Cult Shop: the Bedfordshire tailor loved by Eric Morecambe, Michael Bublé and Lenny Henry
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Three cities dominate the world of bespoke tailoring, each known for a certain look: structured and stately in London, svelte and sexy in Paris, and relaxed and lightweight in Naples. Tailors who work outside these destinations don’t always get the attention they deserve. But tucked away in the pretty Georgian village of Woburn, about an hour’s drive north of London, Souster & Hicks has built a successful tailoring business in a rural idyll.
Founded by Geoff and Laura Souster in 1978 and relocated in 2004 to a Grade II-listed former coaching inn, the tailors has cut suits for clients including Eric Morecambe, Michael Bublé, Lenny Henry and James Milner, and now makes around 500 wedding, work, casual and country-wear garments a year. As the business has grown, more of the Souster family have come on board: sons Wes and Scott cut patterns alongside their father, and guide customers through the design process; daughter-in-law Natalie works with Laura to look after the female tailoring. “We’re on first-name terms with all our customers,” says Geoff. “No ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ here.”
Bespoke two-piece suits – from £3,600 – reference a “typical West End cut”, with structured shoulders and strong lines, but there the similarity with Savile Row style ends. New pieces come to life with bold patterns and detailing: think checks or chalk-stripe fabrics with broad lapels, intricate pockets, pleats and contrast stitching or top collars. The firm also offers made-to-measure suits, cut to a Souster & Hicks pattern (from £950). The signature angled jacket cuffs are a giveaway to those in the know. “You just get a little flash of them every now and then,” says Souster, thumbing the cuff buttons on his navy wool and cashmere blazer.
Souster also differs from the London tailoring establishments in his open-minded approach. “Savile Row tailors will never look at ready-to-wear clothes,” he says, “but I’ve learned so much.” He has refined his own bespoke patterns by dissecting everything from off-the-peg trouser shapes to examining how collars are attached. By understanding new techniques and tweaks, he’s generally able to get the suit right from a single fitting. “My sleeves go in first time and stay there,” he says, unimpressed by tailors who have to remove and refit them several times to get the right line.
After the customary cappuccino or G&T mixed with local Bucks Brothers Gin, and some time exploring the warren of rooms, clients start to feel very much at home in the Souster & Hicks kingdom. Souster enjoys his reputation as an exceptional craftsman who doesn’t take things too seriously. “We’re a provincial tailor, I don’t deny it,” he says, with a twinkle. “But we can cut it with the best of them.” Souster has even been known to play affectionate tricks on longstanding clients – if he asks you to lie down on a length of cloth so he can “draw your suit around you”, don’t.
14 Bedford Street, Woburn, Milton Keynes MK17 9QB; sousterandhicks.com; @sousterandhicks