The Style Council Cometh
By, Sergio Burns
The cut, the colour, the look. The language of the fashionista, hipster, stylist. Key to his job is to know his client, to walk in their skin, to sleep and breathe their needs and make sure they are adequately met. He heads one of the top Scottish tailoring brands, a determined, passionate man with a real feel for people, and an expertise in male grooming. Andrew Brookes of Edinburgh-based high end bespoke Andrew Brookes Tailoring has a vision – not to rule the world – well, at least, not yet.
Oh, Sergio,” He says when I ask him about their future plans. “We’re gearing for growth, have just taken on an investor, have appointed a managing director, my wife, and I are looking to expand further. Our plans are to open a workshop and studio in Glasgow and we’re looking at potential city centre spaces. We’re also interested in Manchester, it’s a very happening area, very different from London, and not too far. The feel of what is going on down there is absolutely amazing and in line with our brand. So, these are the three key places for us.”
Andrew Brookes’ enthusiasm is an immediate giveaway for his absolute passion for what he does in his day job.
“What we have planned for our Edinburgh studio… is to actually take over a whole town house”, he starts out again. “What we want to do is almost along the lines of a Ralph Lauren feel, where you can come in to visit us, we will have a restaurant and a bar, the most amazing barber, we will have reading rooms for our clients, a casual wear side to the brand, we will have a formal wear side to the brand and private accommodation for clients to stay in. Ambitious plans but achievable, we’re creating more of an Andrew Brookes brand. It is almost like a private members’ club for our clients. They want that beautiful experience and this is something we want to build in Edinburgh for them, going forward. Realistically, it’s three to four years away but we’re building towards it, we’ve got the expertise and team to deliver this.”
We strayed into summer wear and I asked him for advice for our readers in Ayrshire. How should they go about choosing a suit, how should they wear a shirt?
“Think about when, where and how often you are going to wear the suit,” He said thoughtfully. “That will determine the cloth and colour you choose.
Choose the cut and fit that suits your shape – size of lapel, sleeves, length of jacket and trouser width. Spend more money than you think on a good cloth, it’s a great investment in your wardrobe. In summer opt for lighter weight 260-300gm fine twist worsted wool cloths, these are breathable, will keep you cooler and crease less. You should always have a pocket square…it gives more personality to your suit. It’s also increasingly important in today’s corporate world to ‘lift’ your suit as less men wear ties to work.”
“Think about when, where and how often you are going to wear the suit, that will determine the cloth & colour you choose”
I was amazed by how mentally agile Andrew was, to present me with all this information so quickly was impressive. But then, so is the client list.
Clients are often household names from across Scotland and beyond, though he tells me he can’t speak openly about who they are. Nevertheless, he does hint at stars associated with several music bands, or who appear in major film and TV series like Lord of the Rings and Outlander. Dougie Vipond of Landward and Ross King from Hollywood, who is due to receive an MBE from the Queen, are, however, mentioned.
“He is coming to us,” Andrew says of Ross King. “To do his suit for that (his MBE investiture).”
This, of course, is all light years from the business Andrew’s father started in 1946 just after the end of World War Two.
“I guess you could say that there’s a strong entrepreneurial spirit in our family,” He revealed. “My father came out the army as a Sergeant Major. When you were in the Army and then come back out at the end of your service you were actually given a suit… called a demob suit. It was hard to get cloth back in these days and my father started driving around in his old (Jowett) Javelin van, picking up cloth and getting it made. This culminated with him starting his own business, which was called Brookes Menswear, back in 1946. He had that business for over 50 years.”
Every day, after school, as a 12 year-old, Brookes would visit the business, then based in Falkirk. He would run errands, help out in the shop or workroom. When his father turned 70, he told his son he was going to sell and give up the business unless Andrew wanted to take over.
“I couldn’t and didn’t want to say no,” Andrew Brookes admitted. “I could see this business grow. I went into the business. I got married in 2000, and I wasn’t that pleased with the choice and the feel of what people had out there in formal wear, Scottish formal wear. So, I went back home and my wife Mel and I sat down and came up with a brand called Kiltpin, which we had for nearly 16 years. We were always at the forefront of what went on in highland wear and formal wear in Scotland. We were always the company that pushed the boundaries, we were always looking for what was new, what the trends were, and above all giving exceptional service and quality.”
At the Vows Awards (the Scottish Wedding Industry Awards) the brand won awards for six or seven years, and were voted overall top company in Scotland two years in a row.
But things were to change for Andrew on a trip to the United States.
“In 2012 I was asked to do a tweed collection for Dressed To Kilt, part of the prestigious New York Fashion Week,” Brookes explained. “I ended up going across to that, meeting interesting people and came away with many ideas. A real influence at the time was one or two of the head guys at SDI (Scottish Development International) especially Stewart Roxburgh, from Kilmarnock, head of textile brands for SDI. I was speaking to him in a nightclub in Manhattan one night and he urged me to take what we had and build more of a brand. We ended up selling the Kiltpin brand two years later to focus on creating Andrew Brookes Tailoring.”
Andrew Brookes falls into silence, I am about to thank him for his time.
“Shirts,” he says, suddenly remembering a previous question. “Should be worn as neat as your body shape allows, with a slimmer arm hole and sleeve, as this will give you a leaner silhouette.”
Things are looking good for the Andrew Brookes brand of bespoke tailoring, the go-to gurus for all things related to fashion and personal branding.
He has just finished shooting a campaign with one of the leading international male models, is re-launching his website and brand this Summer and unveiling exciting new collections, including handmade jeans, chinos, sneakers and accessories later this year. This is the tailor to watch.