From Savile Row to West 57th Street, Huntsman is on the Prowl

by Wendy Sy Photographed by Lily Hope Wokin
Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Huntsman can now officially call New York its second home. The Savile Row-based tailor established in 1849 recently opened its pied-à-terre on the ninth floor of 130 West 57th Street, making it easier for Yanks to get the bespoke suit of their dreams.

Throughout the past 110 years, the landmarked studio building—located on what was known as “Billionaire’s Row”—had been occupied by a number of creatives, from artists studying at the Art Students League (down the street), actor José Ferrer, comedian, writer and filmmaker Woody Allen to singer Tony Bennett.

Previously, company representatives would travel to New York on a regular basis for client appointments. The same process still holds today in cities such as Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago.

“It became apparent that the level of business to service American clients was growing rapidly and we needed to have permanent coverage here,” said Ed Turco, Huntsman’s U.S. director of operations who joined the team last summer from Loro Piana. “We like to think we make the finest suits in the world and strive to provide the ultimate service. If somebody says, ‘I can come see you but only at 7 a.m. at the Park Hyatt tomorrow’, we’ll be there.”

Last year, Huntsman opened a smaller temporary location in the same building, just two floors below. At 2,030 square feet, the current pied-à-terre—scouted by Pierre Lagrange and Michael Anderson, Huntsman’s CEO and senior client manager, respectively—includes a cutting room, fitting room and fabric library filled with black-and-white Cecil Beaton self-portraits. You’ll also find an 18th century, 24-foot bookshelf from a British castle, a 1933 Betty Joel walnut art deco desk, vintage Ado Chale tables and two 1930’s mahogany steamer trunk wardrobes made on London’s Berkeley Street.

“West 57th Street is the New York version of Savile Row,” Turco believes. “It’s the American interpretation of the authentic street in London. The ancestry, the tailoring and all the elements in terms of the furniture of this place mirror the Savile Row store, but it has its own personality.” 

In the hallway between the cutting room and fabric library, adjacent to the staircase (which, fun fact, leads nowhere), are the clothing measurements for actress Katharine Hepburn and fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy, framed on the wall. Among its list of notable clients throughout the decades was actor Gregory Peck, who had placed more than 160 orders with the company. Peck’s purchases and patterns tell a story of his changing shape over the years, ranging from size 40 to 46, according to the book, Savile Row and America: A Sartorial Special Relationship, edited by Nick Foulkes, published by Huntsman Productions.

The process of creating each piece of garment starts with a consultation appointment. Is the client looking for a ready-to-wear blazer, a made-to-measure shirt or to tailor a hand-made suit? For bespoke pieces, Huntsman’s in-house cutter Ralph Fitzgerald Moulett will take a comprehensive set of measurements and draft three-dimensional patterns. Always included are inlays, the extra fabric put into the seam that allows future alterations if a client fluctuates in weight. The patterns are then shipped to London, where the garments are hand-sewn. Within eight to 12 weeks, a finished suit is transported back to New York or wherever it is most convenient for the client. It takes between 60 to 80 hours to create a bespoke suit; they typically start around $7,000.

The selection of fabrics Huntsman offers is vast. Opening a box of swatches, Turco selects the vicuña. “This is one of God’s great miracles. People think I tend to exaggerate, then they find out it is actually true,” said Turco. The vicuña is a rare South American camelid that lives in highly elevated areas of the Andes and was once almost extinct. Supremely soft to the touch, the fabric has a natural golden tan color and can be also by dyed. 

“My grandfather actually owned a vicuña overcoat in the 1950s,” said Turco. “I remember sitting next to him in the front seat of his Cadillac when I was four years old and holding onto the sleeve of it. I didn’t know what it was but when I became a young man and went to work in this industry, I realized how prized and precious vicuña is.”

It’s a mystery as to where that overcoat is today. “For me, it’s a quest to the Holy Grail. I may never find the original but at some point, I will recreate my own,” said Turco. “It’s very exciting and the ultimate expression of what we do at Huntsman.”


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