OPINION - A tailoring academy on Savile Row suits London, so of course it's likely to be rejected

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The police station at 27 Savile Row is not, perhaps, a thing of beauty, but it has a certain bleak integrity in its Forties way. The Met left it in 2017, which I think was a pity, and now there’s a proposal coming before Westminster City Council next week for its replacement — though the planning committee have recommended they reject it.

Anything built on the row gets reflected glory from the tailors there, one of the last trades in the city which calls for a formidable range of skill and long apprenticeship.

The one good thing about the proposed new block is that it would give space to an academy for tailoring which is right by the outfitters who will employ the trainees. The space would be deep in the basement, but it would be specially designed for the purpose. And it’s that proposal which would justify the development.

It’s not the buildings that make Savile Row precious, it’s the skills it embodies — that beastly word, brand

What’s also needed in Savile Row is dedicated good-value workspace for the tailors; at present some are struggling to hold onto space to make actual suits against landlords who would like to rent it out as more lucrative offices. And that workspace is possible with the new proposals.

Edward Sexton is a terrific tailors on Savile Row, and Dominic Sebag-Montefiore there was in no doubt that the police station had to go. “It feels like somewhere you want to get out of. It has a really depressing feel to it,” he said.

An intimidating vibe is fine for a police station; less good where you want people to rejoice in beautiful clothes. Usually I’m all for retaining older structures since they’re often better built than their replacements and demolition is environmentally damaging but some things are hard to retrofit. The old English Heritage building once opposite the station was a much bigger loss, but that demolition went ahead. It’s good if Westminster council is learning from its old mistakes — just not here.

Really, what the council should be doing is asking the tailors’ association what they need to flourish. There are some protected rents for tailors but few of them and poorly supervised. It’s not the buildings that make Savile Row precious, it’s the skills it embodies — that beastly word, brand. The tailors must be cherished; let’s start here.

Melanie McDonagh is an Evening Standard columnist