Two names most stir up the image of James Bond – Savile Row and Lotus. Ian Fleming’s fictional British agent’s suits were almost always cut to perfection by the traditional tailors of this this famed corner of Mayfair, London. While the Lotus Esprit S1 has to be the most exciting of 007’s motor cars with Roger Moore racing Giorgetto Giugiaro’s boldly angular, extreme wedge-shaped fiberglass machine in the memorable car chase from Sardinia’s dry land and into the Mediterranean sea in “The Spy Who Loved Me”.
Now Lotus and one of Savile Row’s most established tailors, Norton & Sons, are to collaborate for the first time on a unique clothing line. Founded in 1821, the tailor has a long tradition of making lightweight clothing for sporting pursuits – the first man to break the speed of sound, Chuck Yeager, is noted among its clients. Norton & Sons crafts people have also dressed royalty including King George V, as well as some of Hollywood’s most stylish of men, namely Cary Grant.
“Growing up, Lotus was the definitive British sports car brand. James Bond drove a Lotus Esprit and it was the car that every kid in the playground dreamed of owning,” says Patrick Grant, director of Norton & Sons. The clothing line aims to reflect the two companies’ expertise in working with lightweight materials and offering performance-driven clean designs. I ask Grant what he is able to reveal about the collection, ahead of the official reveal later in the year. “Well, what I can say now is that we are working on creating one piece, a jacket.” This, he adds, will be cut by hand and hand-sewn in the Norton & Sons UK workshop using “the world’s finest materials,” he confirms. “It will be designed with reference to the history of Lotus and its founder. Colin Chapman is revered as an engineering icon, a pioneer and an entrepreneur of exceptional personal style.”
Savile Row has altered greatly since the company set up shop on this famed London street, yet Grant admits the craft of bespoke tailoring “hasn’t changed one bit”. The service, however, has. “It evolves continuously from what we make, to how we deliver that service – to meet the needs of an increasingly time-poor global clientele.”
Being experts in creating lightweight tailored clothing, I’m interested to know if the traditional business of bespoke tailoring adventures into the sort of advanced materials and cutting-edge light fabrics explored in sportswear. “At Norton & Sons we predominantly use woven fabrics in natural fibers such as wool and cashmere,” says Grant. “We also create bespoke pieces in advanced technical materials or combine the two types of material for garments that are the best of both worlds, like our bespoke field jacket.”
Similarly, since Savile Row’s brand promise is of the highest level of craftsmanship, I ask Grant if there is scope for utilizing aspects of modern design and manufacturing – computational design, 3D printing – in creating even more complex garments. Grant replies: “There are ways of producing clothing that are faster and cheaper, but there is no better method for comfort, appearance and durability than hand sewing.”
Meanwhile, Lotus director of design Russell Carr is certain that Norton & Sons share many synergies with his performance car company. The two British brands are built on performance, quality and timeless style, he says. “We are both disruptors with modern thinking, a purist aesthetic and a sense of adventure. Like our sports cars, the fruits of this collaboration will be handcrafted here using British-made technical materials and will have a genuine focus on ultimate performance through light-weighting.”
Learn more about the $2.1m Evija electric hypercar with my interview with the design director Russell Carr.