“A man who singlehandedly reconciled the traditions of Savile Row, laid down in the late 19th century, with the male peacock revolution of the Sixties.”
- The Independent
Born in 1943, Thomas Albert Nutter, the son of a café owner, revolutionised men’s fashion. After initially studying plumbing and then architecture, Tommy Nutter left college at the age of 17 to work for William & Ward, a traditional British tailoring company. In 1969, at the age of 26, Tommy Nutter, financially backed by Cilla Black and Peter Brown from the Beatles’ record company, opened his first shop “Nutters of Savile Row”.
Tommy Nutter’s designs transformed Savile Row. He delighted in rebellious interpretations of classic British designs, in exaggerated proportions and traditional tweeds and worsted cloths reinvented in bold, often clashing, colours, prints, and textures.
Three of the four Beatles on the famous Abbey Road album cover wore suits designed by Tommy Nutter. John Lennon and Yoko Ono came to Tommy Nutter’s shop to be fitted for their white suits and proceeded to strip off in the middle of the shop. “The customers were complaining,” recalled Nutter, “but what could I do? This was John Lennon.
From 1982 for the rest of his career, Tommy's shop was "Tommy Nutter® - 19 Savile Row", a business he owned jointly with the Crombie® group, selling both Tommy's bespoke and ready-to-wear collections. Tommy designed the clothes and serviced the customers, while Crombie supplied him with its famous British cloth. Characteristically, Tommy Nutter described his 1983 collection for men and women as “a delicious menu… wanting to deviate from the boring city image”.
“For me he was the first lifestyle tailor as opposed to being just someone who made clothes.”
– Menswear Designer Carlo Brandelli
Tommy Nutter also famously designed and crafted the highly imaginative suits for Jack Nicholson’s character The Joker in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie. On the film’s full list of cast and crew, Tommy Nutter’s name appears as designer and tailor of Jack Nicholson's wardrtobe. “They came to me because nobody else could do all those tail coats,” Tommy recalled. “In the end, we made about 60 outfits because special effects ruined quite a few.”
Today, Tommy Nutter’s famous designs showcased are in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Fashion and Textile Museum, and the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He remains an integral and defining feature in the history of Savile Row: inspiring a wave of modernism and a new generation of British designers to embrace traditional tailoring whilst reinventing the menswear establishment. Crombie continues to produce tailoring and accessories based on the wealth of sketches and designs created by Tommy Nutter during his lifetime and now held in the Crombie archives.
“He thought nothing of designing a suit in three different fabrics – gabardine mixed with tweed and velvet. He’s designed suits made from deck-chair fabric – now, who would do that?”
– Christopher Tarling, Tommy Nutter’s Assistant.