There’s few people in menswear I trust like Brandon Capps. Before there was tumblr, there was Drinkin’ and Dronin’, one of the original free-scrolling image inspiration boards the could cover everything from turn of the century naval jackets, to cell-phone pics of beer cans, to Pitti street style, to multi-colored brogues, and everything in between. It was a grab bag of just about anything you could imagine, a fitting format for a guy who’s style is as inspirational and diverse as the photos he posted. While Drinkin’ and Dronin’ has subsequently made the jump to Tumblr, and Brandon has found a home as Billy Reid’s made-to-measure specialist, the blog lives on, and I still look forward to Brandon’s smattering of posts, as they’ve always lead me down some interesting paths.
Recently, Brandon has turned my attention to Patrick Grant, another young style savant. It’s tough not to smirk at the cheeky photos of Grant that Brandon’s been posting, impeccably dressed and stone-faced sitting amongst a flock of gorgeous models at some party. For all that Grant’s accomplished over the past year on Saville Row, and on a larger scale as well, it’s only right that he gets some attention, not just from those models, but from us all.
Patrick Grant arrived on the scene in 2005 as an unlikely candidate to revive Norton & Sons, one of Savile Row’s much illustrious tailoring houses, a business that had once clothed Winston Churchill and Edward VII. Armed with zero experience in tailoring or fashion, in 2005 Grant was working for Bookman Technology, one of the world’s largest optics company. Seeing his potential, the company had sent him to the University of Oxford’s Saïd School of Business to earn an M.B.A., and it was here that one day, by chance, Grant happened to be eating alone when he stumbled upon an ad in the Financial Times. As a life-long clothing fanatic, Grant’s interest was piqued by the notice that put Norton & Sons on the chopping block after watching their business steadily decline over the past decade or so.
Halfway through his program, Grant decided to leave Bookman and spend his remaining time at school doing research on how to turn around Norton & Sons. Grant graduated from Saïd in October, and with two classmates as partial investors, Grant sold his house, his car, took out a loan, and used the remainder of his severance package from Bookman to scrape together enough money to purchase Norton & Sons in December of 2005. The business started out quite small, with just one tailor, one part-time cutter, and Grant left to do the remainder of the work, but slowly the pulse returned to Norton & Sons. As Grant grew Norton & Sons back into a Savile Row powerhouse with several hundred customers, seven tailors, and two cutters, he decided to take on a new endeavor in 2008, by bringing back E. Tautz & Sons. Once a subsidiary label to Norton & Sons, E. Tautz had unfortunately experienced the same disappearing act as it’s parent company, and had fallen out of the public eye long ago.
With two forgotten companies from the 19th century firmly in the palm of his hand, Grant has molded them not back into their original forms, but into labels ready for a 21st century audience. Norton & Sons, which was founded by Walter Grant Norton in 1821, has a lush history and a laundry list of famous past clients, but by the early aughts they were cutting fewer than a couple hundred suits a year. In 2005, Grant bought the company for a figure that he has described as “you could pay more for a car. We’re not talking millions but hundreds of thousands of pounds,” and since then they’ve built back up to three-hundred fifty suits a year, and have reclaimed their rightful place as one of Savile Rows brightest beacons. Their cut could be described as understated English. Their suits don’t ooze with overwrought details, rather they embrace clean lines, and a form-fitting silhouette, with much of the substance centered up-top in the typical British fashion.
As for E. Tautz & Sons, which was established in 1867 by Edward Tautz as one of England’s leading purveyors of Hunting-attire and sportswear, they had been purchased by Norton & Sons back in 1968, but had long since faded into obscurity by the time Grant snatched them up in 2008. Grant saw E. Tautz as a ready-to-wear label that pulled equally from their sporting past, and England’s tailoring tradition to create simple designs, all produced in the United Kingdom. It’s not fashion, and it’s not flashy, E. Tautz is the sort of brand that can look at and question if it’s from today or from fifty years ago, and of course I mean that in the best of ways.
To me that spirit is what is most significant about Grant – he makes clothes for right now, they’re a simultaneous homage to the past and a glance ahead. E. Tautz and Norton & Sons stand as a time capsule of menswear in 2012, it’s built for Cary Grant, but it’s also built for an up-and-coming generation that’ll already have the vocabulary for what they’re looking at. And that’s what I love about Patrick Grant, and why I think he should be heralded on so many levels. You look at Grant, and you can see E. Tautz and Norton & Sons in each stitch of his clothing (and no it’s not because all of his clothes are most certainly made by his own labels) because his style and his two brands all come from the same place, a place that is distinctly his own.
Without any training, Grant’s expertise comes from experience, it’s a life-time of observation, learning, and personal tinkering all compounded into his two companies. We talk a lot about “the best new this and that,” but Grant proves that we really should be praising is flat-out curiosity. Here’s a man that was steered by his passion for clothing, a passion that ran a parallel narrative to his entire life. From his early days at boarding school where he’d compete with his classmates to see who was best dressed, to 2005 when he took a risk to redefine Savile Row on his terms, Grant understands that clothes must both embrace a heritage, and project a future.
Grant seems to see clothes through the lens of life, it’s a fascination, but it’s secondary to how you carry yourself, and who you become within those clothes. I like to view Grant’s vision for E. Tautz and Norton & Sons as that of a canvas, the clothes are for life, they’re for you to wear and live in and grow in, and that comes from Grant as a man first, and a clothing lover second.