Lunch with Chester Barrie
My life very much feels like it’s in transition at the moment. This sense of straddling the past and the future was neatly highlighted on my last day of full time work in July. I’d swanned off at lunchtime saying I was going to the pub and might be a bit late back for a meeting. I was in fact going to an influencer lunch thrown by the lovely team at Savile Row tailors Chester Barrie. Start as you meant to go on I say…
It was a balmy afternoon by the time I got to the beautiful surrounds of Dalloway Terrace, a charming little restaurant next to the Bloomsbury Hotel with climbing flowers covering its walls and ceiling. A perfect setting to sip champagne, talk about clothes and eat delicious food. It was a select gathering of bloggers plus key members of Chester Barrie’s small but perfectly formed team. We sipped glasses of fizz while Creative Director Simon Kirby talked us through the key pieces of their AW17 collection, which were shown off on tailors dummies, which lined one side of the restaurant.
Over a long, lazy lunch I asked Simon more about the collection:
I wondered if there were any cultural references for this collection. Film, TV, music, literature etc.?
Chester Barrie often references times past and cultural icons but our emphasis has to be on making the clothing relevant for today. It is a balancing act, which I think we do well. For AW17 there is a nod towards 1930s style and the suave sophistication of Edward, Duke of Windsor. The best example is our Kingly double-breasted style with its low slung opening and broad lapels. We have realised it in a traditional Prince of Wales flannel from Fox Bros, one of the oldest British mills based in Somerset. But I think it has a very modern edge.
What are your favourite pieces from this collection?
I keep changing my mind but there is one jacket that I am likely to be wearing all through the season. It is black watch inspired, soft shouldered jacket in a sophisticated dark green and navy pattern. The boucle yarn adds texture and makes it look very contemporary, even though the weaving technique is actually very traditional.
(As mentioned above)
Of the suits, my current favourite is the three-piece dark teal wool, silk, linen which has a subtle flecked appearance using cloth from Loro Piana. It will probably be in my wardrobe soon (not that I want to wish cold weather on us yet).
How big is the design team at CB and where do you find inspiration for new collections?
The Chester Barrie team is small and hard working. I am creative director overseeing the vision and direction of brand. I work very closely with the head of design, Holger Auffenberg, on the specifics of ranges. And then we have two more designers working in the department working across our other brands.
My favourite jacket from the collection
What makes a Chester Barrie suit a Chester Barrie suit? Are there any signature design details? Certain fabrics or shapes specific to CB?
Chester Barrie is still very much a Savile Row brand – our signature look is a strong, broad (ish) shoulder with a more shaped waist. Then there are subtle details such as a more kicked angle to the vents and outer breast welt while the inside pockets are cut high so your wallet does not spoil the line of the suit. But really, our look is evolving all the time. As men’s attitudes to tailoring change so we have to adapt. Over time we will introduce a more modern shape, that is softer and an easier fit.
Who is the typical Chester Barrie customer? How old are they? What do they do for a living? Do you have someone specific in mind when designing your clothing?
The Chester Barrie customers are quite a varied lot but what unites them is an understanding that looking your best is important. Generally speaking they are quite a mature customer (40 plus). The man in Savile Row is probably senior management or a Chief Exec. But we are seeing a broader age range come through as well as other professions – in the past month we have had a government minister, a footballer and a model through the door. This is all good news as we need to attract a younger customer. We also sell in House of Fraser and the variety we see there is even greater – from prom suits to clothing for post-retirement cruises.
And, of course, we have quite a reputation for occasion wear, which can bring a different customer, one who is prepared to spend, who wants to look and feel great, whatever the event.
Does CB have plans to launch accessories?
We realise that men are now looking to put outfits together and that the final touches are just as important as the key pieces. We have always offered pocket squares and cufflinks but we are now introducing gloves, belts and socks. It is a small start but I can see it growing over the coming seasons.
Finally, if I wanted to invest in just one piece of this A/W collection but a suit was out of my price range, what would you recommend?
We are not just about suits, we have some quite beautiful coats, including a great coat double breasted number. Otherwise, for a small treat you could invest in one of our English made ties or even a blue melange button down shirt from our new collection.
Needless to say, I missed the afternoon meeting at work. I rolled into the office at about 3.45 reeking of booze and did absolutely no work for the rest of the day. If this what the stay at home dad life is going to be like, I should have done it years ago…