Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Kennel Club

It appears we have become a quarterly periodical. It is nigh on three months since the last post and one's tail is between one's legs. Yes, we're in the Dog House - and not, contrary to what you might expect, the public house of that name in Kennington (though saying that, we did pop in to deliver the new Guv'nor's "Alfie" whistle, inspired by a youthful Michael Caine).
What do I plead? Only that I prefer to post a story with a wet nose, a tummy and a tail; a beginning, a middle and an end, rather than leave you hanging for a conclusion.
But some things just can't be hurried.
Anyway, here's what one wears in the Dog House these days, a "tonic" mohair sharkskin - for that smooth look with bite. Real mussel shell buttons, too. On the right, Anthony's "Alfie" suit:

So to get on with the catching up, one afternoon, during the Dog Days of summer, a gentleman arrived for his first appointment. We asked the usual question - who or what had brought him to us? "Jools Holland recommended you," he replied.
For our visitor was Dave Swift, Jool's bass player of twenty-five years and counting.
"That's extremely nice of him," we said, "Not least as we haven't made him anything!"
"Well what's he *$%^£* well doing recommending something he hasn't tried?!"
A perfectly reasonable challenge. We managed to persuade him to stay with the help of grappling irons and the net over the door. He couldn't make a speedy escape down the steep stairs of our studio as he had brought along his dog house bass, an upright bespoke made for him by another South London craftsman, Roger Dawson of Deptford. He wanted to demonstrate the scope of movement required when he takes the curvaceous beauty in his arms.

He must have been at least half happy with his suit as he promptly put in an order for the next one and invited us to see Jools' band at Hampton Court Palace. It was a golden evening in early June, and the open air courtyard glowed in the sunset. I waved to the ghost of Alice, my great grandmother, who had lived in a "grace & favour" apartment under the clock tower.

My great grandmother Alice lived under the clock which must have been a bit noisy. Anyway there was a joyful racket the night we were there

Before they went on stage we drank their rider in the house provided for the band, as a mere dressing "room" could not accommodate their number.

I went dressed as Axl Rose, for no particular reason
Bill & Marcela Curbishley, Jools Holland, Mr Wesley and Dave Swift
Prior to that night, we had celebrated Mr Wesley's birthday on June 1st at another open air event - "Songs in the Key of London". This was organised organised by Chris Difford (Jools' old bandmate from Squeeze, for whom we are also making a suit) to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation in the Regents Park amphitheatre. We give joint honours for the night to the Strypes, who rocked out, and to Gregory Porter, who sang a most tender version of "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square". Dave was with us that evening and introduced us to Alfred, who is making a documentary film about Gregory We swapped information and said we'd get together at some point.

Meanwhile some international football tournament came and went, and the poppies opened in the wildflower meadow in the Imperial War Museum, now itself reopened, to inspire a silk / linen jacket for Steve:

Another linen jacket, this one made for Grant, was lined in saucy silk (found at, as sensuous as diving into a tub of ice cream. What appears to be frost flakes are, on closer inspection, licentious ladies in the throes of a Busby Berkeley routine:

Someone else who fancied a linen suit was Roger Daltrey - 'The colour of 'airy string" was his precise brief and we found that under another name in the Scabal "Vintage Linen" book:
We had the fitting at his manager's office, for the suit and coat we have made Roger were presents from Bill. Bill had imagined Roger would choose a traditional, dark worsted suit and expressed an opinion that linen can get, well, crumpled. But that is part of its intrinsic cool.
"I LIKE the crumples," retorted Roger, "I"M a bit crumpled."

Roger had also fancied the look of the "Clancey" coat that Mr Wesley was wearing when we first met him. Pointing at it, he proclaimed, "I'll have that". So we recreated it in the same Harris Tweed  but custom printed the lining with the help of our pals at Hatley Print,, to make it very much his own:

We were properly privileged to see Roger perform with Wilko Johnson at Shepherd's Bush Empire way back in February and delighted to see the huge success of their record "Going Back Home" which has my most darling drummer Dylan Howe bashing the skins

But an even bigger cause for celebration is the news that Wilko's original "hopeless" diagnosis may have been mis-delivered. We sincerely hope and pray that is the case and look forward to the follow up release.
Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey on stage at the Shepherd's Bush Empire

Love this photo of Bill Curbishley, Mr Wesley & Norman Watt-Roy, bass legend of the Blockheads and now Wilko 
When Dylan Howe first turned up at my jam to play he wasn't strictly, in an uptight, legal sense, old enough to be there #proud
Wishing a long and happy life to both these gentlemen
Thanks to my old RADA class mate, our friend Helen Patton, grand-daughter of the General who made a name for himself in the First World War before making a legend of himself in the Second, we were invited to Highclere Castle on August 3rd for the century commemorations. We took along Ma Butler as she bears more than a passing resemblance to Shirley Maclaine and we thought we might sit her in a booth and sell faux-tographs to people excited to be at the location of some telly programme called "Downton Abbey". 

Mr Wesley chats to Ingmar Patton, our one-time intern, on the driveway of Highclere Castle

Ma Butler, me in the new Bedlam tricorn straw hat, and Mr Wesley
Tiger Moth engines clattered in sky over the ramparts

Tiger Moths dog fighting in the sky
As we left, Tiger Moth bi-planes did a thrilling demonstration dog fight in the sky but we had to get back... to collect the Puppy of Peace.

Yes, we sped back to London to give this story its tail. After weeks of waiting and watching him grow with the litter at the Royal Oak pub behind our studio, we finally got to bring Brian home. Named in honour of our dear friend Brian Leitch, suddenly and unexpectedly lost to us on July 8th in Los Angeles, we hope some of Brian's kind and witty spark transferred to this bright little soul.
First meeting with Brian - I called his name over the sleeping litter and he opened his eyes, scrambled over the snoring bodies of his siblings and came to me
Brought home when he was old enough to leave his mummy & daddy. That's us now.

Brian Edward de Bedlam comes to the studio with us every day and pretty much every where we go he tags along. And exudes charm and other substances, some of them liquid, some of the solid. 

A few days after he had joined our household, we received a phone call at 8.00 am on August 8th from Alfred, whom we had met at Regent's Park on Mr Wesley's birthday. He asked if we could make a dinner jacket for Gregory Porter to wear that night at the BBC Proms "Battle of the Big Bands" as he had just got off a plane without his. We regretted that we could not work that fast. They asked if we had a sample in his size - which is as substantial as his talent, at 6'5". I was about to give them a number for Moss Bros when I remembered through the early morning haze that we still had lovely Dolf Sweerts' dinner jacket hanging on the rail. My first call was to him, to ask if we fancied vicariously performing at the Royal Albert Hall that night. With typically generous good humour he said of course, as long as he had it back by Wednesday. And so we delivered Dolf's jacket backstage at the RAH and Gregory looked and sounded magnificent in it.

Mr Wesley with Gregory Porter, backstage at the Royal Albert Hall
Gregory on stage in Dolf's dinner jacket
The next morning we arrived at the hotel to retrieve it and took Brian along in his basket. Gregory showed his appreciation of us having helped him out in a jam by ordering a three-piece suit and an extra waistcoat in, what else, Puppy Tooth check (son of Hound's Tooth).
Gregory Porter gets cuddly with Brian the puppy
The Puppy Tooth check Gregory chose from the latest  J&J Minnis bunch, Worsted Alsport II
Next to touch down was our own Nile Rodgers, in London to be reunited with Duran Duran and to work on their new album. We were honoured that he wished to give them, and Mark Ronson, a selection of our t-shirts So we presented ourselves at the studio and John Taylor came out to the reception, scooped up Brian and led us into the recording suite. Nile didn't stay too long as he had to have his latest cancer check on Harley Street - which we are relieved to report came back all clear. So he left the band to deal with the puppy pandemonium. Simon Le Bon next had his cuddles before offering Nick Rhodes his moment with Brian. Nick was occupied with his laptop and replied that he was alright, thanks. "What's the matter with you? Don't you like dogs?" demanded his band mates.
"Yes I like dogs, I just don't need one right now," was his response, and, indeed, his prerogative. So someone placed Brian on the cushion next to him. And of course, moments later, a river of wee rolled towards Mr. Rhodes.
Brian whispers to Simon; Nile in the background.
Nile in his Bedlam "Palio" jeans which we think he's taken off since he received them, but not much! Afterwards he posted, "I've just had a great week recording in Duran Duran's studio. I think we're closer than we've ever been."

Really extremely cute. And the puppy's not bad neither.
So there we have it, a Dog Blog with a wet nose, a warm round tummy, and a waggily tail. 

There is, however, a sad coda to this edition - we have referenced above two people, Wilko and Nile, who fought cancer and are thankfully now in remission. It was with great sadness that we learnt in June that our client Andy Wilson was not so lucky. We met him three times only, on the day he came to choose his fabric; at his fitting (after which he went straight to hospital for an operation); and on the day he came to collect it. So only three occasions, but we were honoured to know him at an extraordinarily intense, heightened time for him and his family. Although he was visibly weak, we were heartened to see the pleasure it gave him to take his finished jacket. Last week we saw Andy's wife Emma and she told us that their son is now wearing it for his dad. We hope it serves him well. 

Mr Wesley with Andy & Emma Wilson.  We take this memory of him smiling from our last meeting.