Edward Sexton

Sexton: Savile Row Rebel, Women’s Tailoring Pioneer

* Read in your language | 選擇文章語言

The passing of Edward Sexton, an iconic name in bespoke tailoring, has left the entire tailoring world in mourning. While numerous journalists have admirably summarised his illustrious career, this article aims to delve into Edward Sexton’s influence on fashion and style for both men and women. Rather than an all-encompassing review, we’ll explore his impact and contributions that transcend the realm of traditional tailoring.

Edward Sexton
Edward Sexton

The Rebel of the Row

Savile Row, known for its limited annual production of full bespoke suits, usually hovers below 10,000 pieces. As revealed by the man himself, Edward Sexton led an in-house team of 8 artisans in 2019, crafting 8 full bespoke suits weekly. This exclusivity, born from time-intensive artisanal work, limits its influence and popularity. For centuries, Savile Row has been synonymous with attire for politicians, military personnel, royals, and successful businessmen. The dignified pride in their craftsmanship forms a distinct universe, separate from fashion, hardly seeking the attention of the general public, who might hesitate to invest a significant amount in a single garment. This reserved nature of the tailoring trade has shielded Savile Row from the winds of street fashion and trends, despite Savile Row being only steps away from SoHo, where the wildest style brews. 

The narrative took a dramatic turn on Valentine’s Day in 1969, when two young fellows, Tommy Nutter (25) and Edward Sexton (26), disrupted the status quo. They opened the door of their tailoring house at 35a Savile Row (before them, no new tailoring house was opened on the Row for a whole century), making suits that are everything but conservative. “Nutter’s main innovation was to combine the faultless craftsmanship of Savile Row with the risqué street fashion being exhibited by the Mods on Carnaby Street”, commented Lance Richardson, the author of House of Nutter, the Rebel Tailor of Savile Row. If Tommy was the mind, Edward was the hand, the striking look of Nutter’s, designed by the visionary socialite Tommy Nutter and realised by the skilled hand of Edward Sexton’s, made the formidable duo the dresser of top stars with clientele from The Beatles to The Rolling Stones. Timothy Everest, who worked for Nutter for five years, once said: “Without Edward, you could not translate Tommy’s ideas”. The work of Sexton went immortal in 1969, as he cut the suits for three members of The Beatles on the cover of their eleventh studio album Abbey Road. Their success resonated widely, kindling a desire among young people for that signature swinging look through tailored garments. Even the traditional bespoke clients would ask their tailor to cut the lapel wider to accommodate the evolving style. 

The Beatles | Abbey Road
Tommy Nutter
Nutters of Savile Row
Elton John in armchair during 1976 tour© David Nutter
Mick Jagger & Bianca Jagger in Nutter's Jacket
Mick & Bianca Jagger in Nutter's suit on their wedding day
1974. Lord and Lady Montagu of Beaulieu, in Edward Sexton for Tommy Nutter.
Previous slide
Next slide

The Sexton Style

The partnership between Nutter and Sexton terminated in the 80s, leading to Sexton establishing his own eponymous tailoring house. Sexton is always aspiring to develop his own looks. At the age of 13, he was already re-designing the unattractive trousers his mom bought him from local stores into a more fashionable Teddy Boy style. Trained as a cutter (a cutter is the one who creates patterns for clothing, pattern making is a crucial step to realise any designs) at the early stage of his career, first under the equestrian tailor Harry Hall and later after Fred Stanbury of Kilgour, French & Stanbury, he acquired the ability to cut patterns precisely and create the look in his imagination. Even while conforming to established house styles during working hours, Sexton would privately experiment, infusing his personal touch into garments made for clients beyond the workplace. “When I work alongside them (other tailoring houses), with their styles, but always at the back of my mind was my own style I wanted.” 

Edward Sexton
the young Edward Sexton (right)

Sexton curated his distinct signature look in the vibrant backdrop of the 1960s and 1970s pop culture, inspired by the elegance artier in the 30s and 40s on the silver screen. With accentuated shoulders, splendid lapels, high armholes, a nipped-in waist, and a lengthened jacket hem covering the seat to elongate the legs, his designs embodied an architectural elegance. While thinking some of Nutter’s designs “became too theatrical and too stage wear only”, Sexton embarked on a more sophisticated and well-balanced approach. Despite having a distinctive strong look, Sexton always believed that “a client should wear the garment, the garment should never wear the client”, so he would listen to his customers carefully and adjust his signature style according to the preference and proportions of his clients’. 

Edward & Stella

Sexton’s prowess garnered recognition from esteemed fashion designers and tailors who embraced his concepts. Ralph Lauren, in his Purple Label, incorporated the ventless jacket popularised by Nutter and favoured by Sexton. The likes of Tom Ford, Ozwald Boateng, and Richard James drew inspiration from his work. Sexton’s expertise extended to developing ready-to-wear collections for legendary designers such as Hardy Amies, Chester Barrie, and Bill Blass. Contemporary fashion icons Rick Owens and Stella McCartney also sought his guidance.

Among those collaborations, Stella McCartney’s journey with Edward Sexton holds particular significance. Her apprenticeship with Sexton during her time at Central Saint Martins, coupled with her subsequent role as Creative Director of Chloé, showcased the profound influence he had on her design philosophy.

Edward Sexton & Stella McCartney
Edward Sexton & Stella McCartney

Stella’s parents, Paul and Linda McCartney, had been long-time clients of Edward Sexton. When Paul mentioned that Stella was going to Central Saint Martins for her fashion degree, Edward suggested Stella do an old-fashioned apprenticeship at his workshop as he could impart her skills that fashion schools don’t teach. So, while attending CSM, Stella took time in the evenings to be trained under Sexton as a tailor. Edward was also helping her with her graduate collection at CSM, dressing her supermodel friends Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, and Yasmin Le Bon, who walked her graduation show. “My years spent as an apprentice to Edward were some of the most memorable and valuable in my career.” Stella McCartney told WWD.

 

 

In 1997, the then 25-year-old Stella McCartney was pointed to the new Creative Director of Chloe, succussing Karl Lagerfeld. The fashion industry grumbled that she landed it because of who her father is rather than for her talent. “She once said to me, ‘Can you imagine having a father that someone would never say no to you?’ So, she was very desperate to have her own identity,” Sexton remembered. Stella’s tenure at Chloé (she helmed the label from 1997 until 2001) brought a breath of fresh air to the storied French fashion house, and when Stella was designing for Chloé, she invited Edward as the design consultant.

Kate Moss for Chloé
Kate Moss, Chloé 1998 SS
Cholé by Stella McCartney
Cholé by Stella McCartney
Naomi Campbell in Chloé
Naomi Campbell, Chloé 1998 SS
Chloé by Stella McCartney
Chloé by Stella McCartney
Chloé by Stella McCartney
Chloé by Stella McCartney
Chloé by Stella McCartney
Chloé by Stella McCartney

Edward Sexton’s influence on Stella McCartney’s Chloé-era design can be seen in the fusion of structured tailoring techniques with a modern, feminine sensibility. From lace-trimmed slip dresses to corsets, Stella’s collections at Chloé exuded a sense of contemporary femininity and effortless elegance. Her designs often featured flowing silhouettes, delicate embellishments, and a soft colour palette, creating a romantic and ethereal aesthetic that became synonymous with her Chloé era. At the same time, she introduced sharp tailoring from Sexton’s constructed shoulders, splendour lapels and svelte silhouette, which gives Stella’s feminine approach armour against the hostilities and speculations. “It’s a mix of things. I’m a person of contrasts. I’ve noticed that. I’m trying to find a moment when masculine and feminine meet.” Stella explained this contrast in her taste.

 

Edward recalled how the collaboration started:

(Tailoring and fashion) It's a totally different business. But the thing was, Chloé is what we call a flare, soft, silky, flowy. What I do is core. Stella understood the core clothing of me. When she went to Chloé to produce core clothing, they didn't have a clue.

Initially, there was a disparity between Chloé’s soft and flowing aesthetic and Sexton’s structured tailoring for women. However, he successfully adapted this approach to mass production. The juxtaposition of Sexton’s core tailoring and Chloé’s soft, flowing aesthetic eventually led to a successful blend that resonated with audiences. And the collaboration is mutually beneficial: “Seeing how a big fashion house in Paris was run was one of the highlights of my career.” Sexton said.

Stella McCartney with Naomi Campbell Rex
Stella McCartney with Naomi Campbell in Sexton's tailoring suits

Tailoring for Women

Edward Sexton was among the first, if not the first, to properly dress women in suits. Twiggy, Bianca Jagger, Yoko Ono, and Neomi Campbell are all his clients. “What I’ve always loved is how my suit template – which is very masculine in its structure – can really change something on a woman. It’s rewarding to see a woman’s reaction to what a suit can do for her frame, to balance things, change proportions. I wish more women knew about how special a suit can make you feel,” he says.

Edward Sexton fitting Naomi Campbell
Edward Sexton fitting Naomi Campbell

It’s widely recognised that tailoring for women presents greater challenges compared to men’s clothing. Catering to a woman’s body contour is a task that most conventional tailors would shy away from. Luckily, Edward was not one of them. “You have to be a lot more aggressive with ladies’ work to fit their wonderful curves. A lot of the companies I worked with possibly could do it, but they don’t want to do it. I wanted to do it, and I went out on my way to find out how to do it”. His ability to adapt traditionally masculine techniques to create empowering women’s clothing was revolutionary. Sexton understood the nuances of tailoring for women’s curves, challenging the conventions that often hindered proper fitting. This dedication to empowering women through tailoring shows his pioneered spirit of feminism.

 

While the fashion industry often lacks proper tailoring pieces for women, Sexton’s efforts and legacy stand as a beacon of change. His commitment to redefining femininity through structured tailoring serves as an inspiration for industry professionals. Edward Sexton’s dignified work and distinctive style should continue to be celebrated, with hopes that it sparks a broader re-evaluation of proper tailoring for women.

 

Edward Sexton’s legacy transcends the confines of traditional tailoring, leaving an indelible mark on fashion and style for both men and women. His collaborations, innovative approach, and dedication to empowering women through proper tailoring have solidified his position as a true pioneer in the industry. As the fashion world evolves, Sexton’s contributions continue to inspire and challenge the norms of design and tailoring. His timeless influence will undoubtedly continue to shape the sartorial landscape

 

Harry Styles in Sexton suits @hsfasharchive
Harry Styles in Sexton suits @hsfasharchive
Harry Style in Sexton suits @hsfasharchive
Harry Style in Sexton suits @hsfasharchive
>
error: Content is protected !!

We use cookies to tailor your experience, measure site performance. By clicking on ‘Got it’, you agree that cookies can be placed. You can view our privacy policies here.

Make your inbox in style

Style Digest, Fashion Decoding & Artisan Insight

Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

AGNES SELECT MOTIF