The British firm combines several Savile Row stalwarts with an Indian workshop that helps families in need
If you’re into your clothes, you might well know the name Whitcomb & Shaftesbury. As far as London-based bespoke tailors go, the house has gained an impressive reputation for quality in recent years, with rave reviews from the likes of Permanent Style. What you may not know, though, is that while the name sounds traditional, Whitcomb & Shaftesbury has built its reputation for quality by doing things differently.
The brand is the brainchild of two brothers, Suresh and Mahesh Ramakrishnan, who both enjoyed long and successful corporate careers in New York City before they decided to open a tailor shop. “For years, we had our suits made,” explains Suresh, “and we both felt that you could find good product, but it was a struggle to find good advice. We felt that lack of advice offered us a huge gap in the market.”
So, the duo determined that they’d fulfill the role of giving clients good, honest guidance, before recruiting a team of Savile Row trained cutters and tailors, including John McCabe and Bob Bigg, highly experienced stalwarts of the Row with close to 120 years combined experience. Whitcomb also recruited a third, younger cutter, Sian Walton, formerly of Thom Sweeney, Alexander McQueen and Kilgour. Between them, this trio can bring to bear a huge range of different skills. McCabe and Bigg are masters of old English styling, whereas Walton cuts a comfortable, contemporary jacket with “drape with shape,” loosely inspired by her training (under McCabe) at Kilgour.
Whitcomb & Shaftesbury is based on George Street in Mayfair, just a few paces from Savile Row, and offers two bespoke services: its Savile Row Bespoke service, which is made in the conventional fashion in on-site workrooms, and Classic Bespoke, which is cut in London and made in the brand’s workshop in Chennai, India. Before you raise an eyebrow, keep in mind that some of the best bespoke garments in the world come out of India, and having ordered a Classic Bespoke overcoat, suit and smoking jacket myself, I’m very happy to vouch for its impressive quality. About a year into running the business, purely as a “made in London” bespoke tailor, the Ramakrishnans decided to support a charity programme called Children of the World in the wake of the 2004 tsunami, which devastated large parts of India. “The programme helped to rehabilitate families who’d had been affected by the tsunami, giving them new ways to earn a living,” Suresh explains. “Programmes were set up in a number of different vocations, from metalwork to embroidery. We decided to offer a hand-tailoring scheme, so John [McCabe] flew out to India and began to train local craftspeople to a Savile Row standard.”
Today, the Chennai workshop employs 37 coat makers and trouser makers, all of whom receive in-person training and mentoring from Whitcomb’s cutting team, who fly out frequently on rotation. “We wanted to do things the right way,” Suresh continues. “The workshop is a cooperative, so all the tailors own part of the company, and we guarantee full salaries for all our staff, rather than paying piece work.” Whitcomb also pays for the education of all its employees’ children and the brothers have established an additional scheme that rehabilitates women who are either victims of trafficking or at high risk. “The idea was to empower women and make them the primary wage earners in their families. Through that programme, we’ve rehabilitated over 7,000 women,” says Suresh.
Now, the brand is returning to America for the first time in over two years, as are many British artisans. Both Suresh and Mahesh will be touring the U.S. between November 16 and December 1, visiting New York, Washington D.C., Boston, Los Angeles and then returning to New York. Moreover, thanks to the well-oiled workings of the Chennai workshop, New York customers who place orders during the first leg of the trunk show (16 to 19 November), will be able to have their pieces fitted when the brothers pass back through New York between 29 November and 1 December, negating a long wait (most tailors won’t return to fit clients till spring 2022).
“We’re lucky that our workshop allows us to turn fittings around for clients relatively quickly while keeping total control of quality,” Suresh explains. “We wanted clients to be able to fit garments quickly while travel is open.” So, if you’re intrigued to try an impeccable bespoke tailor with impressive ethical credentials, you know where to go.
To book a trunk show appointment, email Karen Weyer at [email protected]
This story was first published on Robb Report USA