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24 September 2014
Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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   Inside Out - South West: Monday January 24, 2005

TAILOR-MADE FOR TAKEOVER?

Peter Jones working
Peter Jones - last in a line of tailors stretching back 400 years

Peter Jones has made suits for the stars.

He has counted Clark Gable, three ambassadors and most of the bar as customers in his 50 year career as a tailor.

As he comes to hang up his needle and thread and retire, he finds no-one wants to take on his profitable tailoring business.

Peter comes from a long line of tailors.

His family have been making garments since the 17th Century, but Peter is the last in line. He doesn't have an heir to his tailoring business.

With 500 customers on his books, and bespoke tailoring proving to be profitable, Peter thought he would have no trouble passing on his business.

But it appears that no-one sees a future in tailoring.

Peter isn't interested in selling his business at some vastly inflated price, he is prepared to just hand it over if the right person came along, but he says he can't find anyone who wants it;

"I've been trying to find a small tailor, like myself, to give it to. I'd give it to them, with all my list of customers ... but there're no tailors willing to take it on. There's no-one coming into the trade."

A stitch in time

Peter Jones visiting Savile Row
'There's no-one coming into the trade.'
Peter Jones

He was just a teenager when he started as an apprentice at "Huntsman and Sons" of London's Savile Row, 50 years ago.

Savile Row, the "Street of a Thousand Needles", has been at the heart of British tailoring since Edwardian times.

Savile Row has a reputation for producing the finest bespoke garments in the world, and its suits are still highly prized today.

The street's clients have included both royalty and the kings and queens of Hollywood. Peter counted Clark Gable as one of his customers;

"Clark Gable used to come in. What ever film it was, we used to make all the clothes to go with it. He was an absolute gentleman."

Savile Row tailors have always been known for their style as well craftsmanship (and their high prices). Many an Edwardian dandy sported threads from Savile Row.

The kudos of having a bespoke Savile Row suit continues to this day, and the street is still filled with gents' outfitters.

The move to Devon

Peter Jones working
'I like to see people out in nice clothes. Fortunately I've been in the good end of the trade where I make nice clothes all the time.'
Peter Jones

The London life couldn't compete in Peter's mind with the likes of North Devon. So he moved his business to Barnstaple.

But he didn't leave his London customers behind though.

Nowadays he visits London every month to pick up his customers' orders and deliver their finished suits.

His clients are more likely to be barristers and city gents than movie stars but he says that the work is very profitable;

"When I first started it was very poor pay, you didn't get a lot for your apprenticeship, there were lots of tailors around and business was quite hard.

But nowadays you really can get good money for your suits and you can make good money."

Peter says it's the quality of the cloth as well as the personal fit that attracts his clients to shell out more for his bespoke suits - it can take upwards of 100 hours to produce one.

Retirement

With Peter unable to find anyone to look after his clients, it looks like the end of the line for the business. The job has given Peter many happy times but now it's time to call it a day.

But you don't have to revert to "off-the-peg " just yet; the tradition of bespoke tailoring still lives on in the South West, you can find a handful of bespoke tailors scattered across Devon and Cornwall. They include:

Perdells, Tower Street, Launceston
Luget Bros, Cathedral Yard, Exeter
Peter Marsh, High Street, Sidmouth
Martin Tailors, Torquay

See also ...

On the rest of the web
Savile Row history
H Huntsman and Sons

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Karen Down
He did not do this alone. He worked with another tailor and a tailoress who were very loyal to him. They never got a mention for the 25 years service they have given.

David Ross
I am a bootmaker and would like to talk to Peter about his business. I was surprised to see your presenter having a suit made but wearing such awful shoes with it.

Frederick Cogdell Perdells Ltd
Ref: "The last tailor in the west country" Sirs, I watched this item and laughed. How you've been lead down the garden path. I myself am a tailor and work from Launceston in Cornwall. I am 37 and one of the trades most repected Master Tailors. We not only operate from the west country but all over the UK, Europe and the USA and now Russia. Your statement "the last tailor in the west country" is wrong! I have made for stars past and present. Most of the Royal households of Europe and for the last three US presidents and also Russian palimentarians as well as football club owners.



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