Simon Cundey

"The suit should be like a second skin..."

Simon Cundey (Henry Poole&Co)

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What are your first memories about tailoring and about Henry Poole&Co in particular?

My first memory as a boy taken to Henry Poole workshops was the smell of cloth and wood. This is a certain smell of wool that you also get with mills weaving. At that time Poole was located at Cork Street but  Angus got us back to the Row in 1982. I was at that time helping out with the packing department sending suits all over the world. I still remember some of the names now  and  I’m pleased to say my sons Henry and Jamie have too packed and send suits as well .

Were you attracted by clothes in your childhood?

I grew up with Ska music with bands as the Specials, The beat and Madness. The dress was called Two Tone.  Writers on fashion was Robert Elms and Peter York . Bass weejuns and Farah trousers were a must.  Not sure what my sons make of that now!

Who had the greatest influence on choosing your career?

My interest in clothing and making it into Henry Poole was summer school jobs at Ferragamo in Bond Street. This was busy, exciting and high end service. I enjoyed meeting the clients, and many husbands I found to be Poole clients.

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Angus Cundey confessed once in an interview that he wanted to be a RAF fighter pilot. If Henry Poole never existed you would be …

If I was not in Poole, I would have turned to real estate.  Like Savile Row,  you have to know what the many clients tastes are. When you get it right they come back time after time .

If you could go back to any era, what era would it be?

My favorite time would have been the 1920s till 29. The Golden Age in the US with Gatsby with Robert Redford. I still very much enjoy the Goodwood Revival with classic cars and dress period code that takes place in September.  Seeing the tweeds, Bentleys and Bugatti’s.

How would you define Henry Poole style in the beginning of 21 century?

Poole style is in two words: Timeless and Balanced.  I feel Poole has made it over 200 years as we look at the body shape and structure it, correct it and tailor it to give the perfect suit silhouette. The suit should be like a second skin with no tightness or constraints, however has the hour glass look we all like to see in men. This can be a challenge if you have a shape like a pear.

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A few years ago Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority allowed a tailor on Savile Row to use the term bespoke for suits which were partially stitched by machine. Many MTM clothing businesses advertise their suits with the confusing term of Semi-Bespoke. Is Bespoke tailoring respected today in UK as it should? And how would you define Bespoke Tailoring?

No days with competition calling their work Bespoke, we in the Row have come to use the word Pure Bespoke . This is defined as:

 Own clients and paper pattern … not nearest block.

Single cut cloth … Not band knife.

Cut and made on the premises workshops which many clients actually meet not just the cutter but their coat maker or trouser maker.

Plus the level of service to look after the suit for years to come with about 4 inches of extra inlays to let out if needs be, not that we encourage it!

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Over the years Savile Row evolved around Henry Poole&Co. How do you see Savile Row now when fashion brands tends to step on this historical street and eventually dilute the Savile Row brand?

It makes me a little angry that you can get wolves in sheep’s clothing. That’s way part of the reason SRB group, Savile Row Bespoke was founded to guide the consumer what to look out for  in the Row.  Changing the Row is nothing new, I grew up with the old guard finding it hard with Tommy Nutter, of the Abbey Road fame . Then came Richard James, then Oswald.

The passion they gave the Row and now have been positive. This also brings a younger dynamic to the Row.  My only concern that Abercrombie & Fitch may bring as having a baby store on the Row does not really appeal to our heritage. I would have preferred a Hackett or Paul Smith to take over the old Apple Studios building. Let’s just say they come, they go !

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Henry Poole shop  – 1890

In contrast with 50 or 100 years ago what was lost and what was won in bespoke tailoring?

Over the years what has changed is our natural environment to wear cloths, heating and air conditioning. This has narrows the parameters of what types of cloth for the general public .

Henry Poole is the only firm in Savile Row that has managed to keep all its records since 1846. Who is your favorite famous & infamous personality since the beginning?

I have three favorite clients from the record all famed in their own way, but we’re all dandy in their own right. Jiru Shirasu from Japan, Baron de Rede from France and most of all Winston Churchill .

Where is your biggest market now?

Our market is 40% USA, 30% UK and 17% Europe. The rest is Middle East and Far East.

How important is the fabric in creating an excellent suit?

Cloth is very important as it gives body and can make a suit last for many years .

How many tailors and cutters are now employed  and who is the most experienced one?

Henry Poole has 42 staff and are all very experienced some cutters and coat makers have been there 38 years .

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What are the top five advices that you would give to a young Gentleman that is in searching for a suit?

Top five things on asking a tailor would be:

1. First do your home work!

2. Feel as ease with your cutter.

3. Ask many questions, but also listen to your tailor for advise.

4. Start of gently say two suits, don’t order crazy the first order.

5. Break a suit in a little , then you can question anything.

Who is your favorite shoemaker ?

I have two houses I recommend -  Lobb St James and Cleverly in the Royal Arcade.

What is your favorite pair of shoes?

An elastic side brogue shoe from Lobb and the classic brown suede loafer from Cleverly .

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Henry Poole current shop -  15 Savile Row

What is your favorite word?

Possible.

What is your least favorite word?

Computer says no.

What turns you on (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?

Happy wife and clients.

What turns you off?

When my wife’s 1971 Fiat 500 doesn’t start.

What is your favorite curse word?

Shitzer sounds better in German.

What sound or noise do you love?

Favourite noise is a V12 Aston Martin.

What sound or noise do you hate?

An Oreck Hoover in hotels …. They need Dyson.

What profession would you not like to do?

Librarian.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Bombay Sapphire and tonic awaits at the Pearly Gates …

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