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Tailor Patrick Grant reveals how Hibs fans helped inspire a clothes passion

WHEN the whippet-thin male models saunter down the catwalk at Patrick Grant's London Fashion Week show, the design of their clothes cutting edge yet the material – Harris tweed – timeless and elegant, it's safe to say the last thought to cross the minds of any of the attentive fashionistas in the audience will be: "Hmm, look at the Hibs influence there."

But Morningside-born Grant, Savile Row tailor to stars and royalty, will know better.

"Growing up, some of the main people to have influenced me on clothes were the Hibs fans I worked with in a cafe in Princes Street Gardens. They were the ones who told me all about Barbour and Burberry, for instance," he says.

Back in the 1980s, the age of football casuals and tracksuits, Grant was a 15-year-old schoolboy earning a bit of extra cash during his summer holidays at a cafe at the west end of the gardens, with little thought or knowledge of fashion and designers.

However, tourists, often clad in well-known labels, would often stop and buy drinks and snacks.

"And the Hibs guys knew all the brands," explains Grant. "They told me all about the old British ones too, such as Hunter and Pringle.

"In some ways, they were the ones who brought a sense of fashion to Edinburgh."

Not that Grant – the owner of one of the most prestigious Savile Row tailoring houses, Norton & Sons – ever went on to wear a Hibs football strip or a tracksuit himself.

He instead found his own style in his father's hand-me-down suits, corduroys and wax jackets – all quintessential "British" clothing for men, now reflected in his E Tautz label, which he runs from the basement of his London tailoring house.

He recently resurrected the brand – once a favourite with Winston Churchill, who first visited the company in 1895 to buy some twill overalls – after a 40-year gap in its 143-year history, allowing it to become one of the most expensive men's clothing ranges in the world, with collections in Harrods and Beams, in Tokyo.

For the former Edinburgh Academy student, though, it all started with a love of old- fashioned British clothing.

"My family all wore a lot of these brands and I often wore my dad's suits – I think he stopped fitting in some of them," he says.

"I remember a friend of mine refusing to walk with me in the street when we were young.

"I would like to wear hats, particularly berets, yet at that time Edinburgh was very safe – people really didn't like to stand out."

Grant, 37, is speaking from a hotel room in New York. He's on business in the United States but will be back in the UK in time to show pieces from his E Tautz collection on Wednesday at London Fashion Week, which opens today.

It's been an intense few years for Grant, who bought Norton & Sons in 2005 after noticing a small advert in the Financial Times looking for a buyer.

He was studying for a post-graduate degree at Oxford University at the time, having completed his undergraduate course in medical science at Leeds a few years previously, before spending a year in France.

There hadn't been even a glimmer of interest in entering the fashion scene before that. Grant even played professional rugby at an under-18 level with Scotland legend Gregor Townsend, but that was cut short by a painful shoulder injury.

He says: "I was always interested in clothes, but I still don't feel that I am engaged in fashion.

"I never wanted to work in fashion, either – I never even thought about it. We just make beautiful, simple, men's clothing that lasts for years.

"I'm fed up of disposable clothing. People buy too many clothes – we should buy fewer things, but better things."

Certainly the prices in his E Tautz collection mean that even a few items are outside most people's reach – as would be a bespoke suit from Norton & Sons, where a two-piece can easily set customers back at least 2,000.

But Grant has made a big name for himself over the past five years, thanks to not only his quality service but his insistence on using only the best British materials and craftspeople.

This includes Harris Tweed, yarn from Jamieson's of Shetland and Hawick's William Lockie cashmere – all sourced personally by Grant himself on regular business visits to Scotland.

In return, he has developed a strong customer base, including many high-profile figures such as the Duke of Edinburgh, Jools Holland and George Bush.

Grant refuses to talk about the first on the list, having embarrassingly had a story about him being asked to alter the Duke's trousers leaked to a British newspaper in 2008. Apparently, the royal asked Grant's team to re-cut the garment to give him a "slimmer, more fashionable" look – a story Grant is not happy to dwell on.

"There are a few celebrities who come to our shop and, yes, we do quite well out of them," he explains frankly. "The Duke of Edinburgh story was a bit embarrassing and not something I would want re-mentioned. It's not very cool to talk about your customers."

It is cool – more than cool – to be heading to London Fashion Week on Wednesday as a key exhibitor on men's day.

Models wearing pieces from the E Tautz range will take to the catwalk at 10:30am and visitors will later be able to speak with Grant about his collection – an opportunity, he believes, which allows a better appreciation of its craftsmanship.

He's likely to be joined by his girlfriend, accessories designer Katie Hillier, far left, who in December picked up the British Fashion Awards Accessory Designer of the Year title having worked with the likes of Marc Jacobs, Luella and Henry Holland, and is now teamed up with Edinburgh College of Art graduate, designer Jonathan Saunders.

The couple live together in Hackney, which Grant insists has become a neighbourhood for many Scottish designers who are currently making it globally in the industry, including Saunders and Christopher and Tammy Kane.

"We all seem to be here," he laughs.

The tailor makes regular trips north of the Border to visit his mum, Susan Grant, who still lives in Morningside, and his dad James, who is now in the Borders.

However, he insists that although he would one day like to have a property in Scotland, his work has him firmly rooted in London.

"A lot of my friends have moved back to Edinburgh, but it's impossible to do what I do outside of London," he sighs.

"I always feel Scottish wherever I am, but I do not wear it like a badge of honour.

"People should be judged on their achievements, not on being Scottish. Saying that, it always seems to come up in conversation."

The Capital's talents who have designs on greatness

LONDON Fashion Week may be taking place in the UK's capital, but designers from north of the Border will be well represented at the event.

Edinburgh's Holly Fulton, 32, will be among those there. The designer of womenswear and accessories, who studied at Edinburgh College of Art, is a growing name within the fashion world, with even Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker borrowing pieces of her collection.

Fulton will be joined by fellow ECA graduate Jonathan Saunders, who co-ordinates his own label, as well as consulting for some fashion houses such as Pucci and Chlo.

Designer Graeme Black will also be in London. Black graduated in fashion from ECA in 1989, going on to work with Zandra Rhodes and John Galliano, as well as enjoying a seven-year stint with Armani. In 2007, he left to concentrate on his own label, boasting followers such as Victoria Beckham and Sarah Brown.

 
 
 

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