Updated: Aug 10
From Savile Row to a new generation of fans, Craig Featherstone gives us the inside track on his exclusive bespoke tailoring brand
WORDS Charlotte McManus PHOTOGRAPHY Rick Pushinsky
"Suits do a lot more than just look good,"says master tailor and Savile Row savant Craig Featherstone. "They also make you feel confident." With almost three decades of sartorial tailoring experience under his belt, he's well positioned to comment. To put on a suit is to dress up. It holds you in and makes you stand straighter. Once you're wearing a suit, you're ready for business."
Growing up on the Cottonmill estate in St Albans, Featherstone enrolled on a fashion design course at the age of 16, after discovering a talent for sewing clothes labels on his mother's old sewing machine. He then made the acquaintance of David Chambers, a neighbour and highly respected Savile Row tailor. After imploring Chambers to take him on as an apprentice - even offering to work for free - Featherstone was inducted into the time-honoured art of making men's suits.
"Savile Row is all about individual trades, You have a jacket maker, a trouser maker, a waistcoat maker, and they usually don't know how to make each other's garments. I was lucky enough to be taught all the different crafts by one guy, the best tailor I've ever known," Featherstone says of Chambers. "He designed suits for people like David Bowie and Harvey Keitel, making some of the best clothes in the entire world out of a shed at the bottom of his garden."
After 14 years under Chambers, Savile Row beckoned for Featherstone, and there was still one aspect of tailoring that he had yet to perfect. "I wanted to be a master tailor, but still I needed to learn how to cut," he explains. "You can't start your own business without knowing that."
The young tailor set off for Mayfair and had a chance meeting with Ozwald Boateng OBE in the street. Boateng was impressed with Featherstone's coat which, naturally, he'd made himself, and this led to a three-month stint working with the top designer.
Featherstone was then headhunted by Henry Poole, a founding brand of Savile Row itself, where he rose to director level within three years. Crafting suits for presidents, members of the aristocracy and the royal family, he also caught the attention of Aston Martin VIPs.
In the late 2000s, Aston Martin Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichman commissioned Featherstone to make a tailored Savile Row car cover to present the Aston Martin One-77 - the marque's inaugural hypercar for the 2008 ParisMotor Show. "I love challenges," Featherstone says, and agrees with Reichman's description of Aston Martins as "athletes in tailored suits": "Aston Martins are performance cars, but they're elegant and beautifully shaped."
After 10 years at Henry Poole, Featherstone decided that the time was right to go it alone. "I was taught tailoring in a very exacting, very particular way, so I feel the need to achieve perfection with every suit I make," he says. "At that stage, I was ready to start my own company."
Five years on, Featherstone London has become synonymous with beautifully crafted, bespoke tailoring. The label is committed to preserving the traditional methods of bespoke tailoring and Reichman remains a loyal customer.
"I insist on doing everything by hand, exactly how I was taught. I think that's something that's being lost a little in the trade." Featherstone says. "I'm taking on an apprentice soon. I want to train people so that they can carry on the traditions." Echoing Chambers' understated business approach, he operates solely out of a studio in Bedfordshire, rather than a Savile Row space, which allows him the flexibility to both focus on the craft and visit his clients at their convenience. He has big plans for the future too:
Craig featherstone specialises in men's luxury tailoring and accessories, with sustainability and ethically sourced clothing at the heart of his prestigious brand
"I have a business partner coming in soon and will be putting the Featherstone brand in shops. It would be a dream to have my own store, but for now this is what works." A bespoke suit from Featherstone London takes approximately 60 hours to craft. After meeting for an initial consultation with the client, discussing factors such as what the suit is for and where it will be worn, Featherstone will present a variety of fabric options and take the client's measurements.
From these he then creates a paper pattern on the cloth before cutting it to form a shell of the suit for the first fitting, with each suit involving three fittings as standard. The entire process takes about two months and includes exacting alterations, re- measurements, tweaks and finishings.
"The suit isn't going to go out the door if it isn't right," he says. As with so many other industries, Covid-19 had a significant impact on tailoring, with lockdown restrictions hindering Featherstone from seeing his clients in person for bespoke fittings. As a result, he added a new - quite unprecedented aspect to his offering: made to measure. Quicker and cheaper to produce than bespoke, these garments are made from an existing pattern and often worked on using machines.
"I've come over to the dark side!" Featherstone says. "I'm a craftsman at heart and never wanted to deviate from bespoke initially, but I do enjoy making people look good. Even if it's not me sewing the suits, having another part of the business is quite exciting.
"Like Aston Martin cars, each bespoke suit is millimetre-perfect but each one just ever so slightly different"
The decision has proven to be something of a masterstroke, attracting a new generation of younger clients who can't yet afford bespoke prices but still want a suit designed and made for them, and fitted by Featherstone. "Handmade will always be at the centre of what I do though," he hastens to add. "The core of my business - the heart of my business - is bespoke!
It's clear that his passion runs deep. He continues to wear his own designs and has done so since he crafted his very first bespoke suit at the tender age of 17.
"I need to wear bespoke, I love it so much,"he explains. "It's a bit like Aston Martin cars, I suppose. Each bespoke suit is millimetre-perfect but each one just ever so slightly different."