Westminster bans nightclub-style opening at US chain’s new store

Topless fashion: staff at the opening of Abercrombie & Fitch’s Mayfair store in 2007
Picture: GLENN COPUSMark Henderson:
1 of 2
Topless fashion: staff at the opening of Abercrombie & Fitch’s Mayfair store in 2007 Picture: GLENN COPUS
16 August 2012

Their last London store opened with loud pumping music, topless male models and a nightclub-style party spilling onto the street.

But Abercrombie & Fitch has been warned its new Savile Row outpost cannot be launched with similar fanfare.

Westminster council’s tough restrictions aim to appease tailors who fear the all-American brand will damage the reputation and “unique” character of the street.

However the company has appealed against the measures. The store’s future will now be decided at a public planning inquiry.

Today tailors hit out at the decision this week to let Abercrombie & Fitch open a large store specialising in children’s fashion at No 3 Savile Row — a four-storey building whose rooftop hosted The Beatles’ final performance. They denied they were being snobbish and said they wanted to preserve the atmosphere of the area.

Mark Henderson, chairman of Gieves & Hawkes and the Savile Row Bespoke Association, said: “Slapping an American kids’ shop in the middle of Savile Row would be a knife in the gut for us.

“This street is unique. There are 100 tailors in our workshops. Abercrombie are brilliant at what they do, but $30 shirts are not Savile Row. We have celebrity clients but they get dropped off by limo and come to shop in privacy. It’s not about lining everybody up to stare open-mouthed at them on a red carpet. Our clientele is more Tatler and Country Life than Hello! magazine.”

Joseph Morgan, director of Chittleborough & Morgan, said: “Abercrombie is a terrific, high-energy company, but I don’t think it’s a Savile Row company. We don’t want to be pompous but high street chains are temporary, the brands come and go, whereas what we do is made to last — just like our clothes.”

Westminster’s restrictions ban music that can be heard from the street and buggies and prams parked on the pavement. It has stipulated Abercrombie cannot have a celebrity opening.

Abercrombie opened its first London store in Vigo Street in Mayfair in 2007. There is another in Burlington Gardens. Sean Dixon, of Richard James tailors, added: “The first Abercrombie brought energy to the area. But my concern is that the southern end of Savile Row will turn into Abercrombie world.”

A Westminster council spokesman said: “Savile Row has a unique character — currently there are no high-street chains present. A management plan should be put in place to ensure this character is retained.” Abercrombie & Fitch declined to comment.