Holland & Sherry: Fine Fabrics of The Grand British Tradition
Posted: Aug 25 2015
Holland & Sherry truly epitomizes fine British fabric making, with its rich heritage and unquestionable quality. In this respect, one might even say that it represents the cornerstones of the entire tailoring industry of Great Britain, the birthplace of the modern suit.
Stephen George Holland & Frederick Sherry started their wool merchant business in 1836 and the company quickly became a mainstay source of fabrics for London's West End. To this day they remain a favorite supplier to the menswear mecca that is Savile Row.
To learn more, we sat down with Brian and Chris from Holland & Sherry when they visited us recently. “I’ve been with the company for over 50 years, but I’m retiring next year so Chris is taking over for me,” says Brian, who cut his sartorial edge selling fabrics to the Savile Row tailors in the 60s. “Back then, before the rents became astronomical, every shop on the Row was a bespoke tailor.”
Early on, Holland & Sherry became renowned for their fine woolen fabrics and soon expanded to include other fibres, such as cashmere, silk, cotton and linen. At one time their products contributed greatly to making textiles the chief export of Britain. Having stayed in the family for seven generations, Mr. Holland retired in the 80s, leaving the reins to new and innovative minds. “But we don’t know what happened to Mr. Sherry. Our records have no indication, he just vanishes suddenly. It’s turned into a bit of a legend. One theory is that he was killed in the war,” Brian tells us.
A testament to its resilience and strength of heritage, Holland & Sherry is the only remaining fabric merchant out of the dozens that were located on London’s historic Golden Square at the end of the 19th century. Since then it has moved its headquarters to the world’s best spot for tailoring inspiration, Savile Row. Its distribution center is located in the Scottish town of Peebles, where 10,0000s of rolls of Yorkshire worsted and Scottish tweeds are held, awaiting orders from tailors around the world.
From its beginnings as a merchant, the Holland & Sherry Group has grown to incorporate houseware items, retail operations and its own fabric mills. One is located in Chile, where expert craftsmen operate state of the art equipment to produce superb fabrics. “The convenience is extraordinary, as it gives easy access to the American market, and also we’re close to the South American producers of exclusive fibres such as vicuna and guanaco.” The other mill is located in Yorkshire, which has been the epicenter of wool milling for hundreds of years. Here, the insatiable design and R&D teams push the boundaries of fabrics, having achieved up to Super 220s wool and the world’s first pure worsted vicuna, all the while living up to the connotations of that most iconic fabric selvedge: ‘Made in England’.
“From idea to finished fabric, it takes about three years to create a new bunch,” Brian tells us. Bunch is industry lingo for fabric collection, i.e. the sample books you’ll see scattered around tailor shops. These are curated selections of fabrics that belong together, based on material, weave and design, often labeled with an enticing name such as Highland Glen, Dragonfly or Snowy River. Brian says, “My favorite is the Victory bunch, which has come in many iterations over the years. What is so distinct about it is that we use very fine wool, but weave it to a coarser thread count. That gives a really nice feeling of the wool. Checks are very popular right now, so next season that bunch will be reimagined under the label Chequers”.
“Coming out to visit our clients and distributors like this is really useful, as we get to hear what people are asking for and can relay that to our design team. Once an idea for a new bunch is conceived, we need to find the right yarn. We actually own our own flock of sheep in a secret location in Australia. It’s important that they’re treated well, to achieve the finest possible clip,” Brian muses. The Peebles facility has a loom where samples of new designs can be woven to establish the right color combinations, widths of stripes, blends of yarns, finishing techniques etc. Then weaving begins and once the season arrives, the bunch is launched. “Having every part of the production in house gives an enormous advantage in terms of controlling quality”, Brian says, a belief that we at Tailor On Ten also believe wholeheartedly.
This approach has given rise to some truly unique fabrics. Holland & Sherry is known for having made fabrics with strands of 22k gold, as well as one sprinkled with crushed sapphires. On the subject of precious stones, we have to take a timeout to ask Chris about his amazing lion-shaped ring. “It’s gold, with rubies for eyes. I got it for my 21st birthday and have worn it every day since.” Very cool. But returning to the subject, the boys tell us that these super exclusive fabrics have been exceedingly popular, despite their cost at £1000s per yard. The next line will be infused with black pearl.
Speaking of exclusive fabrics and noble fibres, Holland & Sherry recently created a fabric called The Cloth of Kings, a blend of the finest Australian merino wool, the smoothest Mongolian cashmere and the silkiest Andean guanaco, which earned them a personal note of commendation from the King of Spain. Literally fit for a king!
Hollywood has also caught on to the distinct quality and appearance Holland & Sherry fabrics, having featured in films such as Moulin Rouge and Mission Impossible. Many stars have also adorned Holland & Sherry tuxedos for the Oscars and major fashion brands share the love, Louis Vuitton and Thom Browne both being regular customers for their ready-to-wear collections.
Having come to Asia annually for the past 11 years, Brian’s favorite destination is Japan. “The golfing is great. Really difficult, mountainous courses. And the country is respectful and polite. Not to mention the efficiency, the place runs on rails, so to speak.” When he’s in Bangkok, Brian always makes sure to stop by and update us on the latest fabrics, as we are constantly updating our range of Holland & Sherry. So feel free to stop by, have a chat and ask any questions you may have about bespoke tailoring. Whether you are in the market for a breathable yet warm woolen business suit, or a casual linen jacket for steamy Bangkok evenings, we have the variety and expertise to accommodate your needs.