Stemming from the exceptional values of the man himself, Richard James has always been a brand that has spurred subtle paradigm shifts on Savile Row since opening his shop in 1992. Richard James fostered the new wave of fashion oriented designers in the world’s most renowned tailoring institution — producing classic tailoring with a decidedly modern aesthetic and an outlook towards the future.
Today Toby Lamb is Richard James' Design and Brand Director, with Sean Dixon as Managing Director - both working together towards a vision for the future of the storied tailoring house. Toby's latest collection taking references from Dandy Kim - colourful inspiration that breathed life into the poetry of a perfectly tailored blazer, and an essential three piece suit. Toby Lamb joined the company back in 1995 - at the cusp of the massive wave of brit-pop that overtook the nation. At a period when Liam Gallagher and the boys of Oasis were donning slick pastel coloured suits from Richard James, Toby was behind the scenes quietly pushing the boundaries of fine tailoring. Boundaries that he has continued to break throughout his stellar twenty-two year career. We sit down with Toby Lamb and discover his new vision for one of the most contemporary tailoring houses on Savile Row.
Tell us about your journey to Savile Row. How did you fall in love with menswear design?
My love of menswear came from a fascination with London’s cosmopolitan and ever changing street style aesthetic — from uniformity, eccentricity, scruffiness, and formality. From a young age, I always felt part of the style tribe that complimented the music and the scene that I was into at the time. I studied fashion at Central Saint Martins and during my third year, in my industry internship year, I yearned to enhance my pattern cutting skills and to grasp a deeper understanding and knowledge of tailoring, so I headed to Savile Row.
How would you describe Richard James? What do you think sets it apart from other menswear tailoring brands?
Firstly, we come from a fashion background. We’ve always respected the history of Savile Row and the incredible quality of the tailoring it produces; but we wanted to make our own contemporary mark on it. The philosophy we started out with remains to this day, which is to produce classic refined clothing of unsurpassable quality and push forward through design, colour and cut.
According to Richard James: A good suit, a fabulous pair of jeans, a pair of brogues, a cashmere overcoat, and a cashmere sweater — are five things that every man should own. What are your top five essentials?
A suit that actually fits, a mechanical wristwatch, luggage that doesn’t have wheels, timeless sunglasses, and a steel frame bicycle.
Richard James has had a wide range of successful collaborations; from Umbro to Spongebob Square pants. How do these collaborations come to be?
Condor Cycles is another great one. We made the Bespoke Bike with them. We’ve always been interested in working with people with their own niche, and their own way of doing things. Obviously, it’s a way of reaching new markets and people; and a way to super charge innovation. We’ve always been keen on making what we do easily accessible to all. That might sound odd, but some Savile Row tailors used to have a reputation for being exclusive to the point of being discriminative.
Tell us about your SS17 Collection, the inspiration behind it and if you have a favourite piece?
It’s titled Dandy Kim because we followed a British gentleman adventurer and contra-bandier called Michael Dandy Kim Caborn-Waterfield to Havana in the late ‘50s. It’s a softly sun-bleached collection that captures all the energy and intrigue of Cuba’s capital. I particularly like our pastel linen double breasted suits, cut with a wide lapel, Mother of Pearl buttons and pleated fuller trouser.
Menswear tailoring is a well-known British Institution; it is a craft that is both built on heritage and yet has a viewpoint on modernity. How do you think the London Tailoring scene has changed throughout the years?
On Savile Row, there has been a move towards comfort with regard to lighter fabrics and less structured tailoring. A movement towards quite literally, giving people what they want. Before we arrived in 1992, Savile Row tailors often told their customers which style and cut of suit they were going to make for them.
Since 1992, Richard James has been considered a pioneer in Savile Row, being the first of the “New Establishment” Tailors to take residence there. How do you keep this progressive and forward thinking spirit alive in Richard James today?
A number of our original customers have now introduced their sons to us, so we are now making suits for two generations. That’s one way we keep our progressive and forward thinking spirit alive.
In your opinion, what is the secret to making any perfectly tailored garment?
To cut it from a personal pattern and to make it for a particular occasion or use. The latter is particularly important as it dictates so much about the suit — the cloth, its weight, its colour, the style of the suit, the number of pieces, and of course the detail.
Portraits by Curtis Gibson
Words by Hannah Tan