30 YEARS OF CHARLIE ALLEN TAILORING
For 30 years Charlie Allen has run his hugely successful tailoring business in Islington and, as he reflects on a stylish anniversary party like no other, changing fashion and being original, he tells Mark Kebble that he couldn’t imagine being anywhere else
A who’s who of style, Charlie Allen’s recent party to celebrate three decades in the tailoring business was certainly easy on the eye as clients past and present came to acknowledge the man who has had such an impact on bespoke fashion. ‘I still don’t believe we did it,’ says a clearly awe-struck Charlie when we meet a couple of weeks later. ‘How did it blow up into such a big event? Even my dad was here and he doesn’t go anywhere these days – he’s 90. But we had kids and family and friends and industry people, which was really moving. I stressed over it – I don’t know why – but it was worth it in the end thanks to these guys.’
‘These guys’ happen to be Joshua Roberto Scacheri, Charlie Allen’s Creative Brand Manager, and Victoria Butler, the showroom manager, and who both join Charlie and I for a very informal interview. It typifies the man himself: Charlie is a delight to talk to, doesn’t take himself too seriously and has an anecdote or 12 about his time in the business.
It all began, Charlie says, mainly because ‘I had just had a kid’, but it was also down to the fact his work was being noted both here in the UK and across the Atlantic too. Ever the modest gent, Charlie looks at the growth of the company as ‘just a natural thing’ with no particular ambitions at launch. ‘I was just making clothes, taking money, and seeing where I would go. There was never a masterplan to take over the whole fashion world. I just kept designing and suddenly 30 years have gone by!’
Those three decades have seen plenty of highlights, but which ones would Charlie pick out for himself. ‘Working backwards, the England commission [where Charlie re-designed the national team kit] for obvious reasons – being a football fan, it being the national team, and the international recognition [that followed]. Then going back further was working with tensile, a new fibre that at the time was unheard of. I was one of the first designers to use that, so that was quite monumental at the time. Even then, 20 years ago, it was £250 a shirt and that was fantastic. Then the very first highlight was selling my collection from the Royal College of Art to a store in LA. You don’t realise until you look back how monumental those moments are. ‘
Many of these moments have originated from ideas conjured up in Charlie’s Islington store, which today offers one of the warmest welcomes going. When I interviewed Charlie last year ahead of the launch of his Tobias shirt collection, he remarked then that it was designed to have a ‘House of Allen’ feel to it and it’s certainly an enticing look into the world of the tailor. Here you can find out about bespoke suits created just for you, take advantage of his made to measure service, have your own shirt designed or truly look the part on your wedding day. I love the fact there are even machines to the right of you when you enter where, if you pick the right moment, you can see one of the Charlie Allen team creating that unique item.
Just as Islington has been good for Charlie, he also feels strongly about doing his bit for the borough too. At the 30th anniversary event, a special auction raised thousands for a charity we, too, are keen to help out, Islington Giving. ‘This is my manor,’ he says simply about supporting the local charity. ‘Jack Morris [Chair of Islington Giving] is one of my best customers and we have always had the idea of doing a dining event. I thought the party would be a great opportunity to get everyone together.’ The auction raised £5,000 for Islington Giving.
Insisting that he still has the same buzz for the business as he did 30 years ago, the wall behind Charlie serves as a reminder of how he is continually looking to evolve. ‘That goes back to the England deal where we were working with various players,’ Charlie says on the shoot featuring Arsenal FC’s Carl Jenkinson, who is looking pretty happy to be modelling the former’s work. ‘We wanted someone on the cusp of doing big things and Carl could be a face that grows with us.’ He also wouldn’t be the first. ‘We had Freddie Flintoff on the same sort of deal about ten years ago before England won back the Ashes and he became a superstar.’ But, as Joshua points out, Charlie got there first though.
‘I will go on until I feel satisfied I can’t do any more. It’s now all about the next generation, a new spirit and new inspiration,’ Charlie continues, looking over at Joshua. ‘We have got sportswear next, a natural progression to take it to a younger generation. This will always be here,’ he directs his gaze to the bespoke suits hanging up behind him, ‘but we will have seasonal collections – every six months there will be a new injection. You don’t have to be a sports person to wear the sportswear. It’s a hybrid you can wear to games or at home lounging about.’ As Joshua says, Charlie Allen is all about ‘moving forward’, so expect more stylish parties to come.
1 Coopers Yard, 181 Upper Street N1 1RQ; 020 7359 0883; charlieallen.co.uk