Stortford bespoke tailor Alexandra Wood to launch her first ready-to-wear collection online
An award-winning tailor based in Bishop’s Stortford is to launch her first online shop to take her sought-after menswear to a global market.
Savile Row designer Alexandra Wood, who is based at the iconic former Tissimans shop in High Street, is to unveil her ‘Tailored to Your Lifestyle’ range via her new e-commerce platform, www.alexandrawoodbespoke.co.uk, later this year.
Her very first ready-to-wear collection, the range is aimed at aspirational gentlemen aged 35 and over who are looking for timeless, off-the-peg pieces suitable for all occasions, whether that is a suit for a race day at Ascot or chinos and a sports jacket to wear courtside at Wimbledon.
Alexandra, 38, said: “Every individual item will be tailored to the different elements of a man’s lifestyle. The idea is to offer a collection of classic pieces that are the first steps to building a capsule wardrobe that will last a lifetime. These will be investment pieces that men will want to wear for years and years.”
Alexandra, who has lived in Stortford for 12 years, said that, having been developed in response to customer demand, the off-the-peg collection is helping to diversify her offering and introduce her brand to a wider, international client base.
“What I offer is accessible luxury,” she said. “Not every one of my customers is in the market for a fully bespoke wardrobe, but I do get a lot of men coming in looking for a really nice white shirt or a great tie. That smaller purchase is often then the first step of aspiration, building up from there. People don’t need to be petrified that everything is going to cost thousands of pounds.”
Having studied at the London College of Fashion and started her career in women's fashion, Alexandra moved into menswear about 12 years ago when the husbands of her female clients began asking her to make them outfits too.
She has since gone on to establish a successful brand that has seen her win the Muddy Stilettos award for Best Menswear Store in Hertfordshire 2017 and the You and Your Wedding award for Best Groomswear Retailer 2015. She has dressed the likes of Chuka Umunna MP, who has featured on GQ magazine’s 50 Best Dressed Men in Britain list, best-selling novelist and journalist Tony Parsons and impressionist and comedian Rory Bremner.
“I love the simplicity of a men’s suit and the clean lines that make a man look good, and then the little quirks and details you can add to reflect someone’s personality,” she said.
“For me, men’s tailoring is much more niche and I thrive on the trust that my customers place in me. It may seem superficial to some, but to watch that transformation when you put someone in something that really suits them is very special. What you wear really does impact your mood and state of mind – it’s really important in terms of self-esteem and self-respect – and I love being part of that process.”
Still offering appointment-only consultations every Tuesday at her Savile Row workshop, Alexandra decided to take the leap and open her Stortford shop in 2016.
“More and more frequently, customers coming in for their made-to-measure consultations were asking 'Did I have a tie? Have I got a shirt etc' but I didn’t have room in the workshop for much more than the fabric swatches,” she said.
“I knew I needed a space where I could bring everything together holistically and say to my clients 'This is your whole look', providing them with an all-round service as a designer, tailor and stylist. The thought of making such a huge financial commitment though was absolutely terrifying, but I really did fall in love with this amazing building and its history.
“It had been empty for three years and was a complete tip, a bare carcass really, and the amount of fear, anxiety and sleepless nights was unreal. All the negative thoughts went round, but I did it anyway.”
Alexandra, who has two daughters and a stepson, said that since then the business has very much evolved from the demands of her customers.
“Listening and responding is so important,” she said. “I had one customer recently who asked if I could make him some made-to-measure jeans. It’s something I’d never done before, and to be honest I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I said I’d give it a go on the understanding that it was a bit of an experiment and it might not work out.
“The first pair were a complete disaster, but we persevered and the second pair he was absolutely delighted with. In the end I didn’t even charge him for them as off the back of that I’ve now created a jeans range and they've become one of my best sellers. But without that one request I wouldn’t have ever thought to have given it a go.”
It is another long-standing customer who has enabled Alexandra to grow the online retail side of the business, and with that experienced investor now on board she is optimistically looking ahead to the next chapter.
“I love doing made-to-measure, but it feels like this really is the time to grow and slowly scale the business, so that excites me,” she said.
“I’d come to the point where I was thinking more and more about what the next step might be and visualising how I could make it work. Once I’ve got that very clear vision in my head then I know it’s the right thing to do.
“I’ve always had an unfailing sense of optimism and you always have to believe in yourself, even when things are going horribly wrong. That’s just what it means to be in business.
“I read a quote recently that said your success depends on how much uncertainty you can deal with, and that’s really very true.”