Based in Castle Douglas, Scotland, fourth generation tailor Andrew Livingston – co-owner of G Livingston & Son and the bespoke cutter at George Brummell – helping keep the tailoring art alive north of the border
Article by Adrian Peel
If you knew then what you know now… would you still do it?
Yes. In life you look back and wish you could turn back the clock and know what you know now, but I am lucky because my obsession in life – and my hobby – is tailoring. I know it does not have the financial rewards of other careers but the burn you get from making a customer look and feel good is reward beyond money.
Did you learn the art of tailoring from a very young age and was it always your intention to go into the ‘family trade?’
Tailoring has been in our family’s blood for generations. My great-grandfather, George, left London to be a cutter for Marshall & Aitken in Edinburgh, which had been established in 1770. He then came to Castle Douglas in 1896 to take over the business of Alexander McAdam after Mr. McAdam died. He set up G Livingston & Son and sent his son Andrew to train at the Tailor & Cutter academy in London. These skills were handed down to his son George, my father, who has been the only Scottish tailor to date to have been awarded the Gold Medal of Excellence for tailoring.
Where do you carry out your work? Where are you primarily based?
I was working on a full time basis for Edward Sexton in London (and still help him out from time to time), but have recently returned to Scotland to concentrate on the considerable workload from George Brummell and my own bespoke clients. On the whole I am UK based although now, as head cutter for George Brummell, my horizons have been broadened somewhat as most of their clientele is based in Asia – so I now travel to China to measure and fit suits every two to three months. I have also had clients from Shanghai come to Scotland for fittings. Quite an honour for someone to have travelled more than 5,000 miles to appreciate my work.
I keep hearing how men these days are returning to tailors in droves. Now must be a pretty good time to be involved in the profession?
My late father used to say “fashion is fickle but style is here to stay.” Lots of things have changed since I began tailoring, but we are finding customers are returning to bespoke because they appreciate the quality and the individuality of a hand-tailored suit. We are finding that due to the Internet, clients are becoming more educated and more appreciative of the skills that we can provide.
Do you think enough young people are studying the art? If not, what can be done to encourage them to take it up?
I am happy to say, at least in London, that we have now got more young people learning our craft. It’s a very long journey with so many skills to learn. From measuring and cutting to finishing a garment, a skilled team ensures that the final product “cuts the muster.”
What advice or tips would you give to men out there seeking to improve their overall appearance – those who can’t afford tailored clothing?
To be honest, all men are different but it all begins with grooming. If their figure type allows them to wear an off-the-peg suit, accessorising it correctly can make a big difference. A freshly laundered shirt, a well-tied tie, pocket handkerchief and polished or brushed shoes make much more of a statement.
What services does George Brummell provide that make it stand out?
We strive to educate our clients in the style of suit and choice of fabric that will enhance both their figure and their lifestyle.
Do you have any children? If so, will they carry on the Livingston legacy?
My son Lewis, who is the fifth generation, is working with me and has produced a daughter who we hope will follow the family tradition. G Livingston & Son is still a family run business and at present myself, my wife Sue and Lewis are running it – though George Brummell is my main employer just now… We hope to carry on with the business until the sixth generation is big enough to wield the shears.
Who are some of the most famous names for whom you’ve made suits? Roughly how many suits do you produce a week?
I have been lucky to have made suits for quite a few high-profile customers, especially when working with my mentor Edward Sexton. But I prefer to respect their privacy and feel this is part of the tailor/client relationship. Bespoke tailoring is very time consuming and a big part of me goes into every suit we make, which can restrict our weekly production. Dedication to the cause.
Describe your personal sense of style.
Lately it’s been so busy that I have not had time to update my wardrobe as I would like. Working with Edward Sexton has taught me how a dapper tailor should look.
What are your plans for the future? Do you have any ambitions left to achieve?
I would like to pass my passion for the art on to the younger generation. The inner burn from making a client look and feel good is intensely gratifying. The reward from creativity makes this not a job but more of a vocation. My ambition is to see George Brummell go from strength to strength and educate our clients in the world of British bespoke.
Enquiries: G Livingston & Son, 69 – 75 King Street, Castle Douglas, Scotland DG7 1AE / 01556 502408 / www.glivingston.co.uk/