Carol Alayne

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Tailoring with the Godfather: Harry Helman

Harry HellmanI have on my desk a composite reminder from my first days in London almost twenty years ago; a photograph, business card and sketch of an evening tail suit. They came from my first meeting with Harry Helman, the gold medal winner some would call the Godfather of Savile Row.

He was responsible for the training of many of the top craftsmen you find in the trade today and this meeting was arranged by one of his protégées, Malcolm Plews (Welsh & Jefferies).

On our first meeting he asked me what project was foremost in my mind….I said how to make a top notch set of evening tails, and he jumped into action with a piece of paper to start to lay out the basic elements of this complex item.

Harry Hellman

Harry Hellman

He had time for anyone who had a passion for the trade and dispensed wisdom, humour and Guinness in equal measure from a chair which carried his name next to the bar in the corner of the Windmill pub. With his brother Burt, Harry ran a business from Bruton Street, Mayfair, with Harry looking after the men’s side of the business and Burt the ladies. When he passed away in 1990 he had been working in the trade for more than 60 years. To Harry, everyone was a ‘good boy’……..even the girls!

photos: Jason Plews

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3 Responses

  1. Linda Taylor ( formaly Stegman ) May 12th, 2013

    I worked with Harry and Bert from 1968 until 1971 as a tailoress, Harry was a really lovely man. Always in a hurry, cutting and fitting but always had time for you.

  2. Malcolm Saville November 22nd, 2013

    My late Father had a showroom at 28 Bruton street.
    I knew Harry very well and Bert.
    My Father Brother and myself had all our suits made at Hellman
    Iclyding our Morning Suits for Ascot Week.
    In my opinion he was the best and his Hacking jackets were Jackets were amazing.

  3. Lewis Orde April 14th, 2016

    I knew Harry Helman back in the earlly 1970s when I was editor of Tailor and Cutter magazine. Back then, Harry counted among his distinguished clients Walter Annenberg, then United States ambassador to the Court of St. James. In 1972, Harry was chairman of appeals for the Master Tailors Benevolent Association and invited Mr. Annenberg to be the guest speaker at the annual dinner at the Europa Hotel. (The previous year’s speaker had been Prince Charles, whose tailor, Teddy Watson, of Hawes and Curtis, had then been chairman of appeals.) Someone from the US Embassy contacted me, asking for topics the ambassador might include in his speech. I obliged, jotting down a few notes concerning the bespoke trade, and a few days later I received a handwritten note of thanks from the ambassador himself. I mentioned the handwritten note to Harry Helman, and he didn’t seem surprised. The ambassador, Harry said, was a perfect gentleman. So was Harry, and I thank the original poster for giving me the opportunity to remember him.

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Recognised as a pioneer of bespoke tailoring for women, Carol Alayne has over 25 years experience of creating striking garments for arts, sports and media personalities and business wear for professionals and executives.



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