Updated: Jan 10, 2022
Meet Lee Marsh, the Savile Row tailor and designer who has created garments for Princes William and Harry, actor Johnny Depp and UK-Nigerian singer, Tinie Tempah. Just in case you don’t know, Savile Row in Mayfair, London is a short street with a long and distinguished history as the home of bespoke men’s tailoring. It is internationally known as the place to go if you are serious about formal menswear and Lee Marsh Bespoke is seriously stylish menswear.
Lee Marsh’s career as a Savile Row tailor began in the ‘90s, after graduating from the prestigious London College of Fashion. His first step into the world of modern tailoring was with Tom Brown tailors, also a Savile Row firm and where he specialized in making waistcoats for the top English private boys’ school, Eton College, as well as for former pupils known as ‘Old Etonians.’ “This is where I first heard about Savile Row being the place where all the best tailors were.”
“I wanted to be the best, so I told myself I need to come to this Savile Row."
What was the inspiration to first become a tailor? “I was inspired by my grandmother.” Lee's grandparents were in fact tailors from Jamaica. He remembers his grandmother making colourful and flamboyant costumes for London's Notting Hill Carnival. As a result, he was raised in an environment surrounded by craftsmanship and tailoring. His grandfather, who made trousers, was a defining influence who encouraged and fired Lee's ambitions to become a tailor on Savile Row.
“I was inspired by my grandmother… Part of my brand DNA is my heritage, and it is important for most brands to have that foundation.”
After three years with Tom Brown, Lee moved over to the esteemed Henry Pool, another highly regarded Savile Row tailor. Soon after, an opportunity arose with an opening at the legendary Gieves and Hawkes, one of the oldest bespoke tailors in the world. Here Lee became a highly regarded coat maker and made the serendipitous discovery that his mentor there, Dennis Cooper of the prestigious Kilgour Group, had made coats for Lee’s boyhood idol, Sean Connery. And in fact when you look at Lee’s designs, they are dapper just like James Bond’s suits. Was the secret agent an influence too?
“Yes! James Bond… I always loved his sharp suits. That’s another thing that drove me to become a tailor as well. I wanted to dress smart like him, drive his cars and live his lifestyle.”
In 2006, Lee joined H Huntsman and Son, a bespoke tailor with over 167 years of tradition in coat making. Here, Lee's mentoring and teaching skills flourished alongside his craftsmanship. He offered the young apprentices invaluable insight into the art of coat making, a dedicated process that takes at least five years to accomplish.
It wasn’t until 2013 that Lee decided to establish his own brand, Lee Marsh Bespoke, offering a fusion of traditional tailoring and modern bespoke flair. “I love classic bespoke tailoring and ‘90s casual wear and wanted to bring the two together.” One can see in his designs that he really explores the union between traditional craft and contemporary couture. He also uses a lot of colour much like the labels and designers he says he admires – OZWALD BOATENG by the famous Ghanaian-British designer Sir Ozwald Boateng, and KENZO Clothing - Men, Women & Kids collections by the Japanese designer Kenzo Takada.
“Ozwald Boateng really inspired my style and I also admire his fearless approach.”
When we looked and drooled over Lee's designs, we thought, well what took him so long?! “Developing my own style took years. In fact, an old teacher of mine told me that it takes at least ten years to be a good tailor. I remember thinking to myself No, that’s too long! But when I thought about it, it made sense; it takes three to five years to be a coat maker like I am. Then after that it takes a few more years to make great pieces and build your reputation. It does depend on your motivation, your time and your commitment though, but ten years has turned out to be true.”
Lee Marsh holds the title of being the ‘first bespoke bomber jacket tailor on Savile Row with his own brand’ – the short version is: ‘first Savile Row tailor to specialize in jackets only’. He was there from 2018 to 2020 - the year of the COVID19 pandemic. Since then, he has served his customers online through virtual consultations and home visits. With his brand, Lee has not only dressed royalty and musicians, but also graced the screen. In 2015, Lee was selected to join a team of tailors to make jackets for the British actor Colin Firth in the film Kingsman:The Secret Service.
So what is it about jackets? “I think for me you can do a lot with jackets – you can do smart, you can do casual… though when it comes to suits and blazers, I try not to change much because I think some things should remain classic with a simple appeal. But when it comes to casual wear, I get really excited because you can become more creative with that. And I think in general, menswear needs a bit more creativity anyway!”
His favourite materials to work with are wool and suede. “I actually love working with suede; it’s such a lovely fabric and there aren’t many tailors that work with it.”
One of the other things Lee is passionate about is teaching and passing on the craft to the next generation. He does this through his other venture, Savile Row Jacket Masterclass (sjmonline.co.uk) online classes and courses on tailoring jackets as well as basic sewing skills for beginners. He also lectures at his alma mater, London College of Fashion, UCA Rochester University and Ravensbourne University London.
Finally, we had to get the expert’s view on the one piece everyone should have in their closet. “A black suit is a must. You can wear it for a job interview, evening event or funeral.” And finally, finally, top tips for would be designers? “Number one - know your strengths and weaknesses and don’t try and do everything yourself. Number two, marketing is important.”
“I design for anyone who loves clothes made for them and understands the importance of feeling good in what you wear.”
You can find Lee Marsh Bespoke here:
Website: Lee Marsh Bespoke
Facebook: Lee Marsh Bespoke
Online Tailoring Academy