The Disguisery are a bespoke tailors based in Newman Street, Fitzrovia in London’s West End. A mid-century transatlantic style is their signature look but with a Saville Row pedigree. The quality of their tailoring, skills and ability are second to none. Recently featured on Simon Crompton’s Permanent Style classic menswear blog you can also pick up a pair of Kirk Originals sunglasses in their showroom whilst being measured for a suit, jacket or pair of their superb bespoke chino trousers.
Giles Plumpton, one of three partners at The Disguisery alongside Becky Philp and Edita Grazeviciene, in conversation mentioned that he used to wear Kirk Originals in the early nineties paired with and a Richard James shirt and although apparently photographic evidence of this exists he is yet to share it with us. Instead he spoke to us about Soho and life in London in the energetic sun infused summers of the early 90’s and his own first steps into getting bespoke clothes made for himself.
The Kirk Originals range launched in 1992. Do you remember where you first came across Kirk Originals?
I came across the Kirk Originals store in the middle of Floral Street, Covent Garden. They later moved to the other end of the street. I always liked vintage eyewear frames and sunglasses and was drawn to a pair that were a mid to late sixties style with metal frames and bright green lenses. They were a perfect fit for what I was wearing at the time.
What other clothing labels and styles were you wearing at the time?
The Duffer of St George, Burro, PPQ shirts, vintage Levi Sta-Prest, vintage Gabicci, The Dispensary, Boxfresh’s striped t-shirts, Gucci loafers, Patrick Cox loafers, 60’s and 70’s deadstock trainers and vintage 60’s leathers and suede jackets.
Did you work in Soho at the time?
I felt part of Soho, like a kindred spirit. In the early 1980’s I enjoyed what it had to offer socially, the clubs, the bars and the record shops, I knew I wanted to work there. I first worked in Soho in the mid 80’s for a video transfer house then went to work in the Southwark area now known as Bankside, before being drawn back to Soho in the nineties hiring video cameras and VTR’s to the broadcast and media production agencies based there.
London in the early 1990’s felt like a vibrant time for mens style with lots of new brands and stores all based around Soho?
It was a dawn of a new decade, the 90’s. I had been into the mod revival of the early to mid eighties which eventually like all movements had all but dissolved. There was a void in my opinion of smart fashion and street style. The House music scene and Acid House scene was not for me at all. It was all about ecstasy, baggy shirts and dungarees. Finally a scene, a movement was forming that appealed to me; that I could relate to. There were two record labels, Acid Jazz and Talkin Loud that would be the catalyst to a new vibrant music and club scene in London. The music was cool, a fusion of soul, jazz and funk with sixties and seventies influences.
There was a great vibe happening. Mens boutiques and shops around Soho and Covent Garden like Duffer St George, The Dispensary and Burro were selling 1960’s West and East coast American style clothing. Striped and hooped t-shirts, button down shirts, the Yardie Cardie that Duffer St George became famous for, Levi jeans, cords and jackets. Some of the stock was new but some of the stores also had stock from the 60’s and 70’s. In vintage shops like Cenci in Monmouth Street, Convent Garden you could source original Italian knitwear that you could pair up with cords or smarter tailored trousers.
Were there any other areas of London that had good mens stores in those days or that you hung out in?
If I remember most of the stores were in and around Soho or Covent Garden. Occasionally we would make a trip over to Portobello Market or Camden Market to find some vintage pieces. I remember a little shop that opened on Hanway Street, just off Oxford Street run by Jenny Mathias who had been a singer in a band called The Belle Stars. They sold vintage pieces alongside a label called Harry Palmer, named after Len Deighton’s spy character famously played by Michael Caine in The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain. The clothing was also inspired by 1960’s spy films. They made three-quarter length suede and leather trench coats. It was worn by Paul Weller at the time. I remember buying a leather jacket and a few button down shirts from there.
What was your soundtrack to the 1990’s?
I had always listened and danced to 60’s soul, rhythm, blues and jazz so when new bands on Talkin Loud and Acid Jazz, other labels incorporated these sounds together with 70’s soul, jazz and funk this new sound became the soundtrack. I remember Apparently Nothin’ by The Young Disciples being a great club tune. I was listening to a lot of Hammond organ heavy sounds; James Taylor Quartet, Mother Earth, The Brand New Heavies, Galliano, Corduroy and Hammond players from the sixties like Jimmy Smith, Brother Jack Mcduff and Brian Auger. I remember the Acid Jazz Totally Wired series of albums being very good. They were great compilations of past and present soul, jazz, latin and funk music. It was music to dance to.
What were the cool spots in London?
The clubs I was going to were all over London. In Soho in the late 1980’s it was The Wag Club (upstairs) on Monday evening. The Tommy Chase Quartet used to play live jazz with Paul Murphy DJ’ing soul jazz. In Soho it was Duffer of St George Shop on D’Arbly Street, Bar Italia for coffee on Frith Street in Soho and Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club which was on the opposite side of the road.
Around London there was The Blue Note Club Hoxton Square, Talkin Loud at Dingwalls in Camden then later at The Fridge in Brixton, Happiness Stans in Smithfield Market and The Karminksy Experience at Apple Tree Yard in St James, W1. Also Shake and Finger Pop at Dingwalls Camden.
Who were the guys who were really setting the pace as far as mens style was concerned in the early 90’s?