What Savile Row can teach you about social media

In Japansese, the word for suit is ‘Sabiro’ – an echo of ‘Savile Row,’ the most famous street of tailors in the world.

Savile Row in London has been hand making ‘bespoke’ suits and military uniforms for more than 300 years. It’s a street of tailoring houses collectively known as ‘The Row,’ a brand that transcends the individual businesses it’s made from.

Dave on his wedding day Red Platypus

The Row is very, very exclusive and very, very expensive. I should know; I had my wedding suit made there!

In the not so distant past you needed to be introduced to a tailor on the row by an established client just to get an appointment. The bill was almost never discussed and the design houses and tailors never advertised; it just wasn’t needed. A gentleman’s agreement and word of mouth was enough to keep business flowing and stitches sewing.

How times have changed for Savile Row

The rise of ‘off the rack’ suits and competition from tailors offering similar quality but lower prices around the world caused Savile Row’s business to shrink for many years. Orders dried up and many tailoring houses cut themselves to the quick to keep going.

Despite this downward trend, many tailors on the row resisted changing their ways. After all, they have been well served by word of mouth and reputation. There was a perception that advertising, promotion and other sales techniques would impinge on the dignity of Savile Row.

Perhaps they are right. There is a certain advantage to preserving the old way; after all, many people still like to feel they are buying something far removed from the way rest of the world carries on.

Savile Row alters its pattern to fit the times

Many tailoring houses have had enough and are finally embracing social media as a way to win more clients, further enhance their reputations and celebrate the work they do.

Check out this partnership between Chivas Regal whisky and Savile Row Bespoke – the association of tailors on the row.

Savile Row and Chivas Whisky partnership Red Platypus

Chivas is one of the world’s oldest and most well known British whisky labels while Savile Row is a top London fashion and clothing name. Put them together and you have ‘two houses both alike in dignity’ to borrow from Shakespeare.

The idea of the partnership is to celebrate British craftsmanship through events, advertising and social media.

Recently on Facebook I spotted an advert for Chivas whisky tastings at selected Savile Row houses, inviting potential clients and supporters to the events. I thought it was a great idea. There is certainly a demand for tailored suits and the market for whisky is huge. Why not combine them? Those who attend the events get to taste whisky cocktails made with Chivas while also having a look at the tailor’s craft, speaking to the cutters and getting an idea of how Savile Row works.

The wider effect of social media

An event like this helps break down the barriers that may have been preventing a swathe of buyers from engaging the services of Savile Row while also reinforcing the reputation of Chivas.

The fact the event is promoted on Facebook allows Savile Row to access a younger demographic who may have otherwise seen it as too exclusive or mysterious – and once they go and are suitably impressed (and dressed!) they will likely share the experience on Facebook or another social media channel like Twitter – further spreading the word.

Savile Row’s brave decision to embrace social media is an example to any business still skeptical about the power of social media.

A US Navy Rear-Admiral named Grace Hopper once said ‘the most dangerous phrase in the English language is we have always done it this way.’

If that sounds like your attitude to your company’s marketing strategy then take a leaf out of Savile Row’s ancient and ever evolving style book and make a change.

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