While not quite two peas in a pod, Nutter was on Elton John's speed-dial."Tommy completely glamorized Savile Row and made it accessible," said Elton John, who often visited the shop to be measured up while drinking a glass of sherry. Nutter designed many of Elton John’s iconic tour outfits, exaggerated and flamboyant. Nutter’s work helped to create the Elton John mystique. John wears Nutter suits off stage too in nearly all of his publicity shots.
Nutter himself was most proud of the fact that, for the cover of The Beatles album Abbey Road in 1969, he dressed three out of the four Beatles: George Harrison elected to be photographed on the road-crossing in denim. Now some forty years later Mr. Harrison still looks out of place. While they were offered millions of dollars, the Beatles had a firm policy not to associate with brands, pitch products or marketing to promote themselves. That did not stop the shy Ringo Starr from modeling for his good friend, Nutter, and was used in the company’s advertising.
Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber was a client and friend. “He made me a lot of things when one was younger and trendier,” Lloyd Webber said. “There was a wonderful maroon coat I remember I wore for Ascot. He was always such fun, very much part of my early life when Jesus Christ Superstar was going on. He made clothes for Tim Rice too! We were all great mates”.
Famous Nutter creations include the powder blue suit David Bowie was photographed wearing for his Pinups LP. Eric Clapton and Steve Harley whose 1977 world tour suit by Tommy sold recently at Bonham’s for £700. American, songwriter and singer Neil Sedaka was a Nutter enthusiast.
Clients from the hipper purlieus of the aristocracy, aspiring teenage dandies from the East End whose ambition, in the early seventies was to own a Nutter suit were drawn to Tommy Nutter, not only because of his ineffable sense of style, but also because of his peculiarly ironic personality. A flirt, Nutter welcomed the young and embraced them as colleagues. A true win-win, in turn, they celebrated his style, provided good word of mouth and delivered his design message to the streets.
In 1971, Nutter was elected to the Best-Dressed Listin the United States, along with the Earl of Snowdon and Hardy Amies. At the time, American Menswear magazine said of Nutter that he was “tradition, spiced with daring”.
Nutter had a delicious sense of humor who had a wide and interesting circle of friends who were attracted by his enthusiasm, his gentle self-mocking personality and his acerbic comments on the vagaries of others, always ending with the expression, “But who am I to talk?”
Nutter was a man of letters. He was a prodigious and witty correspondent. His letters to his many friends are treasured. In addition, he delighted in writing to serious newspapers on topics as far-ranging as the correct buttoning of the suit on a statue of John F. Kennedy, (which was altered) to the scarcity of deckchairs in Green Park. He was always very ready to spring to the defense of his beloved Savile Row if it came under attack, as it so frequently did in the anarchic sixties.
“He never got things wrong about clothes,” said the restaurateur and bookshop owner, Stuart Grimshaw, who was a client of Tommy Nutter's from the late sixties. “He really knew what he was talking about. One would go in and say… What do I wear to go on safari in Kenya? and Tommy would make one an absolutely correct safari suit, a proper one with all the pockets in exactly the right place. This knowledge extended to such minutiae as the correct wearing of half or full brogues or co-respondent shoes. “He was an encyclopedia of correct, classical male style.'”
By the mid to late 1970’s the bespoke business overall became less successful. This downward spiral occurred throughout Seville Row with many mainline shops started shuttering their doors. People were purchasing Ready To Wear. The culture was moving towards casual and active wear as the preferred style. The disco look supplanted the discothèque. Thankfully, Nutter opted not to create bespoke-jogging suits, but he did branch out into ready to wear clothing, marketed through Austin Reed. He also successfully expanded into East Asia, establishing the Savile Row brand in Japan.
In 1976, Sexton bought Nutter out of the business. Nutter went to work for Kilgour, French and Stanbury, managing his own workroom. Sexton continued to run Nutter’s of Savile Row until 1983. What goes around comes around. Nutter returned to Savile Row with a ready to wear shop: Tommy Nutter, Savile Row. This new venture, which traded at No. 19 Savile Row until Tommy's death, was backed by J&J Crombie Limited, who continues to own the "Tommy Nutter" trademark. At this time, Sexton set up a successful business in his own name in New York City.
Always busy, Nutter was also a firm believer in the supremacy of the English suit and of English cloth; during the seventies and early eighties he took part in huge international fashion shows put on by Reid & Taylor, the Scottish firm of woolen and worsted manufacturers.
Still prodigious, in the 1980’s Nutter described his suits as a "cross between the big-shouldered Miami Vice look and the authentic Savile Row. Never one to turn down an opportunity Nutter created the stylish clothing of the Joker, worn by Jack Nicholson in the 1989 film, Batman. Thus insuring that this character still remains one of the best dressed super villains of all time.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Galliano’s, a once Nutter apprentice has borrowed heavily from Nutter’s collections, as has colleague Vivienne Westwood, Gucci's autumn/winter 2011 menswear collection is a homage to Nutter. Tommy Nutter’s work remains a perennial reference on the runway.
If Tommy Nutter was alive he’d only be sixty-eight. A Nutter suit is not a thing of the past. He is very much present. Were he alive I imagine him still designing for Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Eric Clapton and Elton John. They too continue to shake it up and retain some of their youthfulness and sexiness. Given their current state of attire, I think they would do well by Nutter’s gifted hand.
Nutter suits periodical come up for sale on internet sites. While prices vary from 500.00 to 5,000.00 dollars I have yet to see one in my size. I’m a standard size 40 with a 32” by 32” pant, but I do keep my eyes and ears open.
Now ell over forty years ago Nutter’s of Savile Row remains a successful shop. Their suits sill are influenced by Nutter’s original work, unexpected pin stripes, cut against the grain, shawl collars in crushed velvet, nipped in waists. It’s as if Nutter’s hand extends from heaven. You can visit the collection at www.nosr.co.uk Nutter’s, 12 Seville Row, London, UK W1S 3PQ firstname.lastname@example.org tel: +44 (0) 20 7437 7007
Now, what have I forgotten to remember?