When we pick up vintage Savile Row items, especially those with plenty of age, we can't help musing about the characters and the history that these pieces inevitably bring to mind. Occasionally we come across finds that have belonged to 'known faces', and even those less well known we then imagine rubbing shoulders with royalty, celebrities and political heavyweights in the client meeting rooms of the famous Savile Row houses, browsing through endless samples of the finest worsteds and delightfully complex tweeds.
Having recently come across a 1947 3-piece suit and some tweed jackets and suits from Norton & Sons, a long established and highly regarded Savile Row stalwart, we couldn't resist doing a little research.
From: The Savile Row Story by Richard Walker
Firm dates from 1821 and once took pride in tailoring for the Kaiser...promotes a soft line with slight flare and shape 'reminiscent of the English shires'.
Norton & Sons is a Savile Row bespoke tailor founded in 1821 by George James Norton. The firm is located on the East side of the street, at No. 16.
Norton & Sons rapidly grew during the nineteenth century and in 1856 then Guv'nor George James Norton was granted the Freedom of the City of London for his services to tailoring. At about this time they became the tailors and Royal Warrant holders to William I, German Emperor. The firm made for many of the noble houses of Europe, developing a strong reputation as sporting tailors, a reputation which holds to this day.
During the 1970s the firm assumed control of the venerable tailoring house Hoare & Tautz, formed by the merger of E. Tautz & Sons and J. Hoare & Co. Tautz dressed many of America's best dressed and best known figures, including F. Eugene Dixon, owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, Stanley G Mortimer heir to the Standard Oil fortune, and Cary Grant, and held ancient Royal Warrants to The King of Italy, and the Duke of Aosta. They also created the Tautz lapel (an original pattern for which is at No. 16 Savile Row). Tautz began life as a sporting and Military tailor on Oxford Street. J Hoare & Co are the only Savile Row tailoring House to have had its work shown at the Musée de la Mode in Paris.
Today this small House makes fewer than 200 suits per year and is known for its simple tailoring and its insistence on hand-cutting and hand-sewing every piece on Savile Row in British cloths.
One of the house's biggest clients during the 1970s was Sir Hardy Amies for whom they made both for his personal wardrobe and for his men's ready to wear collections. Their connections with British fashion remain strong and Norton & Sons counts amongst its recent collaborators British fashion icons such as Kim Jones, Giles Deacon, Richard Nicoll and Henry Holland. In January 2007, the firm made several pieces for Kim Jones Autumn–Winter 07/08 collection, a collaboration which continued in September 2007 with Jones' Spring/Summer 08 show. The firm have also worked with ANDAM and Westfield prize winning designer Richard Nicoll on clothing for his S/S 08 collection. James Sherwood, writing in Arena Homme + writes that Norton & Sons has "forged links with young British Fashion Designers - a relationship the like of which has not been seen since Tommy Nutter rocked Savile Row in 1969".
Norton's tailored to the young and sporting Winston Churchill (who in later life frequented both Henry Poole and Gieves); other celebrated clients include Lord Carnarvon, the Marquis de Vogue, Chuck Yeager, Baron von Richthofen, Lord Mountbatten of Burma, and Wilfred Thesiger. The firm have also made clothes for Fred Astaire, Tony Curtis, Bing Crosby, David Niven, Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant and A.J. Drexel Biddle, long considered America’s best-dressed man. Shirtmaker Stephen Lachter was the exclusive London shirtmaker to Frank Sinatra. Sinatra never had suits made on Savile Row, but did use London Tailor Cyril Castle, to whom he was introduced by Roger Moore.
The firm is one of an ever dwindling number that subscribes to the old Savile Row doctrine of not discussing its living clients, but today’s list is known to include King Juan Carlos of Spain and musician Jools Holland. Actor Edward Norton wore a Norton & Sons suit in the 2007 Vanity Fair Hollywood issue, and the magazine used Norton & Sons again in 2008 to recreate the suit worn by Cary Grant in North by Northwest for actor Seth Rogen.
Today, the firm is run by Oxford-educated Patrick Grant, who, at 35 years of age, is the youngest Guv'nor on Savile Row.