Lasting Legacy

Suited and booted: The tailoring dynasty of Savile Row

The tailoring dynasty of Savile Row

For dedicated followers of fashion, there is only one place to buy a suit: Savile Row. Situated in London's Mayfair – a part of the city well known for its high-end stores and gourmet restaurants – the street has been associated with bespoke tailoring for centuries.

At 15 Savile Row, Henry Poole & Co has been in the business of making fine suits for more than 200 years. Its roots date back to 1806, when James Poole opened a tailor's shop in Bloomsbury, a mile or so away from the business' current location.

James' son, Henry, assumed control of the business after his father's death, and in 1876 it fell into the hands of his cousin Samuel Cundey. The Cundey family remains at the core of the business to this day.

"Many great countries and many great capitals have great tailors … but not necessarily in one street like Savile Row," Simon Cundey, managing director of the company, told CNBC's "Lasting Legacy".

"But it really was Poole that started the actual exodus to the one street of tailoring by… opening his stores in 1846 here," Cundey added.

Cundey represents the seventh generation of his family at the heart of a business where the art of tailoring is taken very seriously. Every process – from measurements and cutting to the finishing touches – is handled on site by dedicated staff members. Distinguished past customers include Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle.

"For a customer, when he has all his separate fittings, there's a real sort of emotion involved," Alex Cooke, head cutter at the business, said. "It's not just wandering in a shop and going 'Oh, I like that can you shorten the sleeves.' There's the interaction with us: hopefully they'll come down here and meet the tailor (and) it's a real nice sort of personal experience," he added.

As managing director, Simon now heads up the business in a role that his father, Angus, who is chairman, previously held.

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For Angus, trying to convince Simon to join the family business was not much of an issue. "I'm pleased to say that, even at the age of 14, he was making noises that he would like to come into the business," Angus said.

For his part, Simon felt the transition to be something of a natural progression. "You know it's coming, at some point it's going to come, you expect it to come, you hope it's to come," he said. "I think (with) any family firm, you wouldn't be in it if you didn't really believe at some point you aspire to take over the business," he added.

When the changing of the guard did come, a period of adjustment was required. "He had to grow into the job," vice chairman Philip Parker said. "You get the title but… you do have to grow into the position and understand what it actually means," he added.

While Angus' role is less involved than it was, he still visits on a weekly basis to see how things are ticking along.

As it looks to the future, Henry Poole & Co is adjusting to an increasingly globalized world and a host of new markets. "We are on the hunt for new cities and new countries, new markets," Simon Cundey said.

In terms of succession, Simon is father to Henry, 16 and Jamie, 15, but said it was "early days" as to whether they would be the eighth generation of the family to enter the business. If they did decide to join the family firm, their father is keen to make sure they are well prepared.

"I would certainly put them through a field of some sort of offsite, ideally, education with tailoring. I'd love them to go to a business school, perhaps," he said.

"You can be the legal side of the firm, you can be the financial side of the firm, but you have to still know about the firm, the raw product, what they do, what it makes, what it generates," he added.

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