Daisy Knatchbull was working for a tailor on London's famous bespoke suit street, Savile Row, when she realized that there was a gap in the market. In a city full of professional women, there were few, if any, dedicated shops where they could go to have suits custom-made. So, Daisy came up with the idea for The Deck, the first tailoring house for women in the history of Savile Row. It seemed like a no-brainer.
Daisy was working on the fashion desk of the Sunday Times newspaper when she saw an ad for a job at a men's tailoring brand that sparked her attention. ‘A job came up working for Huntsman on Savile Row. I got it and worked my way up to become communications director and tried to learn menswear literally down to the stitch,’ she says. Her experience in this job really brought home to her what a completely male-dominated environment Savile Row was – something she wanted to change.
‘It gave me the idea to start a business that offered an empathetic, welcoming, cozy atmosphere for women, where the modern working woman could basically build a bespoke wardrobe,’ says Daisy. ‘I wanted to give them the opportunity to have something made for them rather than trying to squeeze themselves into something. They could choose everything from the cloth to the lining and buttons.’ The idea came to Daisy like a revelation and she did everything she could to make it happen. ‘I had 100 coffee meetings in three months. I met up with business people – not just those in fashion or tailoring – lawyers and accountants, and just tried to soak up as much as I could about business and how to be successful.’
Celebrating women's bodies
The next step in the process was to get some firm foundations in place. ‘I set out to focus on the legal aspects, setting up sturdy financials and building a strong team to execute my vision – people who believed in what I was doing, because a lot of people didn't,’ she confesses. ‘I was very lucky that it finally ended up paying off.’
One of the reasons that Daisy felt that The Deck was necessary is that every woman, no matter her shape or size, wants her clothes to fit well. This, however, means more complicated tailoring, something which Daisy says made people skeptical of the business. ‘Women’s bodies are supposedly often too difficult with boobs and bums. Of course, it is more complex, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not possible. We put a man on the moon, so we can tailor a suit for women successfully!’ She found that the effect of the business on women customers was much more emotional than she had anticipated and even therapeutic. ‘Women come in and apologize for their bodies and I say “No, don’t apologize – that’s being a woman. Welcome.” Here that is celebrated. Come in and we will make something fantastic that is made for you,’ she says.
Custom creations for each customers
As a woman who had always worn tailored clothing, Daisy understood why it was so sensitive. ‘You want the person measuring you to be a woman. Loads of my clients are going through menopause or they’re having IVF or they’re really bloated. You want to be heard and understood by a woman and talk about things only we go through.’ Clients instantly loved The Deck. Despite an unlucky opening during a time of Brexit-related issues and the pandemic, they’ve doubled their businesses year-on-year. ‘We’ve been really lucky with a really loyal client base.’
Daisy believes that filling such a necessary niche is what has already made The Deck so enduring. ‘When you hit a niche, it resonates for people. I think that’s what happened. People just felt that it was long overdue and that it was exactly what they needed. They want to shift their spending to more conscious consumerism,’ she says. Of course, that isn’t cheap, but a custom suit is designed to last, and the message resonated with the right client base. ‘Our suits start at £2000. They can wear it from day to night for a number of occasions. We do free repairs for life, they’re supporting a female-founded business, and they’re doing something that’s good for the planet. I think people saw value in that.’
Above all, though, the tailoring is central to The Deck. Because of the high-cost of custom tailoring, they are currently working on ways to lower the barrier to entry with pricing installments and separates so more women can enjoy what they do. For Daisy, The Deck’s mission is simple. ‘It’s about being the destination for women tailoring today. Understanding these women and offering them this amazing space, that safe, unintimidating and inviting, and welcoming space. We understand their emotional relationship with clothing. It’s a complex one.’