This picture of Gieves and Hawkes store, 1 Savile Row © Yoshimi Hasegawa and Edward Lakeman. From the book “Savile Row”, Banraisha Ltd.
Today we are thrilled to publish a great piece by our dear friend, James Sherwood.
James is not only an enthralling writer, but also the author of the well-known “Savile Row, The Master Tailors of British Bespoke” and “The Perfect Gentleman” , both published by Thames and Hudson.
This piece was originally published on Mr. Sherwood’s beautiful personal diary called “Letters from Bloomsbury Square.”
by James Sherwood
Just when you thought you’d got the ‘challenges’ of living in London into perspective, along comes the Daily Mail with an absolute humdinger. Apparently there is an illegal trade in monkey meat on Ridley Road Market that could – with the tainted flesh of just one rogue primate – introduce the ebola virus to the UK. Ridley Road happens to be rather a distance from Bloomsbury Towers as the crow flies. But that lamb bhuna gosht within which toxic monkey meat could lurk is just a telephone call away.
The trials and tribulations of modern life, eh? I am coming to the conclusion that 24-hour news is a plague on our collective psyche. I only need fifteen minutes of the Today programme of a morning to be wound up like a top worrying about the Arab-Israeli conflict, President Putin’s bully boy tactics, the greed of foreign-owned utility companies and the rank stench of corruption in politics and finance…none of which one can really do anything about.
What, in the name of Orla Guerin, is the use of worrying? It takes you everywhere around the globe gathering anxiety and gets you nowhere. Not that I suggest one should stick fingers in ears and sing eight bars of It’s A Wonderful World. However, we seem to be besieged by so much bad news and misery that isn’t our responsibility. Perhaps it is our responsibility to do the proverbial and ‘spread a little happiness’ rather than career about arms akimbo like the soothsayer in Up Pompeii bewailing our doom.
I admire people who make things be that buildings, suits, pieces of magnificent jewellery or beautiful interiors. They give to others and leave something of themselves. Of course their battle is with changing fashion and other people’s perception of taste. Suits are perishable. Buildings can be razed to the ground. Jewellery is broken-up and interiors are redecorated. In this respect books are arguably the most durable of creations. They may go out of print but they have a better chance of surviving than many other objects.
What you want is a creation that is so reflective of an age that it is worth preserving for posterity. Anything that exists as a photograph rather than a three-dimensional object is a ghost of a memory. Recently I succumbed to Linkedin and put together what is effectively an online footprint of one’s CV. How useful it will be remains to be seen but it did encourage me to go back to Titanic and unearth my portfolios of newspaper cuttings. I needed to refer to source to remember the dates.
I time travelled back to 1997 when I wrote my first feature for the Independent on Sunday: a working relationship that continued until 2008. I looked at my first national newspaper feature (for the Guardian would you believe) from 2006 and box upon box of features written for Tatler, The World of Interiors, The Daily Telegraph, The International Herald Tribune, Arena Homme +, The Times, The Sunday Express, Elle, US Esquire and The New York Times.
Going even further back, there were tear sheets and fashion shoots from Country Living, Cosmopolitan, Harpers & Queen and Good Housekeeping when I was an intern still at university. For all intents and purposes, this was a pile of newsprint and glossy pages. But it did remind me that I’d been at that game for so many years and earned my living tapping on a typewriter then a laptop since my early twenties.
I don’t think my journalism is a legacy but it introduced me to worlds that might be.
I enjoyed working in 3D curating the London Cut exhibitions in Florence, Paris and Tokyo. But exhibitions are impermanent. I certainly had higher hopes for the archive room at No 1 Savile Row that I curated for Gieves & Hawkes. Until I researched for Linkedin, I didn’t realise that work was done back in 2007 when Robert Gieve, the last of the family affiliated to the business, died and I was left to design and curate the 1st floor archive room. I spent many years at Gieves & Hawkes and was thoroughly proud of the curation and the acquisitions made to present the history of both houses.
Aesthetically, I loved the Wall of Fame comprising of 75 portraits of illustrious customers that flew above the Regency staircase at No 1. It was a bugger to hang and I did think there those pictures would remain. In 2011, a regime change resulted in a redecoration of No 1 Savile Row and both the staircase and the archive room were ‘reconsidered’. Nothing now remains apart from an album of photographs. But such is London and such is life.
My work for the Savoy between 2009 and 2012 on the Museum and Signature Suites was another project I hoped would have a long life. When the hotel reopened on 10.10.10. the Museum showcased the best of the Savoy archive supplemented with pieces loaned by the Noël Coward estate, tiaras from Bentley & Skinner and many objects and artworks I had bought. By 2012, housekeeping had let down the maintenance of the museum and the relationship ended.
I do understand that hotels and shops such as Gieves & Hawkes cannot be frozen in aspic. Bosses change and new people come in. I do wish they had not and/or that the work had been impressive enough to post a ‘do not disturb’ sign around it. But such is life. It is a consolation to say ‘I did that’ but only a minor one until a project presents itself when I can say ‘I did that and here it will stay’.
James Sherwood, August 2014.