The E. Tautz flagship store on Duke Street is immaculately laid out. Warm, wooden alcoves and shelves displaying the brand’s selection of ready to wear pieces interrupt stripped back white walls. The huge window at the front of the store lets the last of the afternoon light flood into the ground floor room, which has more in common with an exhibition space than your average menswear shop.
Downstairs, a centrepiece table dotted with mottled glassware and assorted books is flanked by a sofa and deep armchairs – into which Patrick Grant, creative director of E. Tautz and its parent company, bespoke tailor Norton & Sons, falls into. Lining the walls around us are rails showcasing Tautz’s more formal collection.
“I’m very fussy about the shapes of rooms,” says Grant, taking in the space. “It’s such a beautiful shop; the proportions are very good. Both upstairs and downstairs felt good.”
Grant’s obsession with aesthetics is not surprising. While studying for an MBA degree at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School in 2005, Grant went about purchasing Savile Row institution Norton & Sons. In the decade since the sale, he has turned the ailing tailor and its subsidiaries (E. Tautz and Hammond & Co., stocked in Debenhams) into some of London’s most significant menswear brands, eschewing what is ‘trendy’ for something more rooted in tradition. “There’s a simplicity in what we do. It’s about cut, it’s about the silhouette, it’s about fabric; it’s not about embellishment,” says Grant, nodding at the crisp, clean lines of the clothes behind him.
With no fashion background to speak of, Grant took a gamble on Norton & Sons. “I’m one of those people who thinks he has a good idea and backs it,” he says, before explaining: “Norton’s was in bad shape and I was confident that we could improve it in pretty much every way.”
Initially encouraged by Japanese department store Beams to bring out a Norton & Sons ready to wear line, Grant decided to resurrect E. Tautz instead, feeling that the Tautz line was “more appropriate” for off the peg clothing. The brand’s first collection was released for Autumn/Winter 2009 and counted Beams in Tokyo, Harrods and global online retailer Matches as early buyers. Since then, Grant notes that the brand has had “its ups and downs” – but now with a permanent base in Duke Street, it is settling into its own skin. “We’ve now started to understand who we are and be confident in who we are, which is nice because it has taken six years to get to that point. It just takes time.”
The rise of E. Tautz has coincided with an increasing focus on British menswear, helped significantly by the growth of London Collections: Men – the British Fashion Council (BFC) initiative to highlight emerging and longstanding British menswear designers.
When Grant first took on Norton & Sons, menswear designers had just one afternoon to showcase their collections to international buyers and press, which was tacked onto the end of the female-centric London Fashion Week. By June 2012, driven by the London Olympics taking place and the potential for British businesses to benefit economically, LC:M had become significantly bigger, and has been growing exponentially since.
“Now, you’ve got great brands like Burberry, McQueen and Tom Ford showing in London, but there’s still enough of the interesting, emerging stuff. The schedule is absolutely jam-packed.”
London has been one of the first capitals to help emerging menswear designers such as Grant to flourish, while also promoting its heritage brands. “With the BFC/GQ Designer Menswear Fund (which E. Tautz won in 2015), NEWGEN, Fashion Forward and Fashion East, London has managed to build a platform and a pipeline that supports and nurtures talent.”
According to Grant, this “talent pipeline” is an initiative that other fashion capitals are yet to catch up to. “Others are now trying to find ways of replicating what London has done, but it’s not easy,” he says. On top of backing from within the fashion industry, British menswear also enjoys support from British-based media, Grant noting that there is a “massive amount of cooperation between all the magazines” and brands; editor-in-chief of GQ Dylan Jones is chairman of LC:M, and consistently pushes British brands within the pages of the men’s style bible. Grant also believes success is due in part to London designers pulling together to reach a common goal. “As designers, we all massively support each other,” he says. “What’s the old adage? ‘The rising tide raises all ships’ – I think everyone feels that.”
But what is it about London’s menswear that is gaining influence globally? Grant says that the international fashion community is buying into Britain’s role in the global fashion stakes; and enjoying themselves when they come to LC:M. “The British have a great history of menswear – but also a great history of being a very open nation, of being very welcoming to all ideas, all cultures, all people and also of being extremely warm and polite,” he says. “People love coming to London. The buyers and the press love coming here and they have a great time – they see interesting fashion here. We are driving a different agenda in menswear.”
Britain’s history of producing quality menswear is something that appeals to an international audience, evidenced by E. Tautz re-launching in 2009 after significant interest from the Asian market. “The clothes certainly have a British sensibility to them, but they’re not traditional British clothes. We use British cloths and British knits – they look a certain way and there’s a certain handle to them,” he explains. “British clothes feel more engineered, more substantial. That is something that E. Tautz takes from the heritage of British menswear.”
This heritage is something that Norton & Sons is steeped in. Still residing on Savile Row, it is perhaps at the epicentre of British menswear; similarly, E. Tautz’s Duke Street store is just around the corner from where it first opened at 485 Oxford Street in 1867. Grant says that Mayfair was the obvious choice of location for the brand. “We wanted to be in Mayfair because I like the feel of it here. Our customer is here and it’s where we came from.”
Grant’s desire to open on Duke Street was cemented when he spoke to Grosvenor about its vision for the street and surrounding area. “Grosvenor told me about the plans for Duke Street and the type of business it wanted to bring here, and it felt like the right place. I think we are benefiting from the general improvements that Grosvenor is making throughout Mayfair.”
The store’s proximity to some of Mayfair’s other key retail and leisure spots is also working in Grant’s favour. “We’re a stones-throw from Mount Street, which is a fantastic shopping street now; and it helps massively that we’re so close to Selfridges. We also get a lot of customers from The Beaumont,” says the designer. Chris Corbin and Jeremy King’s hotel was a key part of Grosvenor’s re-establishment of North Mayfair as an innovative, culturally rich district. “I know Jeremy pretty well actually,” says Grant. “It’s nice to be their neighbour.”
So what next for Grant and Norton & Sons? “We’re a small business still,” says the designer. “It’s not a huge team. I’m split between Norton & Sons, E. Tautz and Hammond & Co.; and now Cookson and Clegg, which is the factory we bought earlier this year up in Blackburn. We’ve really got a lot to do.”
For now, Grant’s focus is on continuing to produce successful collections for his customers. “We’re just trying to get two good men’s collections out a year – and the non-seasonal product that is increasingly a part of what we do. That’s a lot of work.”
With Grant’s brands – and LC:M – developing a significantly larger presence each year, one imagines that there’s a lot more work to come.
E. Tautz, 71 Duke Street; Norton & Sons, 16 Savile Row.