Memories of Edward Sexton  – Permanent Style

Edward Sexton, the English bespoke tailor, sadly passed away this week.

We were, as many readers will know, supposed to be holding a talk with Edward this past Spring, but his health has been poor for a while and that was postponed. 

In preparation for the talk, Edward and I had had a reminiscing talk together, going over the old days with Tommy Nutter, the celebrities and the personalities, and disrupting Savile Row. And that’s how he comes back to me now – looking intently as he made a point, gesticulating slowly, with an occasional curl at the corner of his mouth that would turn into a smile.

I didn’t know Edward anywhere near as well as many peers or customers, but we had many such interactions over the years. He and wife Joan were always front and centre at our Symposium talks in Florence – always curious, always interested. That’s them above at the Retail Symposium in 2017.

Two years earlier he had taken part in the tailoring iteration of that series, alongside the likes of Lorenzo Cifonelli, Antonio Panico and Antonio Liverano. There was a discussion at the Four Seasons (pictured top) and then a demonstration of styles in the atelier of Stefano Bemer (below).

Of those other tailoring greats, it was Lorenzo that Edward seemed the most like, and I remember the two spent a good time talking that day. Both had a similar mix of the serious and humorous – often smiling, welcoming, but turning on a sixpence to serious discussion as soon as it was raised. 

I remember I had an unexpectedly long conversation with Edward that evening about overcoats. 

He had a thing for long coats, and bemoaned their ever-shortening proportions – couldn’t understand it as a fashion choice or a practical choice. I agreed, obviously, wholeheartedly, and we spent the next half an hour discussing our perfect coat, with its length, its drama, and a satisfactory buttoned-up-to-the-chin quality. 

A couple of months later we started work on making a similar model – which I’ve worn with joy ever since, even as it evolved and was shortened, always in consultation with Edward. 

Talk during our fittings was rather more limited, with most of it around particular cloths or aspects of fit that Edward preferred. 

He liked a jacket to cover the seat completely, so that from the rear (or from the front with a double-breasted) the legs seemed to have no end, running up into the jacket and theoretically carrying on forever. There was a parallel there with a woman’s skirt which I always thought hinted at the sexiness of Sexton clothing – for men and for women. 

Edward’s occasional comment about cloth was always worth noting, for example regarding Lesser’s or Lumb’s Golden Bale, because they came from experience and you came to Edward for a very particular look, so it made sense to use whatever cloth he liked for that particular look. 

Over the years we made two suits to compliment the coat – a grey flannel DB and a brown linen DB – and they will both be more special now, simply because they are means to remember someone you always felt you got on with, and enjoyed being with. 

I remember when we were preparing for our talk, sitting outside The Service, Edward said something like, “the talk will be great Simon, you’re always good at putting people at their ease”. I can’t think of a greater compliment as an interviewer, and I suspect it’s one that will stay with me.

The other thing that struck me during that talk was how radical Edward and Tommy were back in the 1970s. 

Not so much for the exaggerated styling of the clothes, or the celebrities that came to the Row for the first time, but the overall anti-establishment attitude. At one point their shop – on the western side of the Row – had a window display of dustbins and dancing stuffed rats.

Everyone that has been heralded as ‘shaking up the Row’ ever since pales by comparison, whether it’s the nineties Richard James/Timothy Everest/Ozwald Boateng generation, or the various streetwear and other iterations since. 

Everything seems suddenly more commercial and mediocre. 

I’m sure every other article online at the moment will tell about the tailoring on Abbey Road, the suits for Mick and Bianca, jumpsuits for John and Ono, dressing Bowie, Hockney, Sir Hardy Amies. It really is an incredible list. 

But arguably Edward’s work was more significant for the impact it had on industry – for the different ways he worked. 

What started with innovations like women’s tailoring later extended naturally into making costumes for Poor Little Rich Girl and other films; becoming a consultant to Wilkes Bashford and then Saks Fifth Avenue in the US; and curating Stella McCartney’s first collection for Chloe. 

All the time he was breaking new ground. 

Besides, as he told me during that chat: “I didn’t know most of the celebrities, Simon – Tommy brought them in, promised them the world, and then I had to deliver it!” He was much closer to Paul and Stella McCartney, later, than to the crowd around Nutter’s in the seventies. 

Thank you, Edward, for our times together. And my absolute best wishes to Dominic and the whole Sexton team as they take the company forward. 

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