Abercrombie Moves Forward with Savile Row Store Despite Protests

A historic London street is not excited for its next neighbor

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Luke MacGregor / Reuters

A police officer passes Gieves and Hawkes on Savile Row, in London August 21, 2010.

London’s Savile Row, dominated by bespoke tailor shops specializing in hand-made suits, drips with the city’s history. The street is the former home of the Royal Geographical Society, where the 19th century upper crust planned expeditions to far-away lands. It’s also the street where the Beatles’ Apple Corps multimedia corporation set up shop, and the same building provided the rooftop where the Beatles played their last live performance in 1969. Now, the old Apple Corps building and Savile Row has been earmarked to be home to an (American) Abercrombie and Fitch children’s store.

Unsurprisingly, the Brits are livid. Last year, Londoners in perfectly tailored suits staged a protest outside the earmarked store, bearing signs saying, “Fitch Off Abercrombie (Please)” and “Give Three-Piece A Chance.” And in March, the local council squashed many of Abercrombie’s plans for the store, including the blacked-out and strip-lighted windows and flagpole that contribute to the nightclubby ambiance that the chain is known for. The council also banned Abercrombie from holding a launch party in light of an Abercrombie store opening nearby in 2007 that featured bare-chested male models and the sort of loud music that bespoke tailors, expectedly, don’t enjoy.

Savile Row tailors say they’re worried that the new store might sully the personality of the street and bring hordes of scantily-dressed teenagers to the upscale area. “Our clientele is more Tatler and Country Life than Hello! magazine,” Mark Henderson, chairman of tailoring company Gieves & Hawkes and the Savile Row Bespoke Association told the London Evening Standard newspaper.

There’s also an economic reason for their concern: the encroachment of an international chain into the well-dressed Savile club might spell higher rents for the historic tailors, who say they would be forced to move.

Nevertheless, Abercrombie isn’t budging. “We are excited to be a part of Savile Row and are now moving forward with planning and construction of the store,” the company said in a terse statement. And the store’s debut on Savile Row isn’t exclusively bad news for the tailors: it could bring new, young business to an industry that mostly caters to an older crowd.

After all, when the Beatles stormed onto the Savile Row scene, their presence was seen as an intrusion too.