PATRICK Grant is talking about the kind of specifics that set a great suit apart from any old suit; the sort of details that go some way to explaining why a Savile Row suit might set you back several thousand of Sir’s crisp English pounds and a two-piece from Asda just 30 limp ones.
“There is the best way of making something – which is bloody slow and requires incredibly skilled and therefore very expensive people to make it – and then there are faster, more machine-intensive processes, and those are less expensive. But good cutting,” he adds, “costs the same as bad cutting – you just need to know where to go. Simple things like the position of the buttons, the proportion, where to put the shape in the waist…”
As he talks, I can sense us entering Great British Sewing Bee territory – those excruciating seconds examining in scrupulous detail the buttonhole of a jacket, the seam of a skirt, the invisible zip in a pair of trousers. Human drama all wrapped up in bias binding, with an insistent sewing machine soundtrack. Who could have predicted it would do for needlework what Bake Off has done for loaf tins?
“I was flabber-gasted,” says Grant. “The effect has been quite remarkable. Sewing courses across Britain are full. May [Martin, his fierce co-host] was saying the college she teaches at is full for the next two years, sewing machine sales are up 400 per cent – all this crazy stuff has happened.”
A second series is being filmed and, on a personal note, Grant couldn’t be happier, “because my professional career is entirely dependent on the availability of amazing tailors and seamstresses. And, if we can keep haberdashers busy, that’s a bonus”.
Grant has, as it happens, been a very busy bee of late. Not only is the Edinburgh-born designer the brains behind Savile Row tailor Norton & Sons and contemporary menswear label E Tautz, he is also the latest name to join the Debenhams stable, producing a menswear collection under the label Hammond & Co by Patrick Grant.
“Edward Tautz [whose eponymous menswear label Grant resurrected in 2009] was the head cutter at Hammond & Co and he left to start his own house,” Grant explains. “He was a kind of radical, groundbreaking, pattern-cutting genius who went around completely transforming English sporting tailoring.”
Founded in 1776, Hammond was the go-to destination for royals and the wealthy and well-dressed, and elements of that heritage have been preserved in the updated, 2013 reworking. “We had all these lovely letters from Buckingham Palace and warrants and this created a visual language for the brand,” says Grant. “So the engraving of the front of the shop appears on some of the labelling, for example.” Grant has also introduced his own twist by using the family tartan in some garments.
“We could have done anything at all,” he admits, “but the Hammond & Co connection gives a very clear set of unwritten guidelines as to what the collection should look and feel like. Rather than being nine collections of different stuff bundled together under one banner, it’s all been designed with a singular ethos and sense of aesthetic that has come from the original house.”
The style of the collection – the flannel trousers, the impeccably cut three-piece suits, the check blazers – is, happily, enjoying quite a fashion moment (“this is a lovely time for ‘English heritage’ clothing,” says Grant) but it’s not just stylish. It looks and feels, frankly, too good for the high street.
“We have gone to great lengths to focus on what I think is the important stuff, which is not bucket-loads of superfluous detail and frippery; actually it’s been about simplifying the clothes and putting all the money and effort into the fabric and fabrication.”
So you’ll get everything from a 40cm pure silk pocket square for £14 to a “very, very good quality wool” greatcoat for £135.
And he has no qualms about moving on to the high street from the more salubrious environs of Savile Row. “There were so many guys, friends of mine, friends of friends and people who interacted with us through social media, who really loved the look at E Tautz and Norton, and liked that way of dressing and the way it’s all put together but for whom the price point was totally out of reach.”
A Hammond & Co suit, on the other hand, will cost £249, or £299 for the English cloth version. Waistcoats are available separately if you’re a three-piece kind of chap.
“They are good,” he admits. “Nothing is ever going to be as good as the hand-made, bloody slow version, but it’s as good an approximation as you can get.”
• The Hammond & Co by Patrick Grant collection is available exclusively in Glasgow Argyll Street and Edinburgh Princes Street branches of Debenhams and online
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