Q&A: Cutter & Director Brian Lewis

As our website states “Director Brian Lewis started in the bespoke tailoring trade in 1961. A hugely experienced cutter, Brian Lewis is steeped in the traditions of Savile Row. The firm’s Royal Warrant from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for Tailoring is in the name of Brian Lewis”.

How did you get into tailoring?

I had been accepted on an engineering apprentice scheme but there was a six-week wait until it started. I had an existing appointment though with the careers office so I went along anyway. As I was smartly turned out, they suggested tailoring. I attended Shoreditch College of Garment Trade [now University of the Arts, London College of Fashion] and liked it so stayed for the two-year course.

So engineering’s loss and tailoring’s gain then?

<Laughs> Yes, indeed!

So how long have you been in the business?

<Mental arithmetic set in motion> …56 years.

What have you been doing today?

Back in the day, when Savile Row was much bigger, we had people who did specific jobs like trimming*, packing and working in the office. As a result of the industry shrinking those jobs now fall to us along with our cutting work so a real mix.

                                                   Brian Lewis & the Mark Strong of M&M

 Brian Lewis & the Mark Strong of M&M

Your biggest inspiration?

Alan Kruger is the biggest; he was a cutter at Jones, Chalk and Dawson (now Meyer and Mortimer). I was working downstairs on a board making coats (jackets) with coat maker Len Stanley and Mr Kruger took me off there to work upstairs as a cutter which meant dealing with the customers. I really appreciated him giving me the break; you need people like that in your career to give you a helping hand from time to time.

Most strange customer request?

Well, that would be a customer from a rather famous shoe company. Measuring a customer is integral to bespoke tailoring so we ensure that we do it precisely as it can affect results down the line. However, this particular customer would bring in his own measurements. I think on reflection it must’ve been an extension of his own business where measurement was key to making shoes. He was a true stickler for it although his coats – as a result – were somewhat short on the back.

What was your first suit and where did you get it from?

It was a sports jacket in cavalry twill bought from Foster Brothers with clothing vouchers. I must’ve been about 14 and I think my mum wanted me to look like a country gent when all my friends were into boxy Italian suits at the time. I stood out like a sore thumb.

Who would play you in the movie: Meyer and Mortimer?

Hmm, I think Mark Strong would do a good job.

                        

Greatest sporting moment: The England Rugby World Cup win in 2003

What book, or books, are you reading at the moment?

I do like my history so usually have a few books on the go at any given time. At the moment, I am reading David Starkey's Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII. Also just finished Secret Speech by the writer who wrote Child 44, Tom Rob Smith, which was good.

And your musical tastes?

Depends on the mood but Buddy Holly and the Crickets are never too far away from the stereo.

Greatest sporting moment?

The England Rugby Team winning the world cup.

Tea or coffee?

Tea, but do like a morning coffee.

Alcoholic drink?

Admans Broadside 6.3. 

Your favourite item of clothing? 

Well, clothing takes on many different forms so what I wear at work and the weekend is not the same.

What’s your favourite of each?

For work, my single-breasted grey (with red over-check) Prince of Wales check flannel suit and – weather permitting – polo shirt, short and sandals for the weekend.

What do you think the future will hold for bespoke tailoring and Savile Row?

People will always want something made well that fits them. A bespoke suit made in the true Savile Row tradition will always impress, particularly in a business environment, and embolden the wearer. For that reason, I think they’ll always be a need.
 

*Trimming – when the cutter has cut the cloth, material for the pockets, linings, etc is also cut and included in the ‘bundle’ to be passed on to the tailor for assembly for the first fitting.

M&M