Chester Barrie: Savile Row’s Most Iconic Tailor

There are many famous tailors who made their name on London’s world renowned Savile Row, but one of the most inspiring and exciting stories belongs to Englishman Simon Ackerman who over a hundred years ago first entered the world of fashion design after leaving his homeland for New York city where he established himself as a high quality tailor before returning to London as a millionaire in 1835.

It was in Savile Row that he first introduced British gentlemen to the now traditional ‘ready-to-wear’ suits. This was is contrast to the regular bespoke tailoring that other Savile Row tailors were known for. Readymade suits had already been a great success with New York Clientele due to these outfits being cheap and easily accessible. Readymade clothing was so popular that before long Chester were equalling the volume of suits sold by every other tailor on Savile Row who were still specialising solely in bespoke clothing. Ackerman had the most sought after business on Savile Row, leading to him establishing his own factory in Cheshire to produce a greater range of top quality garments. During the 1840s he officially named his business ‘Chester ‘, taking the forename from the area of the UK his factory was based and the latter name from his favourite author, J.M Barrie.

From 1938 Chester Barrie was in the hands of Ackerman’s son Myron who helped the business reach new heights of popularity. Myron was an acute businessman knowing exactly how to promote their clothing and he attracted a long list of high profile clients that enticed other customers impressed by their prestige. These public figures were as diverse as Hollywood actors and members of the royal family. Chester also designed many of the most famous war-time outfits worn by Sir Winston Churchill. Barrie was a major contributor to the war effort of World-War-2 as they produced a large amount of uniforms for the Allied soldiers.

By the end of the 1970s, the Chester Barrie enterprise employed nearly 500 members of staff and provided clothing for the most prestigious shops on both sides of the Atlantic, including London based businesses like Selfridges and Harrods, along with prestigious American firms like Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. In 1978 the Ackerman family sold Chester to the Austin Reed group who by the early 1980s allowed Chester to produce stock for other Savile Row tailors who were once their competition. In recent years Barrie continued their international appeal by working with top design companies like Ralph Lauren.

Austin Reed sold Chester Barrie to Thomson Holdings in 2000, and although the business went into receivership in 2002, the company remains a popular fixture of Savile Row and still synonymous with reliability and high quality. To this day all of Chester Barrie’s stock is made by hand and continues to offer bespoke suits for their customers.