Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rise of the Romford Dandy

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rise of the Romford Dandy

Article excerpt


DUSK falls in Soho, and in a dimly lit secondfloor room in Brewer Street, a bald man in a pinstripe suit is fiddling with the clothing of a leggy, semi-clad blonde.

It's not what you think.

The man is Mark Powell, East End geezer turned West End character, and bespoke tailor to the likes of Naomi Campbell, Ant and Dec, Dan Macmillan and, er, me (he made my wedding suit - just admitting my conflict of interest early).

The young lady is one of the models for his catwalk show at the Savile Row restaurant Sartoria, his latest bid to launch a ready-to-wear collection. As Powell says: "On the credibility level, I've achieved all there is to achieve in the bespoke field. The only thing I haven't really achieved is money. When I go to bed at night, I stop earning."

Mark Powell's clothes - a bold, theatrical amalgam of City pinstripe and gangster garb that predated and undoubtedly influenced Lock, Stock-style "geezer chic" - are as instantly recognisable as the man himself. But the hands-on approach to tailoring that is his speciality is, by its nature, a financially precarious business. Out of the cost of each suit - around [pound]1,000 - Powell must pay for the services of cutters and stitchers, and the upkeep on his Soho studio. "There's no infrastructure for fashion in Britain, no one I can go to for help," he says. The leap from personal tailoring to retail is a hard one.

That said, Powell has already explored most avenues of the clothing industry. Born in the

East End and raised near Romford, his mother a theatrical costumier and his father an "ordinary working man" who once worked in a textile factory, Powell designed his first suit for a friend at the age of 18 ("though I'd been designing for myself from the age of about 12").

He did his apprenticeship in a gentleman's outfitters on Conduit street.

Aged 24, he opened his own shop, Powell and Co, in Soho.

The stock was a collection of mint Forties and Fifties suits Powell "found in a warehouse". …

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