Our unrestrained consumption of disposable goods reflects a disposable society. The amount of pride we take in our community can be measured by the energy devoted to securing its future. Handicrafts are a large part of our heritage and by nature arenâ€™t disposable â€“ they are made to last a lifetime. Thomas Mahon, a bespoke Savile Row tailor, spoke to me about his plan to build a vibrant community at Warwick Hall in Cumbria to, â€śâ€¦ensure [his] craft’s long-term survival and the happiness of the people working in it.â€ť
Mahonâ€™s strategy is to have the English Cut community living at or around Warwick Hall, where the cost of living is comparatively low, and work together in a converted 18th century stable block on the estate. Paul Griffith, a tailor who trained with him at Anderson & Sheppard has taken up residence on the Warwick Estate with his family to work for English Cut. In addition, Mahon told me that Cumbria has â€śworked its magicâ€ť on his favorite trousermaker as well, and he will soon make the move north with his wife. Recently Mahon has chosen his first apprentice who will one day inherit Mr. Sheppardâ€™s (of Anderson & Sheppard) cutting shears and represent the next generation of Savile Row tailoring.
Warwick Hall, house view
the stable block to be rebuilt
Paul Griffith and his family at Warwick Hall
Someday Mahon hopes that his converted stable block will house a variety of craftspeople, all proper authorities in their trade who provide a fair exchange of value for price. The grim reality is that there are gifted craftspeople struggling unnecessarily to survive in his country. Some of them may feel destitute about competing with low-cost goods from the global marketplace. Mahon believes they donâ€™t have to compete. They just have to be better, and the buying public will spend an extra ÂŁ20 for a tie of superior quality from the family business if they understand what they are buying. It is precisely this understanding that is vital in the battle to protect crafts in the UK and all over the world that are struggling for existence.
The assault on local craftsmen competing with cheap labor, high rents and marketing propaganda in this advertising age calls for a high-tech offensive. Two principle aims of Mahonâ€™s blog, englishcut.com, are to educate the public about bespoke Savile Row tailors and to facilitate awareness about little-known companies who are producers of quality goods in the UK. The popularity of his blog is exactly why multinationals and ad execs fear their power: communicating unfiltered opinion and information to people around the globe so that they can make properly informed choices.
a sleeve’s natural pitch
Weâ€™ve seen the pendulum swing away from mass production before with the Arts and Crafts movement, which started in England in the latter half of the 19th century but expanded outward to eventually take on various manifestations around the globe. At that time â€“ like now â€“ it was felt that mass-produced decorative objects were stifling the breath of life in what was being made through skill and the freedom of imagination. Traditional crafts today are anything but incongruent with modern life, and as a rule it is impossible to progress if we do not pass down what we already know. Oscar Wilde summed it up best when he remarked on an example from our design heritage: â€śâ€¦it is eternally young because it is eternally beautiful.â€ť