Henry Poole & Co was delighted and honoured to receive The Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2012 in International Trade, particularly in the year of Her Diamond Jubilee.
A London street which has achieved international fame is Savile Row, the heart of the English bespoke tailoring industry. Its fame can be traced back to the foundation in 1806 of the firm of Henry Poole & Co., who started this great tradition of British tailoring.
The rise of Savile Row began when James Poole came to London in 1806, from Shropshire, to open his first shop, a linen drapers, in Everett Street, Brunswick Square. Poole became a tailor by chance, for when Napoleon escaped from Elba he joined a Volunteer Corps whose members had to provide their own equipment. Unpractised in tailoring, James and his wife Mary cut and stitched his tunics so well that by the time of Waterloo, Poole was flooded with orders and set up as a military tailor. By 1822, he had opened an emporium in Regent Street and a year later made his headquarters at 4 Old Burlington Street, adjoining Savile Row. It was here that his son Henry, who inherited the business in 1846, was to achieve an even greater reputation, leaving an indelible mark on British bespoke tailoring, and starting the long tradition of the Savile Row suit.
With “Old Pooley’s” death in 1876, his cousin Samuel Cundey took over. By now the firm had nearly every European crowned head on its books as well as Eastern potentates eager to adopt Western fashion. The premises in Savile Row were enlarged, civil tailoring now took precedence over the hunting and military modes of Henry’s day and the foundation of the company’s present thriving export business began when branches were opened in Paris, Vienna and Berlin.
By the early 1900s, Henry Poole was the largest establishment of its type in the world, employing 300 tailors and cutters.
Today, a Henry Poole customer is just as concerned about the quality of his garments, but usually has much less time than his predecessor for fittings. Although aristocrats still follow the tradition of their forefathers and continue to patronise Pooles, the clientele now includes international businessmen from the USA, Europe, the Middle East and Japan. In fact, a visitor to Savile Row would see customers from many walks of life whose faces would be familiar from the press and television. However, there is a tradition that the name of a gentleman’s tailor is as confidential as the name of his doctor.
Pooles have always been eminent as tailors to overseas clients and this tradition is maintained. Quarterly journeys are made to the United States, covering ten cities between New York and San Francisco. In addition, frequent visits are undertaken by senior cutters for France, Belgium, German, Switzerland and Austria.
Since 1964, Pooles have worked under a franchise arrangement with several department stores in Japan and recently opened three shops in China.
In 1869 Queen Victoria granted a Royal Warrant to the Company for making liveries for Buckingham Palace and the Royal Mews. This honour has been continued to this day with a Royal Warrant to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.