Savile Row tailoring establishment, PATRICK GRANT has carved himself a niche as the figurehead for a new approach to suiting. SEB LAW meets him to discuss craftsmanship, the art of bespoke and perfectly-blended whisky.
Patrick Grant is a man whose reputation precedes him. His fresh, modern approach has pushed London’s incomparable Savile Row back into the limelight, just at the time that the idea of sartorial dressing is coming back into vogue. His purchase of Norton & Sons, and subsequent revival of the House, as well as far-ranging collaborations, involvement with the British Fashion Council and the creation of the London Collections: Men showcase, not to mention his tremendously dapper aura, has seen him become the man on the Row that everyone knows.
Meeting him in the bar of a luxe London hotel, just a stones-throw from Savile Row, seems terribly appropriate then. We settle down onto an enormous sofa, and start chatting. To my shame, I’m wearing a jumper, jeans and trainers to the interview, a far cry from Grant’s unsurprisingly perfectly-cut grey suit. He eyes me with a combination of mild disdain and amusement as we discuss tailoring. “There’s a lot of emotion to the very idea of a suit,” he tells me, “for many people, the idea of wearing a ‘suit’ feels like you’re staking a claim to belong in a certain kind of tribe or feels like the uniform of a certain type of person, and it doesn’t need to be at all. In fact, it shouldn’t be.”
Grant is a great orator, seamlessly weaving themes and anecdotes together for considered, intelligent responses to my questions. I make a misguided attempt to align high-end streetwear like expensive high-tops and Japanese selvedge denim with the idea of bespoke: “denim is an amazing fabric and we use it a little bit. I’ve been quoted in the past saying that I don’t like denim, but with a lot of denim it’s the washes and the shapelessness a lot of the time. I’m just wondering whether I agree whether those trainers are well made: I’m not sure I do; they’re certainly expensive…”
It all comes back to a sense of both craftsmanship and engineering, conveniently as Grant originally trained in engineering. How do the two stack up then? “Tailoring is engineering,” Grant states, “it’s actually a much more complicated engineering challenge, arguably than making something like a disc brake for a bicycle. That’s one piece of the puzzle that will be cast, punched and finished. But this is multiple different materials, all of which have been tested and refined to the absolute for two centuries so that the integrity of the product is at its maximum.”
I almost forget what I’m here to talk to Grant about. He’s worked on a collaboration with Chivas Regal Whisky for a Limited Edition tin for their 12-year old whisky blend. Conveniently, there is a parallel between tailoring and whisky (and it’s not just James Bond): “Tailoring is exactly the same as blending whisky,” he tells me, “our guys train for years and years to understand every bit they do and develop their skills. They learn all of that and add their natural flair. In the case of a whisky blender, they have a library in their head of flavours and their own sense of taste and smell as well as the skills that have been passed to them. There’s no tailoring manual, and there is – I assume – no blending manual.”
We discuss so much more in the allotted half-hour, including the burgeoning London menswear scene and his hopes for a return to British manufacturing, and rounds off confidently: “We’re part of two big movements: a big movement back towards a greater valuation of real things (clothing and whisky, in this case); and a movement where British products are getting more share of the limelight.” Both of which are, resolutely, A Good Thing. Long may Patrick Grant continue to reign at the Row.
- The Chivas 12 Made for Gentlemen by Patrick Grant limited edition whisky tin is available now – for more details head to www.chivas.com
- His other half is Katie Hillier, accessories designer for Marc Jacobs (and instigator of the introduction of a women’s line at Norton & Sons
- Grant’s thesis was written about British luxury brands, focusing on Burberry