“I respect people who live their lives through thick and thin, talented chance talkers living out of the box, doing want they want with conviction, and becoming unconventional celebrities”. Tom Baker uses tailoring to channel a fusion of gambling, womanising superstar, Paganini and Rock ’n Roll.
I met Tom talking with the self assured fluency of someone who knows their craft and lives according to their personal mantra. His shop in the heart of Soho shows no comprise to the ethos, where the law of Thelema so loved by Led Zeppelin is scribed above the window; “Do What Thou Wilt”. It is thus no coincidence that customers include Robert Plant, Alice Cooper, Mick Jagger and Barry Manilow to name just a fraction of the rock royalty crossing his threshold.
The Paganini reference is no less surprising when I learnt that Tom grew up helping his older brother build violins up in Scotland, a family business that imbued him with the love of hand made excellence. Being half Italian and with a natural ear for language, Tom then embarked to Manchester for a linguistics degree, feeling that his passion for customising clothing was not something to be taken seriously.
However, after graduating and roving Europe the lure of needle and thread could not be resisted. Tom was passionate about fashion and tailoring but hungered for technical knowledge. Savile Row, the Mecca of tailoring, was the obvious destination for any pilgrim of style after true knowledge of the craft.
Undeterred by a few rejections from the first doors he tried, Tom persisted and was awarded with an apprenticeship at No 14 Savile Row, the elegant home of tailor and Royal couturier Hardy Amies. Kenneth Fleetwood, described in his obituary 22 years ago as one of the most modest, discrete and charming fashion designers gave guidance and Tom’s talents flourished. As well as absorbing how tailoring was done properly from cutting through to canvasing, Tom also learnt how to put on a show. Unlike others on the row, Hardy Amies would regularly present in the airy first floor of the town house where models, mainly for the ladies wear collections, would sashay across the salon to the temp of classical beats.
Making a career move is always difficult but after five years Tom felt the calling to venture out on his own, spurred on by a “lovely old Italian lady working as a finisher at Anderson and Sheppard’ whom Tom used to enjoy conversing with in her native tongue. He laid down a £100 deposit on this own cutting board on Berwick street, within the tailoring fraternity it is common practice to work alongside all sorts of people and share the specialist skills of coat makers, trouser makers and finishers in one establishment. The Cypriot tailors at the centre of Soho proved an ideal location not only for haunts such as The Colony Rooms but also for meeting the customers who enjoyed Tom’s gothic aesthetics. Mick Jagger’s stylist searching for stage wear became an early fan and from then on the media types and talented musicians who gravitated to London’s bohemian club land became hooked on Tom’s potent mix of fine bespoke tailoring and dangerously dandy styling.
Unlike many Savile Row tailors who are content to continue with the patterns handed down to them, Tom is happy to experiment. He does this on his ready to wear collections by adding extra seams anywhere he fancies, seeing his creations as works of poetry, whereby the seams create an iambic, dactyl or even spondee metaphoric metre depending on his mood. And when his mood becomes particularly morbid Tom does not hesitant to blast his creations with a shotgun, literally blowing holes through the garments in a very unmetaphorical, although surprisingly commercial way.
We have worked with self monikered Sir Tom Baker (to avoid confusion with high street brand Ted Baker) on a few projects, the most noticeable being for Depeche Mode’s Delta Machine tour. The fabric brief from Martin Gore was for a modern punk stage look that would suit the new wave electronic music.
We combined fine Merino worsted yarns with silver and and black lurex, creating a shimmering check in shades of silver, black and blue. Tom tailored the fabric into separate jackets, waistcoats and trousers for each member of the band and on the world tour they were worn in various combinations throughout the show. The combination performed well, with the lurex catching the light and the wool holding it’s shape whilst wicking away any perspiration. The conflation of musicians and fashion was lauded by the crowds and encores demanded, another feather in the cap of tailor Tom Baker.
To find out more about Tom Baker do pop in and visit the shop at 4 D’Arblay Street, Soho, London W1F 8DJ or check out their website for more details
All the very best,
The Dashing Team