Having taken over his Father’s business, Andrew Musson brings the panache of the Row to the Eastern counties
Article by Rupert Watkins
Growing up in his Father’s family tailoring business meant Andrew Musson was bitten by the tailoring bug early on. Apprenticed to Wells of Mayfair, Andrew spent three years training – winning (in the pre-Golden Shears era) the Best First Year trainee Rose Bowl whilst in Maddox Street. He then moved to Timothy Everest. Arriving in a young firm as Timothy was setting up, he enjoyed being part of a small team and the fun of tailoring to a number of Hollywood’s finest as people such as Timothy Everest and Richard James revitalised Savile Row in the mid-1990s.
Following this spell, Alan Bennett – the recently retired owner of Davies & Son – invited Andrew to join that firm. This is when Andrew feels he truly gained a depth of knowledge and began to master his skills as a tailor. Seven years ago, he made the decision to move back to Lincoln and take over the family firm from his Father who had been running it for 45 years. Since then Andrew Musson Ltd has done well, to the point where 2014 was the best year of business the firm has ever had.
The firm is a traditional men’s outfitter as well as tailor, As Andrew puts it, “we do a little of everything” though bespoke tailoring does now happily make up 75 per cent of business. Hire wear is still an important part of the firm and he does stock a small amount of ready to wear by traditional brands such as Blaydon and Magee. Taking on his Father’s long-term return customers has meant that Andrew has had a strong basis to build the firm.
Andrew has no firm house cut, he cuts to the customer though he will look to always keep a structured shoulder and a tailored, waisted silhouette. Away from the hot house of London with its profusion of choice, blogs and expectations, Andrew sees a very big need to educate potential client’s right down to the basics. His customer base is very different as well – especially compared to a Savile Row house such as Davies & Son. He does a lot of work for local famers – tweed is understandably very popular and Andrew does a lot of shooting suits including Plus Twos. Three piece suits – complete with waistcoat – are also sought after with three out of four customers ordering them – be they for business or country wear.
For city suits, even away from London 12 ounce cloth reigns supreme, being the most popular option. Andrew stocks all the main cloth manufacturers including Holland & Sherry, Harrison, W Bill and John G Hardy. Quite a number of customers do opt for Prince of Wales check. One of the big issues Andrew has found is that many new customers struggle to visualise a complete outfit, even before the array of possible details is taken into account. He has therefore used mannequins in his shop with sample suits which has proven rather successful – many new customers pointing to one of them and indicating that is their chosen option. This comes back to the difference in knowledge and clientele away from London; Andrew comments, “There is a need to educate over the entire process from start to finish”. Much of this is accomplished over the chat and banter that invariably accompanies a fitting.
Andrew offers a made to measure option as well, utilising Berhardt to factory make the suits. He had used the firm before when at Davies & Son and the Savile Row firm had experimented with a made to measure service. This arena needs a very different head to bespoke, as Andrew puts it, “ you don’t over-complicate it!” There is a very definite split between this custom and that wanting full bespoke (similar to many tailors who offer both services), though he has a good conversion rate for those younger customers who eventually graduate to a full bespoke option. Again though away from London, the age of newer customers is a little older, mid to late 30s, than some of the houses in the capital who cater to blue chip employed late 20 somethings. Andrew also offers a popular made to measure shirt service using Stylus – a Czech based factory.
Considering the wider state of bespoke tailoring away from London, Andrew believes that there is a strong demand for such artisan firms – people just can’t find them. Be they working locally or commuting to London, people will always want good quality, stylish and long lasting suits. He knows he is the last surviving tailor in Lincolnshire and knows of a couple in Nottingham and Yorkshire. Set against this though, over the past seven to eight years, Andrew also knows of a number of long established family firms who have sadly had to close. The metropolitan surge (dare one say obsession) in interest in all matters bespoke, style and craft has very unevenly spread to and influenced the shires.
The team in Lincoln is small. Andrew does all the cutting himself and has two Russian seamstresses he inherited form his father. He uses a coat and trouser maker in London when required and his Father still comes into the shop two to three days a week to help out. There is a tentative plan to take on a local cutting apprentice, possibly from a local college.
Over recent years, Andrew Musson Ltd has thrived to the point it has become a destination business. Andrew gets customers from as far afield as Newcastle, Kent and Scotland, indeed 50 per cent of his tailoring is not local business. He does trunk shows in Stamford, has taken a stand at the Lincolnshire Show for the past four years and still comes to London to see clients a couple of times per month.
Throughout all this and when looking to the future, Andrew stresses he is a “tailor” first and foremost. He is pondering the option to move to more spacious premises given how much custom is beginning to take the time to travel to him but does not see himself moving into women’s wear in any way. With prices starting from £895 for a made to measure and £1,595 (the average being around £1,800) for bespoke, a trip to Lincoln would certainly reap dividends for those looking for Savile Row panache in the provinces.