Positioned in the beating heart of the city, Mayfair boasts a long history of exemplary craftsmanship – from bespoke suits and leather accessories to jewellery, shotguns and more. Centuries on from the inception of many of these businesses, the skills that have earned this area a reputation for outstanding service are still thriving today. Step inside three of Mayfair's most historic brands, and learn why an uncompromising commitment to high-quality craftsmanship continues to represent the pinnacle of luxury.
Anderson & Sheppard
For over a century, Anderson & Sheppard has been the standard-bearer of London’s famous Savile Row, its name synonymous with superior English bespoke tailoring. Asked what makes Anderson & Sheppard desirable in the modern day, the answer is succinct. “All of work is done by hand and always has been,” explains A&S cutting apprentice Matthew Borkowski. “We find that the best product is handmade and the process is now part of our DNA.” The brand also boast an inherent understanding of how to sculpt a product to fit the human form perfectly – whatever shape it takes. “A huge part of tailoring is knowing configurations; how a person stands, how they carry themselves. No one is perfectly built and we incorporate this into the fitting. It’s about listening to the customer and their individual story and producing something they are proud to own.”
Founded in 1906, Anderson & Sheppard benefits from the talents of a close-knit team with decades of combined experience in the tailoring industry. Over the years, well-known figures such as Laurence Olivier, Duke Ellington and even Marlene Dietrich have called on the services of Anderson & Sheppard, commissioning suits designed to last a lifetime. First-time customers are required for a minimum of three visits to ensure the finished product is the best it can be – the first fitting provides the chance to choose cloth and trimmings, as well as take measurements and confirm the desired style, while the final two visits are used for fittings. Each suit will take between eight and twelve weeks to create, and remains eligible for the company's aftercare service into the future, which uses gentler methods than industrial dry cleaning to keep the suit in the best condition possible. As a result of this meticulous attention to detail and commitment to craftsmanship, an Anderson & Sheppard suit should be one the finest you can own.
Considered an institution in Mayfair, Pickett has been serving up a selection of handmade luxury goods since 1988. Quintessentially English with a sense of the whimsical and eccentric, the shop offers a unique experience which embodies the brand’s much-loved individuality. Having moved from the Burlington Arcade to Burlington Gardens in March 2015, as well as expanding the Sloane St location to include retail space on Sloane Terrace, Pickett has entered a new era; one which allows founder Trevor Pickett and his staff to embrace new space.
Reflecting on what it means to enter a 'new era' for such a traditional brand, Pickett acknowledges there is always a concern over who is going to be the next audience. “That said, we do find we are continuing to sell across a broad age demographic, reassuring us that our brand is embracing a contemporary marketplace.” And how does craft incorporate into the Pickett brand? “Pickett has always been handcrafted and produced in the UK. It can be challenging to maintain our DNA due to pressures on the workforce, materials and so forth, but we are achieving it and accessing new resources which is extremely exciting," explains Pickett. "It could be an easy way out to make abroad, but we strive to retain our identity and the foundation on which Pickett was built, so we fight on. We are uniquely passionate about the product and what we have found is that in neglecting our process, we would neglect the quality of what we make.”
Pickett also believes that the craftsmanship of his brand is what provides his products with an authentic claim to the label 'luxury.' "The word ‘luxury’ can be very meaningless. I think the term luxury should be intrinsically linked with integrity," explains Pickett. "We are proud of our product and what happens to bring it into the world. On a macro level, we all work in the shop and contribute to the brand’s influence, continuously evolving the product to suit the customer. Luxury is about authenticity and a product not pretending to be something it isn’t.”
Founded in 1883, William Evans has been furnishing customers with the finest country apparel and shooting equipment for 143 years. "We are still providing a very similar product and service to all those years ago," explains London General Manager Alastair Phillips. "Minor things like legislation, shopfront layout and operations have changed, but all of our guns are built in a very similar way to how they were in the past.”
Over the years, clients have included anyone from gamekeepers to Maharajas, and most famously, William Evans’s patron, The Duke of Connaught. A varied customer base requires plenty of individual attention and technique, meaning each gun is handmade to the customer's requirements. “There is a bit of machining at the start to save some time, but the oil finishing, the engraving, the checkering is all done by hand in almost exactly the same manner as in 1883," says Phillips. "We are still using the same tools, systems and methods because they have always worked and provide the guns with their unique fingerprint.”
To provide the best possible service, William Evans employs two types of expert gunworkers – both gunmaker and gunsmiths – who take two to three years of careful craftsmanship to create a gun from scratch. The former focus on solely on new production, while the latter specialise in repairs and renovations. “We employ a range of gunsmiths across the country who are each best suited to working on different types of guns across a range of manufacture and design," explains Phillips. "When a gun is handmade and incorporates that level of craft, it is much more specialised to repair and replace its parts – a handmade gun has its own identity and uniqueness in design.”
The bespoke process has become a hallmark of quality for the brand, with the William Evans team providing customers with expert advice as well as private fittings to ensure each gun matches the size and shape of the customer's body. Prices start at £57,000, increasing based on levels of engraving, grade of wood (which can be sourced from walnut trees over 200 years old), and other additions such as gold inlay or precious jewels – with options limited only by the customer's imagination. For such a precious purchase, William Evans promise to create the highest-quality product.