An interview with my tailors, Jason Regent & Will Tattershall from Regent Tailoring
The Regent Skipper (Euschemon rafflesia) is an Australian butterfly. Mainly black, it has distinctive red and yellow markings. Rather curiously, it behaves like a moth. Travel to Queensland and you probably stand a good chance of seeing one of these lepidopterans, but within the UK, you’re more likely to encounter it on tag, bag or clothing label from Regent Tailoring, which features the Regent Skipper as its brand logo. The butterfly was a suitable eponym for Regent Tailoring’s founder, Jason Regent, but its significance was not solely superficial; the butterfly reveals much about the verve of the Regent brand that Jason has built up over the past five years. The Regent Skipper’s flashes of colour and its atypical behaviour – aping a moth, the tailor’s enemy – hint at Regent Tailoring’s idiosyncracies, individuality and humour. As I took delivery of my fourth Regent suit last month, I thought it was about time that I learnt a little more about ‘the shop with a small front and a big behind.’
The people & their passion
The Regent story started in the most unlikely of places: a garage unit on an industrial estate in Salisbury, Wiltshire. But in just under four years, the business has been relocated twice and is now run from a centrally located three-story building near the gates of Salisbury’s thirteenth-century cathedral. Regent’s rapid climb up the property ladder reflects its creative and commercial success; this, I can claim to know a little about, having had four suits made by Jason over the past year. As so often seems to be the case with small businesses, the winning formula is a product of the different personalities who work at Regent.
Jason’s grandfather was butler to James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming. From an early age, Jason was therefore acquainted with the world of fine cigars, flashy cars and impeccable tailoring. Growing up in Henley-on-Thames provided close links with London, a connection that may explain the synergy between country and city, shabby and chic, that is reflected in the shop today, where Monkee Genes[i] chinos and jeans are sold alongside wool pocket squares, mounted deer heads and leather IPad cases. Jason learnt his craft with Ede & Ravenscroft,[ii] but worked in high street fashion before setting up his eponymous company. He met one of his team, James, whilst at Repertoire, an independent unisex clothes shop in Salisbury.[iii] It was after he had decided to make the entrepreneurial leap, and presumably while looking for garages to rent, that Jason met his right-hand man, Will, who was then working in Crew Clothing. Will maintains that he ‘fell in to it’, but this bespeaks his modesty. At this early juncture, Will’s contribution lay in event organising. Appearances at Newbury races and Goodwood introduced customers to the Regent brand and did much to stimulate the company’s early growth. As the business expanded he, James and Jason have found positions that suit their natural abilities and preferences; with a mixture of resignation and pride, Will acknowledged that he ‘does the admin.’
The ‘Regent look’?
We aim to make a customer look their best, but this can sometimes contradict what they initially want.
Impressed by the suits that Regent Tailoring have made for me, a colleague recently commissioned Jason to make him a double-breasted suit in a charcoal flannel. The finished article attracted the attention of another (female) colleague, who proclaimed, ‘that’s a Ben Wild suit!’. This would imply there is a ‘Regent look’; a visual link that connects all of the company’s creations. Savile Row tailors are frequently identified by the silhouette of their suits, but Jason and Will are less dogmatic about this.[iv] The cut of a Regent suit (generally slim) is important, and both highlighted the 1960s as being a particular source of sartorial inspiration. Jason mentioned various films from which he takes style cues – the (very violent) Gangster No 1 starring Paul Bettany, along with Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Tom Ford’s A Single Man (much more like my kind of movies) – all of which are set in 1960s. On previous visits, Jason has also spoken of the influence of Richard James. That said, responding to what a customer wants and helping them achieve a look that complements their body shape, even if this involves a bit of sartorial re-education, is clearly a greater concern than having noticeably identifiable Regent suits. If there is one style lesson that Regent tries to impart, it is that individuality is key and reflecting this in a garment is to be encouraged.
A lot of people come into the shop, especially for weddings, with the idea that everything has to match. We try and break that down a bit and say don’t worry. It’s about having pieces rather than a complete outfit. Everything’s timeless here so you if you buy a jacket you can use it in multiple ways.
Again, it comes back to the personality of the people involved. For a tailor, Jason’s style is almost iconoclastic. I do not think I have ever seen him wear a tie, a pocket square or cufflinks. On the day of my interview, he was wearing a pair of Monkee Genes chinos and a sweater; both dark. Recovering from a cold and barely audible from a sore throat, comfort was clearly a higher priority than ‘fashion’. Will, on the other hand, was wearing bespoke light grey herringbone trousers, a dark red and white check shirt with a maroon-coloured tie. He would not have looked out of place on the Mad Men set. The different styles that Jason, Will and James favour put Regent in something of a unique position among tailors because there is no single mould, rather lots of different possibilities and influences that all come together to make a customer’s garment.
I quite like wearing a tie, Jason doesn’t. He’ll put a tie on for a wedding, but day-to-day he doesn’t [wear one]. At the same time, he’s quite happy to advise people on how to wear one […] James is completely different as well. […] He’s probably the trendiest out of all of us.
The creation of a Regent suit is about collaboration. When I have attended fittings for my suits, Will, Jason and I have discussed various possibilities, from the style of the lapels to the colour of the stitching and the material of the buttons. At one point during the interview, Will was seconded to an adjacent room to give his opinion on the length of a customer’s bespoke jacket, as Jason wanted to ensure his advice was appropriate. Mercifully, Will and Jason agreed; the decision was to increase the jacket’s length by an inch.
Creative & commercial collaborations
The importance of collaboration is also evident throughout Regent’s shop, which sells a bewildering array of non-clothing products from individuals and local companies, including gin, cigars, sculpture, oak doorstops and oil paintings. As Jason meets companies whose products and philosophy appeal, he seems quite prepared to find shelf or floor space to sell their wares. There is a danger that this eclecticism could dilute the Regent brand that Jason and Will are keen to build up – going wholesale, selling Regent goods in other stores, is one of their long-term goals. Customers could come into the shop looking for a particular item, become distracted, and leave with nothing. On the other hand, the Sir John Soanes atmosphere reflects the energy and creativity of the shop’s owners and their desire to develop fruitful partnerships that are creatively and commercially successful.[v] One Regent collaboration has been with Cheaney shoes. Regent design the shoes and, in consultation with Cheaney, choose the lasts and leathers that the Northamptonshire based cordwainer will use to make them.
It’s always been about the best products and the best materials from a good source […] We’ve tried to associate with some of the best British brands from the start: Fox Umbrellas,[vi] Joseph Cheaney,[vii] John Smedley.[viii]
As more partnerships are made, and they undoubtedly will be, the range of products stocked by Regent will inevitably increase and diversify. I have qualms about this, but my interview made me realise that I have hitherto only experienced one aspect of what Regent Tailoring offers. During my visit, a continual flow of customers brought home the fact that Regent is not solely about bespoke tailoring, nor is it solely about men: on the second floor, a male teacher, late twenties, was being fitted for a three-piece suit and bespoke shirt for his upcoming wedding; two women, mid thirties, wearing extraordinary Ushanka hats, came into to peruse the women’s range on the third floor. Downstairs, another customer, an elderly gent, had an enquiry about Possum wool jumpers. Regent do not stock these jumpers, but Jason provided details of a local company that does.[ix] Spending a couple of hours with Jason and Will made me appreciate even more the enterprise, creativity and humour of Regent Tailoring. It is the combination of different (and compatible) personalities, united by a passion for producing garments that make the most of British materials and expertise, that have turned a garage set-up into a fully-fledged business in under five years. This is an extraordinary accomplishment, but perhaps it is to be expected from a company named after a butterfly as intriguing as the Regent Skipper.
73 New Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP1 2PH
[iv] S. Crompton, Le Snob: Tailoring (London, 2011), 83-96.