Two is Company
Our very own pair of living legends, Steven Quin and James Cook, reflect on some favourite moments from their shared 60 years at Turnbull & Asser.
Quin: Some of the characters we serve in our bespoke shop are even more colourful than our shirts. I remember Dustin Hoffman visited us on one occasion to order some bespoke shirts in the Jermyn Street store. We had a lovely Front of House Manager at the time, and he just grabbed her and started waltzing her around the store. She loved it. In fact, she was swept off her feet – quite literally!
Cook: I remember when Liza Minnelli brought David Gest into store just after they were married. He was very relaxed, and quietly ordered a pair of Super 200 shirts, but Ms Minnelli danced through the store in her fur coat singing, ‘London, London, London!’ to anyone who’d listen. I think she felt that we were the most British thing she’d ever seen.
Quin: In the ’80s and ’90s, a lot of American clients used to come into town, and the first place they’d visit would be Jermyn Street – they’d come in and leave their bags by the fire – before they’d even been to their hotel. We also used to travel to New York regularly to serve bespoke customers over there. We had a customer who owned a club in New York, where Woody Allen used to play the clarinet.
I remember visiting on a trunk show with a couple of other customers, and he greeted us, gave us the best table in the house and introduced us to Tony Bennett when he walked in. I was a young man at the time, and I must have been starstruck 15 times that evening – it was incredible!
Cook: One of my favourite stories is from the ’80s, too. Back then, Paul Cuss was our Head Cutter and Ken Williams was the company’s Director. One afternoon, the pair went for lunch at Le Caprice in St James’s, and Michael Caine was there. He got up out of his seat and shouted – full Michael Caine style – ‘No wonder the shirts are so expensive!’ and everyone had a laugh about it. Then, after lunch, everyone in the restaurant who heard the conversation went straight into Bury Street to order some new shirts! That was the Michael Caine effect.
Cook: We’re lucky to share a great relationship with the Italian cotton mill, Albini. A few years ago, Dr Silvio Albini put us up in Milan to fit the Italian press. We had a quick 20-minute break between fittings, and Albini’s PR manager asked me, ‘Have you seen The Last Supper?’ I hadn’t, so she threw us into a chauffeur- driven car, whizzed us past the tourists queuing round the block, got us fast-tracked through and we were there right in front of The Last Supper! That’s what it’s like to work with fashion royalty.
Quin: Speaking of royalty, making shirts for His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and to hold a Royal Warrant on his behalf is an honour. It was truly special when he visited our factory. We employ 90-odd people there, and he must have talked to half the staff. Everyone walked away with such a big smile on their face. We’ve got two parts to the factory, and we had to take him from one to the other, and on the way between them, he spotted some plumbers working nearby, who were dumbstruck. He veered off from us, went over to them and said, ‘I’m surprised you’re here. It’s a Friday – don’t you knock off early?’ They must have chatted together for five minutes, it was a very nice thing.
Cook: We’re grateful to have so many loyal customers who’ve supported us over the years. Seeing customers regularly makes our jobs very rewarding indeed.
Quin: Our owners keep us as a family. I’ve worked here for over 30 years now, and the company’s given me an awful lot. Not just employment, either; I’ve had some of the best experiences, travelled the world and I even met my wife at work. You can’t say that for many companies today. Long may it be so at Turnbull & Asser.