I was thrilled to be invited to join the judging panel for the annual Golden Shears Award that took place last Monday, at the historic Merchant Taylors’ Hall in Threadneedle St in the heart of the city of London, which remarkably has been at the same site since 1347.
The Golden Shears award was set up in 1974 to recognise the talent of young tailors and to assess their skills in cutting, fit and style, with the tailoring firm with the highest overall score being presented with the award. One of my fellow judges was Deborah Meaden of Dragons’ Den fame who in reality is far removed from her television persona, and to whom I am eternally grateful for coming to the rescue of the illustrious woollen mill Fox Bros when it faced closure last year. Its future is bright and Hackett will now be assured of stocks of grey flannel for many years to come.
Deborah was accompanied by the irrepressible tailor Charlie Allen who has an impressive client list that includes Princess Anne. The fourth judge was Jerry McGovern, the highly respected design director of Land Rover who was impeccably turned out in a Henry Poole suit, as well built as the Range Rovers he creates. Finally, there was Roubi L’Roubi, who heads up his own couture company and whose ensemble would have been a hit on the catwalk that evening.
Fortified by a glass of wine, we took our places with clipboards and pens to hand, ready to begin scoring the twenty four finalists. Having been briefed that there was to be no conferring, and having no prior knowledge of any of the competitors, the catwalk show began with a hushed audience of over two hundred and fifty guests.
We had just over a minute to assess the outfits that were paraded before us. Avant garde creations sashayed down the catwalk, along with tweed Norfolk jackets and shooting suits. When walking back, one model flicked his cape over his shoulder to reveal a Union Jack which drew a huge roar of delight from the audience.
Whilst I had plenty of time to make my mind up, I found that within seconds I had made my decision. And while I appreciated many of the outfits, I found that the ladies tailoring was what I had scored highest - it was accomplished, polished and chic, and I would think that many international fashion houses will be casting an eye on this young talent.
On the menswear, I noticed details which I particularly liked such as unusual pocket arrangements, but in some cases it was obvious that great care had been given to the top half of the outfit but the trousers lacked a touch to bring the whole creation together. I would also have liked to have seen the outfits accessorised a little stronger; perhaps a hat here and there, or a bag or walking cane, particularly for a catwalk where you can be more playful.
There were anxious moments while the scores were being added up to decide the final winners and runners-up. In reverse order and for most promising new student, the award went to Lucinda Holbrook-Hasse for her double breasted jacket and flowered trousers. The silver shears were presented to Ichiro Suzuki from Henry Poole for his extraordinarily complex coat - I can only wonder how many man hours were spent in producing it. In first place and deserved winner of the coveted Golden Shears award was Yingmei Quan of Welsh and Jeffries, whose coat made from a worsted Fleur de Lille in grey and fawn worn with grey flannel slim leg cigarette trousers was elegant, refined and beautifully coordinated.
How appropriate that Yingmei chose to tailor a coat made from the Fleur de Lille pattern, which is the Prince of Wales’ arms, and who in turn has his uniforms made at Welsh and Jeffries. I sense a commission coming from the Duchess of Cornwall.
With proceedings coming to an end, I thought a rendition of God save the Queen would be in order - after all, the Merchants Taylors’ hall is where it was first sung and conducted by John Bull in 1607.