Scabal: Inside the Savile Rows’ best kept secret Hans | Style

earlier this year, while the whole Savile Row was actually, if not actually, on leave, Andrew P. Goldberg, national sales manager at Scabal, visited his friends at Anderson & Sheppard. The bespoke suitmaker, located on the parallel Old Burlington Street, had just been visited by another of his regulars, Daniel Craig. The outgoing James Bond, Goldberg’s friends informed him, had flipped through a book of fabrics (they are called bundles, the books of test papers you flip through at a tailor and, a good bit of tailoring, were actually invented by Scabal in 1938) and looked at cloths for a bespoke blazer to wear to the premiere of No time to die.

Goldberg tells the story several months later from the polished cutting table in Scabal’s own walnut and spotlight-heavy home on ‘the Row’. The premiere in 007 took place two days earlier – a premiere you will remember where Craig rocked the red carpet in the Royal Albert Hall in a fuchsia-pink double-breasted dinner jacket in velvet. It was, to be quite clear, one of the most talked about moments in menswear since, well, ever. The jacket, some called it raspberry, others cerise – let’s call it pink – had been cut by Anderson & Sheppard. The fabric, a 15 oz velvet-cotton blend, was woven by Scabal.

Two days after Craig’s catwalk smash, and there’s still a buzz about the Scabal showroom. The blazer continues to polarize social media (most people are into it) and generate comments from everyone from broadsheet style observers to former breakfast TV hosts. “You’re supposed to be an assassin with an exemplary sartorial taste, Mr. Craig … not an Austin Powers tribute,” a predictably combative Piers Morgan said on Twitter. You can not pay for that kind of PR. You can do it. Omega did. But Scabal did not.

“We even got a mention in Sunday Times“That jacket has created inquiries from all over the world,” says Goldberg.

Daniel Craig wearing a jacket made of Scabal fabric at the premiere of No time to die

If you’ve never heard of Scabal, whose blue-green flags flutter midway down Savile Row, between the reddish-brown finsign of better-known Huntsman & Son’s and the orange insignia of bespoke disruptors Cad & The Dandy, there’s a reason for it. In much of the company’s 83-year history, Scabal, which was established and is still headquartered in Brussels (‘Scabal’, pronounced ‘ska-ball’, is an acronym for Anglo Belgo German Commercial Company luxembourgsk), existed primarily as a textile supplier weaving fabrics from its Huddersfield-based mill and supplying them with some of the biggest names in fashion.

Tom Ford is a customer. The same goes for Alfred Dunhill, Balenciaga, Burberry, Christian Dior and Saint Laurent. There are shelves in the office at the back of Scabal’s store marked with the names of virtually all other tailors on and around Savile Row. Scabal delivers them all. “Scabal is the name you turn to when looking for luxury fabric,” Goldberg says. “Not premium fabric, but properly, best of the best luxury fabric.”

Scabal’s store on 12 Savile Row

Scabal is something of a unicorn in menswear, as it is both a mill and a grocery store. Here’s how it usually works: English clothing retailers with names you’ve never heard of, unless you happen to be in the game yourself, buy cloth from mills you’ve never heard of, mainly based in Huddersfield (which is for textiles, what Northampton is for) shoes) to be able to deliver bigger brands that you have probably heard of (Tom Ford, et al.). Scabal, which acquired Huddersfield’s historic Bower Roebuck mill in 1973 (a year after securing a storefront on Savile Row), is unique in that it is both a weaver and a grocer. Since 1989, the company has also produced clothing under its own brand.

Some history. Scabal broke ground in 1974 by producing a wool made from superfine fibers. For more than a century, since the Industrial Revolution mechanized the weaving process, the finest fibers made from any mill measured a width of about 18.75 micrometers (using today’s measurements); the finest wool fabrics or wool blends that become known as Super 100s or S 100s. Within 12 months of acquiring Bower Roebuck, Scabal had created the first Super 120 fiber cloth measuring 17.75 micrometers, followed by fabrics known as S150s (16.25 micrometers), S180s (14.75 micrometers) and even S200s (13).

“Our ‘Summit’ cloth is the finest and rarest worsted yarn on the planet,” says Goldberg. “A post-Super 200s cloth, it’s made from 100 percent wool and is so complex that it took us four and a half years to develop.”

‘Bunch’ books of test substances invented by Scabal in 1938

On a shelf behind Goldberg stands a black, leather-bound tome with the words ‘The Story of Scabal’ written on the back. Daniel Craig, it turns out, was not the first 007 to rock a suit cut from fabric made by Scabal. In 1995, the company decorated Pierce Brosnan GoldenEye. Scabal’s affiliation with Hollywood, explains a chapter called ‘Scabal and the Silver Screen’, began in the 1970s, when wardrobes in Hollywood (and on Broadway) began ordering costumes for their stars. It was Scabal that the legendary costume designer Anna Hill Johnstone approached when she was looking for period-specific suits for the main characters in Francis Ford Coppola’s groundbreaking The Godfather (1972). Outfits worn by Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and Sonny Corleone (James Caan) were all made of Scabal fabric. The film and its costumes earned Hill Johnstone an Oscar nomination.

Scabal’s relationship with Martin Scorsese started with Casino (1995). The epic crime drama in Las Vegas sees the mob-affiliated hotel king Sam Ace Rothstein (Robert de Niro) wear more than 40 clothes. To ensure an accurate depiction of changing fashion across the film’s timeline, stretching from the early ’70s to the mid’ 80s, Scabal Scorsese’s costume designers provided access to its design archives. The company has since helped Scorsese with outfits for Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, The Aviator and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Back at Savile Row, an ex-Arsenal footballer walks into the store, which sounds like the start of a joke, but it’s not. The former central midfielder (hint: he is currently the club’s technical director) is starting to make his mark through a selection of polo shirts and suede jackets. These days, Scabal makes more than just suits. Tommy Raban, Scabal’s smartly dressed, fast-as-a-broadgate broker showroom manager, teases the Arsenal man around the store.

What did Raban think of Craig’s pink jacket? “I loved it mate, the whole point of beautiful tailoring and clothing is freedom of speech.” Do you get a lot of famous people in here? “We comrades. Beckham, Tom Hiddleston, Lionel Richie. Although every face is famous. It is important to recognize everyone in the same way – everyone who wears Scabal becomes an ambassador.”

Pampered as I am, Raban offers to make a jacket for me. With Craig’s restless rig-out still in my mind, I opt for a six-to-two, double-breasted blazer of my own – albeit in a more multifunctional coffee-colored cotton. I need a dark brown tie.

Raban takes my goals, asks what lapse I would like (the Edward Nutter type thank you because I have always wanted a blazer with lapels all over the cartoon and you can not find them on the main street), ask me to choose from a collection of buttons (the dark mother of pearl looks good), give me a bunch of book with liners (I go for a pink-and-blue paisley that I think a little might work) and say “come and get it in four weeks”.

When I do, the jacket is a little tight under the arms, which, Raban explains, may be due to Scabal’s house style being to have higher than typical armholes. There’s also the fact that I’ve just returned from a honeymoon heavy on the paella. “No problem,” Raban says, whipping his tape measure forward, too polite to point out the extra timber. “Go away and come back in a few days.” Scabals clothes are cut and assembled in Portugal, but changes and finishes are carried out on the row.

When I return, Raban flips through one of the company’s velvet pile books. Craig’s cloth is not in there. It belongs to an older herd. This time, my blazer is inch-perfect. Raban says he wants a copy of Craig’s jacket made for Scabal’s window. Goldberg is not keen. He has only 30 meters left of things. “Plus,” he says, disappearing out the door to send another day’s of drug orders to the surrounding streets, “you just want to grab it and carry it out into town.” *

* Raban must have got his wish because a few months later a copy of Craig’s jacket appeared in Scabal’s windows. However, we have not yet found him out in the city.

Read more: In conversation with Dolce & Gabbana


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