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Lining London's famous street of tailors – Savile Row – are luxurious stores where cutters work away at crafting the perfect $6000 suit for Wall Street bankers and London's business elite.
The traditional royal green and wooden décor of some shops contrasts with some of the newer stores revealing the legacy of the Row whose reach expands to the U.S. But now the master tailors are looking towards China to tap the growing appetite for bespoke suits in world's second-largest economy.
"There's a lot of interest and a lot of interest in British brands," Sean Dixon, co-founder of Savile Row tailor Richard James, told CNBC in a phone interview.
China has been a thorn in the side of many luxury retailers who've been hit by slowing demand and changing tastes of Chinese consumers.
But it is not deterring the ultra-luxe tailors who sell suits in excess of £4000 ($6720).
Simon Cundey, director of Henry Poole & Co, is awaiting a phone call from his team which is on its first trip to Beijing with the aim of measuring out clients. They will make the suit in Britain to be shipped over to China.
Henry Poole & Co already has two stores in China through a partnership. But the tailors make the framework for the suit in London and send it over to be assembled in a Chinese factory. This removes the allure of the bespoke suit which is 100 percent hand made. But Cundey is hoping the tailor's first trip to China will drum up interest in the company's purely handmade clothing.
"We've had a number of customers who have ordered in London and want the attention to detail we offer them and we hope that by bringing that option to Beijing we can grow the market there," Cundey told CNBC in a phone interview.
'Instant gratification' issue
While luxury fashion has been growing in China over the past few years, the appeal of custom made suits that can take several weeks to make, hasn't seen traction in China. Several Savile Row tailors are concerned this could hold back the market.
"There is an education process that needs to take place in mainland China around what bespoke tailoring is. There is absolutely potential but it might take some more time," Dixon said, adding that the Chinese market likes "instant gratification" with items consumers can take away from the store.
Henry James is taking a different approach – rather than aiming for the mainland, Dixon said the tailor would head for Hong Kong where there is "appreciation of bespoke tailoring", with the aim of slowly moving into China.
The company currently sells ready to wear suits through department store Harvey Nichols, but is in the process of looking at regular trips to Hong Kong to measure clients.
Dege & Skinner is another Savile Row tailor which told CNBC it is in talks to find ways to sell its suits in China.
'Not ready yet'
Sales of luxury goods in China rose just 2 percent in 2013 from the previous year with similarly slow grow this year, according to the consultancy Bain & Co, down from 7 percent growth in 2012 and 30 percent in 2011, underlining the challenges in the sector.
The appeal of a growing middle class in China, with average per capita disposable income up 10.9 percent from a year earlier to 18,311 yuan ($2,973) in 2013, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, does not appeal to all on the Row.
Joseph Morgan has been in the business since 1969. The firm he founded in 1981 – Chittleborough and Morgan – employs five people, and the boss is proud of its tradition as a bespoke tailor. While Morgan said he has been approached by people from China, he has no plans to make visits there.
"We have been approached and we have declined," Morgan told CNBC in his shop on Savile Row.
"We are not ready yet and we are happy with local people."
- By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal