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A Brief History of British Luxury

03/04/2014 12:02 BST | Updated 02/06/2014 10:59 BST

The word luxury is brandished about a little too frequently these days. As a result the definition of luxury has been watered down too much, steering away from the skills and traditions that it relied upon, and moving towards implying a more "bling" lifestyle that can be considered often rather vacuous.

In accordance to British tradition, luxury has historically always been a means of differentiation, and a tool to express one's story. Collectively, luxury brands and their bearers offer the perfect insight into British history that is both visual and tangible in equal measures.

On a recent walk I conducted for Fox & Squirrel Ltd, I was able to unveil this history in Mayfair's boundaries formed between St James's, Piccadilly, Savile Row and Mount Street.

Here, retailers that have lined these streets for centuries, honour their heritage with displays of their rich archives.

The story starts off in the mid-17th century, when the most acclaimed artisans fled the Great Fire of London, and established their new workshops and premises in Mayfair. Some of these artisans and craftsman have remained on the same location ever since. Such examples are Lock & Co, hatters to Lord Nelson, and one of the oldest family-run companies to this day. These vertically integrated businesses prevail in the area; other examples include Floris, the perfumers, conveniently located near Beau Brummel's statue, a gent whose obsessions with style propelled British fashion to the forefront. This exceptional local essence has inspired contemporary brands that are also present in the area, such as Solange Azagury Partridge on Carlos Place and until recently Nicolas Kirkwood, Britain's enfant celebre of the fashion accessories world.

The incredible skill set that has been and continues to be present in the area comes to a climax on Savile Row. On a recent walk for Fox & Squirrel I pointed out to my audience that while walking this Golden Mile of tailoring, they should look down at the workshops that offer a glimpse to the world of cutters, tailors and embroiderers.

At no1 Savile Row, talent, skill, history and modernity collide. At the house of Gieves & Hawkes, the long lasting tradition of providing bespoke tailoring is intertwined with their contributions to British navy, military and royal histories, while the company's contemporary designs respond to those making future histories.

In his book, London Biography, Peter Ackroyd says that London's story is characterised by the noise it produced. And, although the word luxury is ubiquitous it comes as a relief to me to realize that it is not loud enough to quiet those discreet noises made by tailors, cutters, perfumers and hatters that have occupied this once hunting ground of Henry VIII for more than 400 years.