We often get the term “made-to-measure” confused with “bespoke.” The former is an off-the-rack garment that’s crafted to perfectly fit your exact dimensions – often used for wedding suits and tailored work trousers – whereas the latter is something that’s designed from the offset and is taken from an idea to reality. It’s a tradition that tailoring hubs in the U.K. such as Savile Row pride themselves on, a street that is now home to London’s latest one-of-a-kind garment manufacturer, Rav Matharu – better known as clothsurgeon.
But when looking back into the history of bespoke tailoring in London, Savile Row – created during the development of the Burlington Estate in the 1730s – prides itself as the “Mecca” of the craft. The area stems from the idea that the cloths used for one’s suit were already chosen, or spoken for. Today, the word still bares true for much of Savile Row’s tailor shops, and bespoke also falls into the world of couture and haute couture garment making that relies on only the finest fabrics and embellishments.
On the other hand, clothsurgeon takes the traditions and applies them to tailoring with a modernized and refreshing edge. Born in Leeds and coming from a footballing background, his designs take Prada nylon backpacks, Louis Vuitton jackets, Supreme offcuts, Loro Piana wool, Raf Simons x Kradvat fabrics, and other accessories from luxury houses to become one-of-a-kind statements.
With the new clothsurgeon flagship store opening on Savile Row, Hypebeast sat down with Matharu to discuss the space, as well as his career and more.
Hypebeast: How did your career in the fashion industry start?
Matharu: My initial dream was to play professional football, and I signed for Leeds United when I was 15. Then I left football at the age of 21 and fell out of love with it. I then went back to my second passion which was drawing and design. From there, I went back to Loughborugh’s school of Art and Design. I finished a year there and I was then offered a place at London College of Fashion — one of the top 10 universities in the world to study fashion. Then, I went back to Leeds due to the cost of living in the capital and worked in retail for the foreseeable. Three years passed and I thought that I needed to reach my potential so I went back to education and graduated with a first degree honors. I eventually moved back to London and started my own thing, which was clothsurgeon. I always wanted to work with streetwear and bespoke products, so it was about growing the business and telling our story of being bespoke.
“We might have a 65-year-old gentleman come in who wants a cashmere bomber jacket, and then we might have a kid who comes in who has seen us on Instagram and wants a customized Supreme tracksuit.”
How do you intend to elevate the brand on a physical level from it originally launching as an e-commerce label?
The store was always about elevating the bespoke experience. Customers can come in and can explore what we do. Obviously, Savile Row in London is the home of bespoke retail and with that being said, we have created a brand that works purely on a made-to-order basis, so when the individual orders the garment, we handle all of our own production in London, and the turnaround is quite quick. But in terms of elevation, when you come into the store, on the left there’s a gallery as opposed to a collection that shows you what fabrics and silhouettes you can use. It’s a nice way of showing that what we offer is made by us, but specifically for you; you’re collaborating with us and that – in my opinion – is the true meaning of luxury: being able to make something as opposed to going into a store and buying something that everyone else can.
This is great for us because it doesn’t tie us down to one demographic. We might have a 65-year-old gentleman come in who wants a cashmere bomber jacket, and then we might have a kid who comes in who has seen us on Instagram and wants a customized Supreme tracksuit. It’s really exclusive in terms of what we do, but it’s also very inclusive in terms of the fact that we are available to anybody.
“The objective of a business is to ultimately make money, but you want to be able to build a brand organically.”
How do you think clothsurgeon differs from other labels out there?
I think we are very different from any brand on the planet, you can buy our products both online and off the peg. I think anyone can launch an Instagram page and source blanks and print a brand name on it, quite quickly gain a following and sell a lot of products. That has never been the goal for our business – we have always wanted to create products directly with the consumer and work collaboratively with them. We’re not a fast fashion business, we don’t want to create thousands of pieces, we want to create a select number of garments that are guaranteed to last a very long time. We also offer a lifetime guarantee on our styles, so if anything goes wrong with it, you can always bring it back to us and we will sort it. We want to be able to be a part of the customer’s journey forever. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to have an idea and then bring it to life. But, it’s also amazing to see all of these young brands and kids have the platforms to be able to grow a brand and showcase their products and talents, we just hope that they do it in a tasteful way. The objective of a business is to ultimately make money, but you want to be able to build a brand organically.
What’s the current main focus and the end goal for clothsurgeon?
I think opening other stores around the country is a focus for the future. In the meantime, our focus is to have this store in the home of bespoke menswear and really tell our own bespoke narrative. We’ve been going nearly 10 years now, but because we have done so much in that time, now is the time to strip things back and tell the people what we do and what we provide and this is the perfect flagship to do it from.