Savile Row in London has long been a name synonymous with fine tailoring, exclusive clientele and hefty price tags. Many of the retail commercial properties on the road have been established there for many years, with consumers visiting the area to obtain original pieces made to measure specifically for them.
But amongst the sea of tweed suits and hand stitched ball gowns lies the newest store of American retail giants Abercrombie & Fitch – a neighbour not all business owners and customers of London’s most exclusive shopping street are all too happy about.
The controversy started in 2007, when Abercrombie & Fitch opened a store on Mayfair’s Vigo Street, a mere stone’s throw from Savile Row itself. Even then, surrounding stores voiced concerns that the American chain would lower the tone of the genteel area – fears which were not dispelled by the nightclub-themed opening of the commercial property. The launch drew crowds of teenagers not commonly seen in the expensive district, as well as displaying semi-dressed models and playing loud club music. Stores in the vicinity complained that Abercrombie & Fitch were putting shoppers who frequented the area off with the loud music and “tasteless” dressing of models.
Fast forward to 2012, and Abercrombie & Fitch are once more preparing to host the opening of a store in Mayfair – this time on Savile Row itself. Although the new store will sell only children’s clothing, surrounding business owners were concerned that a raucous launch party similar to the one in 2007 would have a negative effect upon their custom.
Therefore, following a series of petitions, protests and lobbies by Savile Row enthusiasts, Westminster Council have placed a ban upon any over the top events taking place in the new Abercrombie & Fitch store to celebrate the opening. In fact, the local council have put in place measures to prevent the store from inviting celebrity guests to the launch, which could prove to be something of a disappointment for the store given its status as a firm favourite of many celebrities.
In response, Abercrombie & Fitch intend to appeal against the restrictions. However, as yet they have failed to issue a statement regarding their future strategy to the press.
Local store owners are still seething at the mainstream commercial property’s establishment on Savile Row, which has never housed a high street brand until this point.
Chairman of Gieves & Hawkes, and also of the Savile Row Bespoke Association, Mark Henderson said; “Slapping an American kids’ shop in the middle of Savile Row would be a knife in the gut for us.
“This street is unique. There are 100 tailors in our workshops. Abercrombie & Fitch are brilliant at what they do, but $30 shirts are not Savile Row.
“We have celebrity clients but they get dropped off by limo and come to shop in privacy. It’s not about lining everybody up to stare open-mouthed at them in a red carpet.
“Our clientele is more Tatler and Country Life than Hello! magazine.”
Do you believe that Abercrombie & Fitch should be allowed to hold a lavish launch for their latest store, or do you agree with the Savile Row shop owners that the pedigree and prestige of the area should be respected? Would you shop at Abercrombie & Fitch on Savile Row, or would the enmity of neighbouring business owners put you off?