History

book_1coverL.G. Wilkinson was founded in 1919 and has occupied the same premises since 1924.  Since 1954, it has become the primary exporter of traditional Savile Row bespoke garments to Germany.  Garments are cut and made in 11 St. George Street using traditional techniques.  The fifth generation family owned business has an unparalleled collection of historical cloths and trimmings which enable it to offer the customer a unique opportunity to order an original bespoke garment.  In 2014, L.G. Wilkinson will celebrate 60 years of travelling by Jaguar to Germany, where customers visit Mr. Wilkinson to order and try on new bespoke clothes.

Brief History of L.G. Wilkinson

L.G. Wilkinson is the oldest family owned bespoke tailoring house in London. We have occupied our current shop in St. George Street since November 1924. Tailoring activity has existed at the building for in excess of one hundred years.

The firm is named after the current proprietor’s grandfather, Leslie Garnham Wilkinson. He was the third generation bespoke tailor in the family which hails from Boston, Lincolnshire.

The first two generations of tailor in the Wilkinson family were David Wilkinson and David Robert Wilkinson. David Wilkinson trained for a firm in Boston before opening his first shop in Pump Square. The building housing this shop still exists. Boston was a major costal port town and, as with many successful trading cities and towns in England, had a demand for bespoke tailoring.

Leslie Garnham Wilkinson moved from Boston to London before the first world war, attracted by the reputation of the Savile Row Golden Mile. During the first world war, he worked for a bespoke tailor in Antwerp before returning to London at the beginning of 1919. During 1919, he was encouraged by some customers to set up his own business and opened his first shop in Cork Street, which at that time housed several tailoring firms.
In 1924, L.G. Wilkinson saw the opportunity to acquire a long lease on 11 St. George Street. He considered the building to be a unique location to expand the family business in an interesting site directly opposite the famous St. George’s Church.

The business thrived during the 1920’s and 1930’s and had in excess of twenty employees prior to the second world war. L.G. Wilkinson grew the business organically but also acquired the major tailoring firm of Kerslake & Dixon Ltd. This firm had shops both in London and Den Haag.

During the second world war, trading continued largely as normal albeit with the front windows boarded up. The firm had a large stock of cloth to use for new orders and was able to expand turnover each year until 1944. Whilst the firm survived the war, it had its most significant setback on 14th November 1945. On the night of the 14th, almost all of the firm’s remaining stock cloth was stolen. All cloth produced in England was exported and therefore any stock cloth was very valuable. Whilst the firm was insured for the replacement cloth, it was unable to make new garments until the first “demob” cloths were delivered. The demob cloth was available to ex-servicemen to have for their first suit back in civilian life.

Between the end of 1945 and 1947, Dennis Robert Wilkinson, the son of L.G. Wilkinson undertook his military service in Austria, operating in 428 FSS, a counter espionage unit. This gave D.R. Wilkinson a contact base with Austria and Germany which would become significant for the post war growth of L.G. Wilkinson.

D.R. Wilkinson joined the firm at the end of 1947 and completed his cutting studies by 1949. In 1949, he began visiting The Netherlands under the subsidiary name of Kerslake & Dixon Ltd. The Kerslake & Dixon Ltd shop in Den Haag had closed during the 1930’s but there was still a significant customer base loyal to Kerslake & Dixon Ltd in Den Haag, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. These sales trips were vital for post war growth as we were able to order cloth far more easily on export orders.

In 1952, L.G. Wilkinson passed away and D.R. Wilkinson became proprietor of the family firm at the age of 25. After consolidating Kerslake & Dixon Ltd into the business, he looked to Germany for further export expansion. During 1954, he undertook the firm’s first sales trip to Germany with visits to Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Krefeld, Dortmund and Bonn. In the next decade, he included West Berlin, East Berlin, Hannover and Frankfurt as destinations. Krefeld and Dortmund were major textile oriented cities which were thriving during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Gradually, the customer base shifted from these cities to Berlin, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt.

Between 1954 and 2004, L.G. Wilkinson undertook an average of three visits to Germany and The Netherlands. In 2006, D.R. Wilkinson passed away and his son, D.H. Wilkinson, took over the business. D.H. Wilkinson had worked for several years in Germany prior to 2006.

L.G. Wilkinson now undertakes eight visits to Germany and The Netherlands as well as regular visits to Austria, Switzerland, France, USA, Russia and Australia. In 2014, the firm will celebrate 90 years at 11 St. George Street and 60 years of travelling to Germany.

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