Ultimate Cars, Watches & Hi Fi S02 ep10 : James Whishaw, Gieves Hawkes Fashion, [????]
Interview with James Whishaw
Gieves was founded in 1785 and Hawkes in 1771. Since then we have welcomed many famous customers whose names would fill a book. The magnificent full dress occasions of British State Ceremonial have been enriched by our craftsmen's skills, and overseas monarchs and leaders have looked to us to meet their own exacting requirements.
Gieves: 1785 Gieves Limited set up down in Portsmouth essentially supplying the military. Our
first customers were Admiral Lord Nelson, Lord Livingstone, you know pioneers, we were
essentially people who would make expensive clothing, hand made clothing for people who
wanted to get out there and, and when we supplied the military, and Gieves only joined Hawkes in
1970 and at which time it became a public company.
Gieves: Robert Gieves works in the business, he's a Non-Exec Director, fifth generation Giever we
call him and he is exactly how you would expect him. He's got all the tradition and the half-moon
glasses but luckily he doesn't design the product.
Gieves: We still run a hand-made bespoke business with all those people with their half moon
glasses downstairs and it's the most protected, most beautiful part of our business. It's the pinnacle,
it's the top bit, it's the bespoke terms, you can buy hand made suits right downstairs. We still have
three royal warrants.
Gieves: We have a bit of a problem now where we’ve modernised the business and there is a little
bit of a line, you know at the front of the threshold, and stepping over that is a bit of a phew when
you get in and thank God it's not quite as stuffy as I thought it might be.
Gieves: I trained in a degree level in menswear design, Kingstonbourne Tech which is probably the
fashion school in the late seventies, eighties, that and St. Martin's. My first couple of jobs were in
Jan Fraca Fray and the Kelvin Klein in America.
Gieves: No I didn't come in as a Creative Director I came is a Merchandise Director. It was a
business that was void of much creativity and it means that I basically joined the business that
would have an extremely high profile, selling expensive products and they needed to merchandise
or purchase the procurement of those items needed to be pushed through the business in a more
realistic economical, slightly sharper in an image sense way and so I had to generally take hold of
the thing by the scruff of the neck and shake it out and make it work a bit better in the sense that it
Gieves: The beauty about hand made is that it's couture and I have Lords and Ladies and the
Ladies are getting you know, more and more and more into it. Quote, James I can't buy beautiful
suits at Chelloni any more, I'm not nineteen. So it's the thirty to forty-five year old woman,
sometimes they come with a Dolce Cabana suit and say this is the best suit, just copy it for me.
What is it about the British designer that makes them different to an Italian or a French designer?
Gieves: It's sort of kind like an individual characteristic. It's usually a simple thing, well look at
Paul Smith, I know he didn't come from design college but he is just such a character. There is not
many other people who, I mean he would be sitting here with plastic ducks and you know and toys
for two pounds a penny from odd shops in Turkey. There is an eccentricity about English people,
that there is a cultural sort of roll up the sleeves kind of feeling about it, I'll do it myself kind of
cottage industry thing which soon you know, depending on how it's nurtured goes into artisan or
you know a very creative of specific talent.
Gieves: As soon it become commercial, we're out of it, that's basically what English creators are
like and that's why we get hand picked because essentially if someone else has done it or if it's too
difficult for someone else to do alternatively, I want to do it. If someone else has done it, I don't
want to do it. Say for example we are talking about this latent vitality in any English brand that is
beautiful and you're saying why hasn't it gone women's, why hasn't it gone to America, why hasn't
it gone, maybe they don't want it to. Maybe the latent vitality there gets washed down so much it
gets diluted so much, but by the time it come for everybody you may have sold out your soul.
Creatively, English people have a bigger, harder heart.
Gieves: I know fifty Jean Paul Gautiers in the UK right now and I mean there are so many. I mean
Alexander McQueen was the only one who had balls probably, I mean he wrote in one of the
jackets we made for Prince Charles, you know, F the Royals. He is anti-establishment and that's
one of his eccentricities.
Gieves: Basically, the bigger, the stronger the chassis is inside the suit that it holds that gap as the
amount of handwork that has gone into the chassis of it or into a ready made suit, the better the
chassis. The heavier, the stronger the cloth, the longer the suit will last. So those you know English
thorn proof suits that get handed down from generations is no surprise to me. It's, I think people
want different things right now from suits and they don't necessarily want longevity past two or
Gieves: When the world becomes so fast and so crazy and so repetitive and so commodity based, I
think that sometimes if you spend the right amount of money, and there is only one of them, it
doesn't really matter. We've got bespoke suits out there that have got hand diamante pinstripes out
there. We’ve got ties this season that you have got rhinestones on them.
What is it like to be dealing with the modern …
Gieves: They love, they love us in this store right in this room, they can’t have enough of it.
Because it’s so special, because it’s so particular. We haven’t sold out, because it isn’t commodity.
That’s what I’m saying you know if it was everywhere then they wouldn’t be here.
Gieves: Ten years ago, eight years ago, we had a dictator having a bespoke fitting in this room and
the guy he was at war with, the other dictator was in the other, I’m speaking to a guy called I don’t
know, Colonel Watson Smythe and he’s on a stick and I should have put a ramp in the front
doorway for him right, and he wants another pair of, another pair of cavalry trousers and a tweed
jacket and the next guy who comes to the store is you know, is Robbie Williams or Liam Gallagher
or Pasty Kensit or I don’t know so many people, I’ve spoken to Sting you know, they’re always,
always in here, in the one on one tailor thing if you could record some of those moments.
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