Rowland, who is now vice chairman, refused to look back; even though the new store was technically off the Row—and just one third the size of the original one—she was determined to do the company proud. Rowland called in Jérôme Faillant-Dumas, whose Paris-based design agency L.O.V.E. works for such clients as Dior, Chaumet and Nina Ricci, to create the interior of the new location. The shop now resembles the library of an old Mayfair home: dark parquet floors, molded ceilings, sketches of hounds hanging on the walls and a marble fireplace, with, of course, a fire blazing on chilly days. Previously, the cutting room was off-limits to customers, but today they’re invited to watch the making of their soft, draped wares. (Cutters typically take 50 measurements for one suit, while each piece, shoulder pads included, is hand-cut.)
Rowland also spruced up the shop’s packaging, swapping the generic plastic sacks for dark brown paper ones and upgrading garment bags from synthetic to cotton twill. “There was a problem when I tried to get rid of [the sacks] because they were considered well designed and part of the charm to the old English boy,” she says with a laugh. But no luxury- goods firm can afford to be that understated—especially when its suits cost upwards of $5,500. “People today equate the quality of the product to the bag it’s given away in. They are small things, but they count.” The changes paid off: The firm, Rowland says, is now turning out its best profits in 15 years.
Those initiatives have all been noted by the Savile Row Bespoke Association, which aims to protect and promote British bespoke tailoring along the lines of the Chambre Syndicale de la Mode. (Rowland is the association’s only female board member.) The guild was formed in 2004 to promote education about bespoke tailoring and to help counter negative press reports predicting the Row’s demise. Angus Cundey, a fellow board member and chairman of Savile Row tailor Henry Poole & Co., says Rowland has completely transformed Anderson & Sheppard. “It used to be a rather reclusive company that didn’t talk to the press, belong to trade associations or take part in charity work,” he says. “But she’s put the company back where it should be. She gets things done.”
Rowland grew up with a clear appreciation of the well-dressed man. Her colorful—and often controversial—father was a businessman of Anglo-Dutch and German descent who made his fortune in African mining, later building a business conglomerate that included Britain’s Observer newspaper. The British satirical magazine Private Eye frequently referred to him as “tiny but perfect,” because of his dapper style. “My father was always beautifully dressed. He had a dressing room and a wonderful valet, while my mother probably had two cupboards,” recalls Rowland, who appears to have inherited her father’s love of dressing up.