Davenport Lyons wins Savile Row suits row

Davenport Lyons won a favourable decision from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for its client, Bond Street suit maker Sartoriani, allowing it to advertise its suits as “bespoke” even though they have not been made on Savile Row.

Unlike Savile Row suits, Sartoriani’s suits are not made entirely by hand but are cut by machine. The anonymous complainant to the ASA argued that Sartoriani’s advert for a “bespoke suit” was therefore misleading.

The ASA’s decision read, however: “We considered that the majority of people […] would not expect the suit to be fully hand-made with the pattern cut from scratch. We concluded that the use of the word ‘bespoke’ to describe the advertised suits was unlikely to mislead.”

The decision will be a blow to Savile Row tailors’ hope for protection of “bespoke” in a similar vein to the protection afforded to French Champagne by the French courts.

While the Savile Row Bespoke trade association, which represents 12 Savile Row tailors, has registered the trademark “Savile Row bespoke” and set out strict codes of practice for its use, the trademark will not extend to protecting the generic word “bespoke”.

Davenport Lyons head of contentious IP Simon Tracey represented Sartoriani in the paper submissions to the ASA.

He explained: “If you advertise as ‘Savile Row bespoke’ you’ve got to satisfy exhaustive criteria and we can see that in the context of consumers’ understanding. But ‘bespoke’ itself is a word in ordinary usage and the common understanding of the word now even gets used by plumbers when advertising toilet seats.”

Savile Row was not directly involved in the ASA complaint but Mark Henderson, who is chairman of Savile Row Bespoke and chief executive of Savile Row tailor Gieves & Hawkes, said: “The fact that a company like Sartoriani can claim to make bespoke suits and state their address as Savile Row is potentially misleading.

“It leads consumers to think that a machine-made suit can substitute the experience, craftsmanship and expertise that goes into creating a Savile Row bespoke suit, which it cannot. Sartoriani even stated that they ‘would never imply… that they made their suits entirely by hand in the UK’ – so why not call it made to measure?”