“Tailoring Should be Simple”
Taking on his father’s mantle at Redwood & Feller, Elliott Rowland preaches the gospel of classic tailoring
Article by Rupert Watkins Photography by Andy Barnham
There’s something reassuring about walking into a real old school tailors. From the atmosphere to the smell and the intimacy of the process you are about to embark upon. Tucked away in deepest Pimlico lies Redwood Feller. Founded in 1946, it’s currently in the hands of father and son team Edward and Elliott Rowland. The shop is small, wooden panelled and marvellously Dickensian. Elliott comments that they’ve done a little work refreshing the window displays but customers still love the traditional feel of the place.
Not that Elliott was swinging shears from the cradle. Passionate and engaging, he cheerfully admits that, as a small child, tailoring was not his chosen career route. However, when his father took him into the shop during the school holidays when he was 15, Elliott was bitten quickly by the bug. “I loved the very personal side of it all,” he recalls. It clearly opened his eyes as, 14 years later, after a course at the London College of Fashion and apprenticing to his father, he is stepping up to take on even more of the business.
“We are an old school tailors – no airs and graces,” Elliott points out. As such he is happy to travel to see clients – indeed as far as Norwich – though the vast (90 per cent) majority of his clientele is London based. Whilst the City clearly looms large in Redwood & Feller’s order books, Elliott remarks that he sees a lot of art and auction world custom coming to him. Being based in a far more residential area than most tailors, he sees a lot of custom on Saturday mornings as well as in the evenings.
Given the traditional nature of Redwood & Feller, it is no surprise Elliott leans to a very classic and timeless shape and silhouette. “The whole point of tailoring is to get something that’s beautifully cut, practical and lasts – you should look good in what you buy for years,” he says, “people are currently thinking a tight suit is a fitted suit which just isn’t true and they will regret the money they’ve forked out on the clothing!” The trend to shorter, tighter jackets clearly leaves him cold. Elliott has done a lot of wedding suit work for both customers and friends and remarks that the influence of the skinny high street/ Tom Ford look is unfortunately all too prevalent. “You have to gently guide people,” he stresses, having seen too many people and customers come to him after being badly misinformed. Gratifyingly, he comments that friends he has made wedding attire for, and happily steered away from making stylistic mistakes, have invariably all come back to him to thank him for keeping them on the straight and level, and for giving them something that they can wear time and time again and feel immaculate in.
Being so small, Redwood & Feller only offers bespoke and semi-bespoke. The semi-bespoke will still have a pattern cut for the individual, “I like doing the personal cut – I have to touch everything that we make,” Elliott remarks, before a baste fitting. The suit is then sent away to be made. Elliott works with a small workshop near Milan. Very traditional, the workshop keeps the structured English shape Elliott seeks and is excellent at not allowing softer, Italian influences to slip into the garment as it is constructed.
The house cut is in the best English tradition, with high cut armholes, high gorge and waisted, with a traditionally slightly longer jacket. Stocking all the main cloth manufacturers, Dugdale‘s and Lessers to name but two, the firm (like all tailors) sees the trend towards lighter fabrics with little being ordered heavier than 11 ounces. Ninety per cent of customers buy a second pair of trousers. As well as suits, Elliott comments that under his father, Redwood & Feller gained a reputation for both morning dress and dinner jackets which still account for a pleasingly high amount of work. Given its more residential position in west London, “we also do a lot of tweed – especially at weekends. As customers are ordering their work suits they also ask for a casual, comfortable tweed to be run up for them.”
Above and beyond everything, in Elliott’s eyes tailoring is about a level of service and continuity, “people want to deal with you. It’s a personal business – the relationships you build are very intimate. I personally open up the shop at 7:45 each day and leave at 6:00 in the evening – there’s continuity.” Like many in the tailoring community, he keeps an ear to the ground as to its future. Not being in prime central town, Redwood & Feller has avoided the worst of rent and rates worries and the influx of luxury conglomerates that exercise many of the Savile Row names but Elliott sees local issues, “when I first started working for my father all the shops in the area knew and talked to each other and knew what everyone’s problems were, this now happens a lot less” he comments sadly.
At heart, Elliott sees bespoke tailoring as something that should be accessible, “tailoring should be simple. It’s about showing yourself off to your best advantage and being appropriately and thus comfortably dressed at any function or situation.” This clearly resonates with some of his clients as he remarks many repeat customers simply want the same thing each time – they know it works for them. Given his father is still dealing with clients he took on when he bought the firm from Messrs Redwood and Feller 40 years ago, there is clearly a huge loyalty towards this small tailors. The firm is indeed small: in addition to Elliot, there is one other coat-maker in Rochester Row, a small two-person workshop in Warren Street and his trouser maker works from home.
Elliott is carefully bringing the firm into the 21st Century, finding Instagram exceedingly useful for disseminating behind the scenes imagery of him and his team at work. He does offer made to measure shirts – produced abroad – and is happy for the minimum order to be as low as one. In addition to this, he is introducing a small selection of Augustus Hare ties and pocket squares. Those seeking Savile Row panache, quality and tradition without quite the price would do well to jump on the Victoria Line to Pimlico and investigate Redwood & Feller.