Rumour has it that fashionably retro-progressive gents are investing in the priceless heritage of a bygone era. For those who want to go one better than the blinging new labels of Savile Row, there’s a firm of ‘fashionable tailors’ offering the epitome of understated style. Curiously located on a perilous stretch of the Wandsworth one way system, just around the corner from the Angelic Hell Tattoo World, is WG Child and Sons, established in 1890.
The shop’s uniquely characterful frontage, strangely reminiscent of a Victorian funeral parlour, houses a fusty smelling interior that’s suspended in something of a time warp. Sepia photographs on anaglypta covered walls chart the history of the local area and five generations of the Child family. There are antique clocks, pieces of old fashioned tailoring memorabilia and original retro look books dotted around the the cosy waiting room. And, at the rear of the premises, is a rather starkly decorated workroom, furnished with little more than a cutting table, alongside a men’s changing room that’s a veritable curiosity in itself. This is much more a living museum of tailoring than a gentleman’s outfitters.
You’ll probably be greeted by the friendly proprietor, Philip Child (below right), who bears a curious resemblance to Paul ‘suits you sir’ Whitehouse. Philip, a graduate of the London College of Fashion, kindly offered to give me a tour of the shop for The Dabbler, whilst his father (who, along with Grandfather, was Savile Row trained) pottered about in the back room.
Philip explained the process of choosing a fabric and making a bespoke suit – plus the advantages of having a garment personally designed, not to show off the label, but to look and feel good. Here, everything is beautifully made and stitched by hand, using only the finest quality fabrics and real mother of pearl buttons. Suits are made up within seven to eight weeks – and, once a custom-made pattern has been created, future requirements can even be fulfilled by email.
The tailor has clients all over the world, including places as far flung as Alaska. What’s more Child and Sons can make virtually anything, from purple linen suits to tweed hacking jackets. They recently designed an outfit for an Imam, who wanted to feel at home in a Westernized business environment - so style details from traditional religious dress were adapted into a suit for him. The wedding market is also a substantial part of their business, and customers include a number of “significant businessmen, though not what you’d call celebrities”, says Child, “because they tend to go for the names” when shopping for clothes.
Expect to pay around £1200-£1500 for a bespoke suit – a lot less than in Savile Row, and worth it just to see this extraordinary shop and own a piece of quality British craftsmanship... Not forgetting the priceless stories you’ll hear from this traditional family tailors' remarkably long and fascinating history.