Style Curious

04/02/2009

Curiously cutting edge tailor, Tom Baker


Tom Baker is half Italian and half English, with a mother from Rome and a father from Newcastle – a curiously exotic and unusual combination! He actually studied modern languages before training to be a tailor at Hardy Amies. He says he was “a late starter and a long term doer”. He started from the bottom, working for other designers before developing his own look and identity and he set up business modestly from his workroom a couple of years ago, only recently opening his new shop, Sir Tom Baker, in London's Soho. ShopCurious is now the exclusive online stockist of a limited selection clothing and accessories sold under the Sir Tom Baker label.

I was curious to find out why Tom decided to become a tailor. He says that tailoring was in his blood from an early age: “It was an instinctive desire,” he says, “though totally irrational … my second eldest brother was a violin maker and had a workshop in Scotland where I spent my youth. I suppose that I felt that was the best place to be, amongst the chisels and the rib benders and that’s probably why I’m happiest when I’m in my current workshop in Berwick Street.” Essentially, tailoring satisfied Tom’s desire to work with his hands – he’s a very practical person. Tom was also a very young punk rocker and soon realized that there was a whole new language available to him in the form of inventing clothes – “it was a DIY thing”.


Tom says he’s curious about unusual features on human beings and imagines that people who are incredibly unusual looking, like Rossi de Palma, are as just as fascinating as they look. He’s also curious about mechanical stuff – like how to put a sleeve in a jacket. A shoulder lining is “a piece of sculpture – I’m really curious about how to achieve the best line. The way that things are made fascinates me – like how the gears on a bicycle are made to work”. Tom’s innate curiosity has enabled him to develop a strong awareness of what really good design should be – as well as a firm understanding the difference between a factory made and a bespoke garment.

Tom explains that men are a lot more discerning than women – “they’re not spontaneous purchasers”. His ideal customer is a creative person, like the milliner Stephen Jones, or fashion designer John Galliano – people who really appreciate what he does, but don’t have that expertise themselves. He loves making garments for people who have achieved greatness in their own métier and have high standards – like Robert Plant. In his ideal world, all his clients would be creative, respectful and solvent!


Tom is very unusual in that he upholds the tradition of the art of tailoring, but that he doesn’t shy away from being outrageous. He’s detests the formality of Savile Row, but still keeps an ‘English cut’, though he’s not afraid to use unusual embellishment. It’s especially important to get a suit to fit nicely, without being tight. Tom would like to open more shops, but not as a chain. He’d love to collaborate with a major design house like Norman Hartnell or Hardy Amies, though he’s aware that a big name doesn’t necessarily mean big money.

Tom is inspired by the world of rock music and the attitude of that industry and yet also mentions that he gains ‘sartorial and spiritual’ inspiration from Mozart. He loves the film China Town. He finds it amusing that some fashion designers gain inspiration from sitting on mountains in far-flung places. He’d rather listen to the words of John Cooper Clarke (a poet from Greater Manchester) any day.



Curiously, Tom finds the dress of Hasidic Jews and Andalusian gypsies sartorially interesting and is fascinated by cultures within cultures. He says that he doesn’t see the need for these to integrate – so long as they don’t go around hurting anyone else.  Tom’s favourite places are altogether more conventional and closer to home – Andrew Edmonds in Lexington Street and Soho in general – especially the 100 Club. Further afield, he likes going to West Finland, the Baltic coast, the South of Spain and to Paris.

If Tom could choose who to sit next to at dinner, it would be Beethoven (although he probably wouldn’t be able to hear a word of what he was saying!), as well as Pierre Cardin, Yves St Laurent and Angelica Houston. Anything else we should know? Tom speaks fluent English, Italian and French, he’s played schoolboy international rugby, he learned to swim at the age of 36 and he has never taken cocaine.

That should be enough to satisfy anyone's curiosity  – thanks Tom.