Tempus meets Andrew Ramroop, the owner of legendary Savile Row tailor Maurice Sedwell
He’s dressed the rich, the famous and the royal – and has firm views on who really was the best dressed Bond
Jamaica, 1962, and CIA agent Felix Leiter points his Walther PPK at James Bond’s ribs. “Interesting,” he remarks. “Where were you measured for this, bud?”
The reply: “My tailor. Savile Row.”
It’s an understated and brilliant introduction to the longstanding friendship between two of the silver screen’s coolest spies. But that fleeting banter between Jack Lord and Sean Connery in Dr No was all that was needed to introduce an essential character to the world’s most famous film franchise: Savile Row tailoring.
In nearby Trinidad and Tobago, a teenage Bond-loving tailoring apprentice was having his own horizons widened by such sartorial talk. In time, Savile Row would be a world that would fit him like a bespoke suit.
Andrew Ramroop is the owner and managing director of Maurice Sedwell in London’s Savile Row. Among a vast number of awards, including 2017 Black Business Person of the Year, he was awarded an OBE in 2008 – the first Savile Row tailor to be awarded the honour – the same year he established the Savile Row Academy.
His clients have included cricketer Brian Lara and film stars Tony Curtis, Samuel L Jackson and Diamonds are Forever actor Charles Gray. “I knew him very well, he became a friend and I made suits for him for years. He was great fun to work with.”
It’s all a long way from Trinidad, where Ramroop grew up in “very humble circumstances”. He made his first pair of trousers out of a pillowcase aged nine, and by 14 was working for the village tailor, before wangling a tailoring apprenticeship in the Port of Spain. Ramroop’s employer had trained at the Tailor & Cutter Academy in Soho’s Gerrard Street and talked often about Savile Row. So, when 007 arrived on the silver screen clad in suits from that famous London location, it only further fuelled his dreams of one day working on the famous “golden mile of tailoring”.
Ramroop saved $1,000 over three years and bought a ticket to Southampton, departing in July 1970. At first, the UK proved a bit of a culture shock. “Even though I spoke English, it was a very different English,” he says. “It took a little while to understand how people speak.”
He made himself two suits; a brown-check that he wore, and a green-check with an inverted box pleat instead of a vent, which he brought to Savile Row while looking for a job.
That first Monday morning, he was hired by Andrew Sinclair – only to be fired 20 minutes later when a white English candidate turned up to interview for the same position. Ramroop’s double-breasted suit was noticed, however: a telephone call to Colin Hammick was made and, by 10.30 that same Monday morning, he was working for Huntsman.
There, Ramroop sewed in the workroom, but he really wanted to be out front. Packing himself off to the London College of Fashion, he completed the three-year course in two years – and received a diploma of distinction, created just for him. Nevertheless, he still found himself struggling to get jobs. Ramroop attributes his difficulties not to overt racism on the Row but, rather, to a lack of “confidence that [employers could] keep customers if they had a Trinidadian in the front of the shop”.
New employer Maurice Sedwell had him mainly doing admin and alterations, until Ramroop finally convinced his boss that he needed to be present at fittings to suggest improvements. A fitting with MP Mark Lennon- Boyd, then Parliamentary private secretary to the Secretary of State for Energy, finally opened the doors to the wardrobes of the rich and powerful that young Ramroop had dreamt of.
Soon, he was doing fittings for six members of then-PM Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet, and further went on to make clothes for Diana, Princess of Wales – most famously the inky blue cashmere jacket she wore for her 1995 Panorama interview with Martin Bashir – and a host of celebrity names.
The relationship between tailor and customer is of the utmost importance to Ramroop – who was the first to coin the term ‘bespoke tailors’ in 1994 – and one he believes has shifted since the pandemic. It’s been “a real challenge. Our core business, the clothing, is very relationship based, very touchy feely... And then suddenly no one’s allowed to travel.”
With 70% of the business being export, the travel ban made things tricky. “As soon as I was able, I popped on a plane and went off to the US to get reacquainted with some customers.” Thankfully, the orders are pouring in.
In terms of style, Ramroop thinks sophistication of tailoring will return as we emerge from the pandemic and start to pack away our leisure wear.
“There’s so much in the wardrobe to be worn and has not been worn. People want to get back to some semblance of normality. But it won’t be throwaway clothing,” he says. “Customers really want to wear something that not only looks good, but actually feels fantastic to wear. People want to wear luxury now. We are committed to delivering excellence so that is what we deliver.”
Perhaps people are redefining their style to psychologically lift them out of this time – a reset, to change how they want to be seen. “That is actually happening,” he confirms, adding that sports jackets and tailored jeans seem to be especially popular. “I work on expressing an individuality for customers.” For Ramroop, a customer does not come to Maurice Sedwell to buy a suit but rather, “to commission a sartorial image”.
The Bond-loving tailor is recently returned from New York, having been invited to talk on the importance of 007’s sartorial image. “Bond’s image is one of sophisticated elegance, but it’s also to some extent a little deceiving, because you’d get the impression he’s a businessman. This is the secret agent in all of us... a suit can also be a disguise.”
Oh, and incidentally: Connery was his favourite Bond, From Russia With Love his favourite film but Daniel Craig in Casino Royale was his best-dressed 007.