This month, The Journal is in conversation with Benson & Clegg’s Head Cutter and resident sartorial expert, Oliver Cross. He discusses his unusual journey into the trade, the launch of his inaugural ready to wear collection and the exciting times ahead at Benson & Clegg.
Oliver’s route into tailoring was far from conventional. After leaving school and working a number of years in financial services, Oliver knew he wanted more from life. His creativity and passion for menswear could only be held back for so long. He took the leap and enrolled at the London College of Fashion.
Upon graduating, Oliver’s immediate and most obvious port of call was the epicentre of men’s tailoring and sartorial elegance, Savile Row. Despite a period of banging on the doors of the Row’s most prolific tailoring houses, his efforts reaped little reward.
“I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was constantly knocking on doors but there was nothing for me. I was a 26-year-old man with a young family and I started to question whether I had made the right choice.”
Oliver should never had doubted himself as, after what felt like an eternity, his persistence paid off and he was offered a position as an unpaid apprentice with fellow Royal Warrant holders, Meyer & Mortimer.
Six months into his apprenticeship, the firm realised Oliver’s potential and were quick to offer him a full-time position as Trainee Cutter, working under famed Head Cutter Malcolm Plews, military tailor and Royal Warrant holder to HRH the Prince of Wales and someone whose work is revered and respected across the tailoring world. It was something that Oliver describes as “…a dream come true!” It was under Malcom’s watchful eye that Oliver honed his craft, taking on board every nugget of knowledge his mentor offered up, while defining his own unique style of tailoring.
It was in 2017 when Benson & Clegg, keen to appoint a Head Cutter who could cope with the demands of its ever-growing client list, came knocking on Oliver’s door.
“Oliver had been on my radar for a number of years,” says Benson & Clegg’s Managing Director, Mark Gordon. “I instantly recognised the quality of his work and knew I had to have him. The world of tailoring can be seen as stuffy, even elitist. What you get with Oliver is someone who not only brings immense talent and expertise to the brand, but also a huge amount of personality which is key. He connects with people in a way I’ve not seen before.”
It is the aforementioned skill and expertise that has seen Oliver design his own ready to wear collection. “This has been a dream of mine for a long time. It was my goal to create a collection that would appeal to the modern gentleman. Someone who appreciates fine tailoring but requires a wardrobe that is versatile while remaining relevant.”
Two years in development and made entirely in London, The Capsule Collection is inspired by Benson & Clegg’s heritage as bespoke tailors. Embodying Oliver’s own unique style, the collection launches later this spring.
In 2019, Benson & Clegg is an exciting place to be. Not only do we see the launch of The Capsule Collection, but our famed premises in London’s Piccadilly Arcade is undergoing a major refurbishment which, when finished, will boast an exciting new retail space and an exclusive first floor tailoring lounge. Why the change? Oliver sums it up nicely, “When Harry Benson and Thomas Clegg set up the company in 1937, they wanted to create a club lounge environment, a place where gentlemen could come and relax while enjoying a little bit of luxury. We’re taking Benson & Clegg back to its roots."