Interview: Richard Anderson
By combining the craftsmanship associated with the established names based on the UK’s premier thoroughfare of tailoring, Savile Row, with a contemporary store environment and a relaxed customer experience Richard Anderson has been instrumental in attracting a younger audience to the world of top-end suits.
Richard Anderson, co-founder of Richard Anderson – along with his business partner Brian Lishak, says: “We wanted to marry youthful with the quality of a Huntsman. The shop has a more minimalist look and is less clubby, more contemporary. Our attitude is to be warmer and friendlier.”
Finding a gap in the market
Having trained as a cutter with renowned Savile Row tailors Huntsman, Anderson learnt the skills of cutting, developing an artistic eye, and working closely with customers over many years but felt there was a gap in the market for a brand that sat between the established tailors and the newer brands that had moved onto the Row.
There were the old established names like Huntsman, Henry Poole, Dege & Skinner and Anderson & Sheppard who had been joined by a young group including Richard James, Ozwald Boateng, and Timothy Everest.
There were also fashion brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch that had come onto the street for branding purposes but had not been particularly successful, according to Anderson, who adds: “I was against the high rentals they were paying but they did bring a new younger audience with them.”
To address the gap Anderson and Lishak opened a unit at 13 Savile Row in 2001 with the objective of taking the average age of the clientele down from the 60-plus at Hunstman. Over the past 17 years Richard Anderson has been able to reduce this by attracting people in their late-20s to thirtysomethings for its ready-to-wear range and over 40-year-olds for its bespoke suits.
Starting on ready to wear
“People go on a journey with us – buying ready to wear first and then moving onto bespoke. It’s a great way to do it,” he says, pointing out that ready to wear range starts at £1,300, while the customised option (involving some modifications) is around £3,000, and full bespoke is from £6,000.
At present bespoke accounts for 80% of sales by value but it is the 20% of ready to wear that represents the biggest opportunity for growth. As part of the plan to boost this aspect of the business the company moved the bulk of its workshop into nearby Soho 18 months ago, which enabled its ready to wear to triple in size in-store.
However, this was still insufficient and Richard Anderson has recently taken on the lease for the lower ground floor of its present site on Savile Row. The tailors in Soho will now be reunited with the rest of the team. “Ready to wear is where the growth is. It’s hampered us only having a small range. When the 40 inch regular is sold then there is no more. We can now stop this by having more depth,” says Anderson.
The ready to wear range is produced by a family-owned business near Venice who Anderson knows well and has worked with for eight years: “I worked with them to create a panel for them, which follows the profiles of our bespoke suits.”
With a younger audience now engaged it is not surprising that the company has developed a presence on Instagram and Facebook. It also runs an online store – for selling tie and cufflinks – but that is about as far as the technology impact on the business goes. Anderson questions the value that computers and automation bring to a business that is based on the highest quality of production and a very personal service.
“There is no technology on the production side. This has not changed at all. I’m not against doing something in a different way but only if it does it better. We need to maintain quality and if we can then we should thrive. Product is the key as well as the quality of the customer service. Customers want the individuality. It’s either haute couture or us,” he explains.
Traditional methods remains intact
This traditional approach also extends to the company’s overseas sales – which account for 50% of turnover – with the majority derived from the US. Three times a year Anderson visits cities including New York, Boston and Washington for trunk shows that involve him booking in back-to-back slots with clients for consultations and measurement taking. These orders are then made up in the UK.
Although the growth is in the ready to wear there is still an opportunity to increase bespoke sales if Anderson takes on another cutter – possibly an apprentice who would be trained over a six-year period just as Anderson was at Huntsman.
Such a task is made significantly easier today because the company receives around 10 applications each week for people seeking an apprenticeship. This compares to the 1980s when he recalls that nobody was applying for such positions.
“It’s now seen as an energetic industry and University fees are making some people look for more traditional routes into work. We want to get people into this industry when they are young,” which perfectly mirrors his objective of also seeking to attract a younger base of customers to the business.
Words by Glynn Davis
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