Founded in 1906, Anderson & Sheppard is a prominent Savile Row bespoke tailor. In its English Heritage-listed rooms at 32 Old Burlington Street, Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford and the late Alexander McQueen have all learnt from the company’s head cutter of the company.
Anda Rowland became the tailor’s vice chairman in 2004, having started her career in cosmetics marketing, working for brands such as Estée Lauder and Parfums Christian Dior in Paris. Anda joined the board of the Savile Row Bespoke Association in 2006.
Cision: Anderson & Sheppard (A&S) was purchased by your father in the 1970s. What are your earliest memories of the company?
Anda: Visiting with my parents when I was about 10 years old. The shop had been fitted out in the 1920s and nothing had changed since then. Women and children were asked to wait in the front shop and there was a bench and chairs near the front door. It was very much an all male environment and the atmosphere and staff were very serious. The large majority of clients were referred by other clients and the company’s policy was not to speak to the press.
You left your job at Parfums Christian Dior in Paris in 2004 to take over the day-to-day operations at A&S. What were the reasons behind your decision?
The firm’s long lease at 30 Savile Row came to an end in 2005 and we had signed a new lease at smaller premises at 32 Old Burlington Street, about 300 metres away. The firm’s history and image were very much bound to the Savile Row shop and workrooms and we needed to create a new environment in Old Burlington Street that would reflect our heritage and values. The new premises were in a bad state and were effectively just a shell. Having worked in cosmetics for 10 years, I had a good grounding in luxury goods marketing and was excited by the challenge of working with one of the most authentic tailoring houses in the world.
How would you describe the development of the business over the past few decades?
The making of the garments has not changed much – we still cut every piece of cloth on the premises and all of our tailors are based in the UK, most nearby. Our client base has changed. It is more international and clients do their own research and do not just rely on recommendations from friends and family. We also see more young clients in their late 20s and 30s. The atmosphere at 32 Old Burlington Street is very welcoming and we have also opened our workrooms to our clients so that they can see how and what we make. The firm has opened up to allow clients to be more involved with all the choices available.
Who are your most famous clients, past and present?
We prefer not to speak about our clients but are lucky enough to have some very kind clients who mention us from time to time including HRH Prince Charles, Bryan Ferry and Manolo Blahnik.
Well known past clients include: Fred Astaire, Gary Cooper, Cole Porter, Noel Coward, Marlene Dietrich, Laurence Olivier, Francis Bacon and Dene Ellington.
The late Alexander McQueen first trained at A&S when he was 16 and Ralph Lauren and Tom Ford have come to observe the head cutter and managing director of the company. What would you say you learnt from each other?
Alexander McQueen was an apprentice coat maker and was with the firm for 2 years. He was a very quick learner. Tom Ford had new ideas on proportions and new uses for certain classic cloths which everyone enjoyed seeing. We have a number of clients involved in the fashion industry as they have a passion for making and quality and know how hard it is to find really exceptionally made clothing.
Before your arrival, A&S was without a web site or viable computer network. What made you feel that there was a need to be visible online, and how did you implement it?
We all knew that despite the firm’s policy in the past, PR was important for our continued success. As Savile Row is such a powerful name, we needed to make sure that we had a strong online presence in order to benefit from any publicity as Savile Row tends to be the search term that people use first. They search for company names after having run a Savile Row search. Our website is very visual and we were lucky enough to be able to ask a photographer client who understands our work to take the images. They are responsible for the success of our site. We launched the site in 2005 and will update it in the next month.
A&S Blog THE NOTEBOOK was launched late August 2010. What are you aiming to achieve by launching a blog and who is your target audience?
The Notebook emphasizes our values and underlines the fact that our garments are made on the premises by trained and skilled staff. It shows that we are not just a brand and shop front but a purely bespoke tailors. There are 25 apprentices on Savile Row – we employ 7 of them and we feel that it is important to show that we believe in our craft and the future of the business.
How have your marketing strategies of the past changed and how do you see them developing in the future?
We never had a strategy before 2005. We will maintain our current strategy of communicating via targeted PR and online. We have also been working on a book in collaboration with some of our clients which will be published this June.
How do you interact with PRs at the moment and what type of relations would you like to build?
We work with an agency who understand what we do and that it is not related to fashion. As we only produce bespoke garments, they know that we cannot send things out to photoshoots as we need to fit the person wearing the suit and that takes time. We have a program over the next few months that is targeted towards the launch of our book and towards client endorsements in selected publications.
Do A&S place advertisements in print or online media? If so, where?
No, we do not advertise as we feel that our budget is better spent on PR and online.
Will there be any A&S apprentices taking part in the Golden Shears this year? And will there be a blog post to look out for?
Yes! We are thrilled to have an apprentice participating. The competition’s final is in March and we will run a blog countdown from the beginning of February.