Update – March 8th 2016: Bespoke Unit and its founder Paul Anthony have been thrilled to continue the relationship with Benson & Clegg in the 18 months since this inaugural article was written. You can now see a feed of related Benson & Clegg articles here. The craftsmanship and level of service have been second to none, across both the tailoring and accessories sides of the business. We all look forward to many more years of fine garments, accessories and trips to the heart of London tailoring that is Benson & Clegg, 9 Piccadilly Arcade, London, England.
– Original Text Below –
In July, Bespoke Unit traveled to London, the undisputed capital of tailoring and truly bespoke menswear. In the heart of the West End, we sat down with Mark Gordon, Director of Benson & Clegg, at their flagship store and workshop. We were struck by the simplicity of this arrangement: labor and commerce, coexisting under the same roof. In a world seemingly dominated by Machiavellian corporate interest, Benson & Clegg has resisted the temptation to send its workshops overseas.
The company is a true “heritage” brand, one that continues to produce exemplary products while employing time-honored artisan methods, and we found their values particularly consistent with our own. In a word, we “clicked.” Benson & Clegg is proof that, by sticking to your guns, and your past, you can succeed.
Mark discussed the history of the brand, and plans for the future.
An Interview With Benson & Clegg’s Mark Gordon
BU: Tell us about the history of Benson & Clegg.
Mark: The company was founded in 1937 by Mr Harry Benson & Mr Thomas Clegg. At the time, both were in the employ of the company Hawes & Curtis. But with nearly thirty years of experience between them, they decided the time was right to branch out, and bring their own unique tailoring style to customers.
It was at this point that Benson & Clegg was formed, establishing itself at its first premises of 34 Bury Street SW1. Naturally, many of their previous customers flocked to book appointments with their new venture, including many individuals from the worlds of stage and screen. In 1976, the company moved from Bury Street to its current location at Number 9, Piccadilly Arcade, Jermyn Street, where it has become a feature of the area and continues to serve those seeking quality and craftsmanship.
BU: What services does Benson & Clegg offer?
Mark: Benson & Clegg was founded as a bespoke tailors, and we’re proud that this continues to be our main offering. We specialise in hand made garments produced in accordance with the time honoured traditions of Savile Row and entirely from our workrooms in Mayfair.
We also offer a made-to-measure service for those looking to enter the world of personal tailoring. Bespoke and personal service is at the very heart of everything that we do. We offer customised cufflinks, ties, and badges. Many of the clubs and institutions in London and across the country come to us and request accessories for their members. We’ve been privileged to count some of the leading societies as our customers.
We also stock a huge range of gentleman’s accessories, with an extensive collection of blazer buttons, regimental and old school neckwear, blazer badges and cufflinks. Any man who counts being well dressed as a priority would do well to take a look at our services and products.
BU: What visibility does Benson & Clegg have abroad?
Mark: The interest in the Benson & Clegg brand has grown significantly over the years. At present our biggest international market is in America, though numerous independent retailers stock our products all over the world. We currently have our cufflink and button collections displayed in the department store Bloomingdales, and we’ve also been featured in J. Crew. Customer interest in China is starting to take off, and many tailors and menswear shops in Shanghai are now stocking our range. I’m currently working with UK Trade & Investment to develop our export programme, so you can expect to see an increased presence overseas. Naturally, we’re very excited.
BU: Can you tell us about the relationship Benson & Clegg has with the British royal family?
Mark: We know that one of the first customers to attend the shop and actually place an order was The Prince George, Duke of Kent. Perhaps our most famous customer at the time was Prince Albert, Duke of York, the man who, in 1936, would continue as our customer but take on a new title: His Majesty King George VI. This was a crowning glory for the company and would result in our being awarded formal recognition in 1944 with a prestigious royal warrant as his tailor.
Fast forward nearly 50 years and, in 1992, we were granted a royal warrant to HRH The Prince of Wales for the supply of buttons, badges and military neckwear. We’re incredibly proud of this relationship.
BU: How about Benson & Clegg’s link to the British military?
Mark: Many members of Britain’s Armed Forces know the items that Benson & Clegg produces, and we are often their first port of call when seeking a regimental tie, or indeed any new product.
I am currently in the process of designing and making a new regimental tie for an amalgamated British army unit which will be worn by the senior officers. We have also created buttons and cufflinks for a great number of clubs set up for members of various military divisions. Military personnel value attention to detail and precision, and I think that’s part of the reason they are drawn to Benson & Clegg.
BU: What is it that makes Benson & Clegg stand out?
Mark: I believe that our company stands out because we have always adhered to our core values, remaining true to ourselves and our history. We have not compromised a dedication to the highest quality, in favour of cutting corners to lower prices. We craft the highest quality UK-made products using skilled artisans and the finest materials, combined with superlative customer service. The Benson & Clegg name stands as an embodiment of those values upon which customers have consistently relied.
BU: What is your vision for Benson & Clegg’s future?
Mark: I’m passionate about letting the world know about the history, heritage and quality that Benson & Clegg has to offer. With that in mind, my colleagues and I have big plans about growing the brand and taking it forward. We’re looking at exciting new product lines and innovative expansion plans that will enable more people to become part of the B&C experience.
There is a definite appetite amongst men now to reconnect to the traditions of bespoke tailoring and the art of looking like a gentleman. That’s exactly what we provide. Benson & Clegg has been one of London’s best kept secrets for a long time, but the years ahead are going to see our company appear centre stage.
We left Mark to walk the store, and take a peek into Benson & Clegg’s workshop, with Tony Martin, the company’s owner and Head Cutter. Tony, a distinguished craftsman in his own right, told us about their exacting production process and his personal evolution as a tailor. You can find his interview here.