Daisy Knatchbull not only understands the emotional relationships women have with their clothes, but she addresses those issues beautifully. It’s what drove her to open Savile Row’s first women’s tailoring shop, The Deck, creating a welcoming and safe place for women to spend time choosing their wardrobes in a relaxed environment with a team that will make clients look – and feel – special.
Knatchbull, 31, isn’t a tailor but she certainly knows the tailoring process inside out – and she definitely knows what women want. After a stint in fashion journalism at The Sunday Times, she became communications director at traditional men’s tailor’s Huntsman. ‘At age 23 I was on Savile Row,’ says Knatchbull. ‘I wanted to understand menswear from the stitch up.’ Then in 2016 she pulled a stunt to bring more women (who represented a tiny portion of business) into Huntsman. ‘I was the first woman to wear a top hat and tails at Royal Ascot – and they subsequently changed the dress code,’ she says.
Her actions received a lot of press attention and got her thinking. ‘I realised women want to have clothes made for them, which makes perfect sense as our bodies change over time, or even day-to-day, much more than men’s,’ she says. So she looked into what could be done and went for it. ‘I was the crazy 20-something who spent two years finding a team with the same vision to open a tailoring store for women.’ The first shop was in a tiny King’s Road basement. Then the pandemic struck. ‘We were closed for a year and a half. But fortunately we were a very lean business and had very loyal clients. In 2020 there was an opportunity to open in Savile Row.’ Knatchbull says the pandemic took her there faster than she had envisioned. ‘It was a terrifying decision. But I believed so much in what we’re doing.’
Coming out of the pandemic, attitudes had shifted. ‘There was this more conscious consumer who wanted craftsmanship, sustainability and “less is more”,’ she says. ‘We did all that organically in the business. We didn’t shout about it, but it is the practice we preach: natural fibres, inlays in our suits, helping women by fitting the clothes around them and not the other way round, so they are very comfortable to wear.’
The Deck offers an elevated made-to- measure service (and also some bespoke) for suits, dresses, skirts, jackets and shirts. ‘There’s a high level of personal service, including a lengthy consultation with the female tailor who will end up knowing your body better than you do,’ explains Knatchbull. ‘We help enhance women’s bodies. Essentially, it’s all about proportions, about having clothes made specially for you, to suit you. The outside world tells women their legs are too short, their boobs too big. Every woman feels it; there’s always something they dislike about their body. We study clients’ bodies subtly and use careful, sensitive terminology. We know how to read people.’ The Deck has samples in different sizes to try, and visualisation technology is being developed. Fabrics are all from British and Italian mills, and there’s something to suit each of the 2,000 clients who, says Knatchbull, ‘come from all walks of life: astronaut, activist, whistle blower, banker – every kind of woman. The youngest is 19 and the oldest is 94. I’d say the core demographic is aged 45 to 65. I love it when a mother comes in with her daughter’.
When a bigger space came up on the Row last year, Knatchbull snapped it up, opening in December as one of the largest shopfronts on the storied street. And last month a ready-to-wear collection, Knatchbull, was launched, designed to complement the made-to-measure offer. There’s a fabulous trench coat, as well as shirts, dresses, suits and more. ‘From our database we can figure out what a real size 14 or size 8 looks like, based on data from women we’ve fitted,’ she says. ‘We’ve built an algorithm.’
Daisy Knatchbull is a powerhouse who is changing the conversation around women’s clothes. ‘There are side adjusters on waistbands to cater for bloated stomachs – we all get them – and we always have extra inlay in our clothes so we can let them out when necessary,’ she says. ‘That’s the beauty of it: it’s possible, not an awkward, weird thing.’ Knatchbull wants her shop to become the destination for the modern woman looking for the ultimate investment piece. The designs are timeless yet fashionable; the cut impeccable. ‘The idea is they will last, hopefully handed down to the next generation,’ she says. ‘One of our clients died recently, sadly, and the suit we made for her is in her will.’