Marylebone’s Memories and Dashing Tweeds by Guy Hills
I moved to Marylebone 54 years ago when I was a few months old, to York House on Upper Montagu Street. We lived in a flat halfway up the building and then my architect father decided to build his dream house on the roof. The house summed up the seventies, half Boogie Nights and half The Good Life; modern glass with diagonal wood panels and a field of wheat.
Marylebone was a very different place in the 1970’s I remember it as being a bit run down with ladies of the night hanging around the street corners and a slightly more transient population.
My grandparents lived along the road in Harley House and I remember being taken for treat teas at the French Sagne cafe on Marylebone High Street by my grandmother. The cakes were a dream and must have been responsible for my lifelong love of patisserie.
In my early teens I became interested in photography and set up a small darkroom at home. There was the most fabulous shop called Pelling and Cross on Baker Street which was one of the main photographic shops of London. I’d spend hours talking to the helpful staff and buying bulk black and white film and chemicals to do my own developing and printing. I’d walk regularly with my father to Chiltern Street where interesting independent shops have always been. My father would get his A1 architecture drawings reprographed at a printer and then sometimes drop by Grey Flannel for dandy new clothes. I still have some of his old clothes from Grey Flannel and also a rust red herringbone Harris tweed jacket from a shop on New Quebec Street called Bedford Riding Breeches.
We didn’t often eat out in my childhood and there weren’t so many places to go but I do have very fond memories of The Alpino, an Italian restaurant at the top corner of Marylebone High Street with its rough stucco walls, black beams and rustic charm. My brother and I would meet my grandfather there when he finished in his consulting rooms on Harley Street and have spaghetti slurping races with his amusing secretary before my mother and grandmother arrived.
Marylebone has really been the geographical centre of my life. For school I headed north every day to Northbridge House at the corner of the park and then a few years later biked south, racing my brother through Mayfair to Westminster School. As a rule, I barely venture anywhere more than 30 minutes bike ride from Baker Street and this just about covers everywhere you need to go in London from a girlfriends in Chelsea to Clubs in Shoreditch.
Now that I’m married with three children and a dog I’ve ventured up to leafy Primrose Hill. I reside in sight of rocking canal boats and splash landing ducks but every morning I jump on my bike back to Marylebone and the streets of my youth.
I decided on a career change from my life as a professional fashion photographer about 15 years ago. Travelling for weeks at a time with a bus load of models is not conducive to family life and as the world turned digital most of the magazines, I worked for dwindled.
I’d had a love of clothes from as long as I can remember, sewing with my grandparents and stepmother and then fashioning rave outfits with help from the inhouse sewing adviser in John Lewis. I jumped at a photographic commission to work for a newly formed marketing board setup by the tailors of Savile Row. The job gave me carte blanche to photograph the archives of every tailor on the row and I arranged payment in tailoring, eventually having a tailored suit by almost all the houses. The tailors’ archives contained treasured pre-war swatches of fabulous tweeds in all sorts of bright colours and designs. I lusted after these sumptuously interesting fabrics but by the early noughties they had all but disappeared.
Inspired by the history of tailoring and with a desire to modernise tweed for an urban life in the 21st century I set about looking for interesting cloth. It was not until I met Kirsty at her degree show at The Royal College of Art that I could conceive of a way to make my sartorial dreams come true. Kirsty, with a first-class degree in weave was just the person I was looking for and together we setup Dashing Tweeds, a weave based tailoring company with a mission to create modern woven wool fabrics relevant to life today. We started by designing a fabric for cycling around London, an urban tweed with yellow lines against a pavement grey ground and with the inclusion of reflective yarns intricately woven in. Commission weavers in the Scottish Borders wove a 60m piece for us. I only needed 6 for myself so selling the rest to fund the project seemed the obviously answer. Luckily Converse shoes read about us and ended up buying enough fabric to make thousands of pairs of co-branded trainers. Dashing Tweeds had a hit and a shop was needed.
We soon out grew our tiny shop in Sackville Street and it took me no time at all to realise that Chiltern Street was the place to be. In fact, we moved into the old Wide Screen Centre shop at the corner with Dorset Street and upon viewing the space I knew immediately that was the home Dashing Tweeds needed.
We could not be happier now that we are settled after five years in Dorset Street. The area becomes more vibrant by the day and we have a steady stream of the right kind of customers. Those who delight in our creative offerings of new fabrics and take pleasure from having them tailored by us and the various tailors we work with. Our business is now thriving and our fabrics are sought after by people in the know worldwide. We supply almost all the major film costume designs with cloth, we have to sign NDAs and are delighted when our cloth is worn by star characters from Mary Poppins to moody Sci-Fi heroes.
I’m in the shop most days so do drop by anytime and say hello, we like to inspire customers to think of garments they would like to bespeak from us and then make their sartorial dreams come true.
The Marylebone Association
6 Wimpole Street