Savile Row never goes out of style

Tailors at London's Savile Row, the Mecca of custom-tailored suits.

A bespoke suit is one tailored precisely to fit a discriminating customer who would never think of buying off the rack. And if the custom-made suit could be said to have a capital, it would be on the London street our Anthony Mason is about to guide us down:

In the world of men's tailoring, this is Mecca: The quiet London street called Savile Row.

In the 1969 film "The Italian Job," Michael Caine suits up on Savile Row.

James Bond's Daniel Craig and David Bowie, Fred Astaire and Cary Grant have all been fitted here.

The royal family has their military uniforms made on Savile Row. And yes, Michael Jackson had some of his tailored here, too.

Just a block long, it looks much like any other street in London, but look below. In the basements of Savile Row's storied firms, where hundreds of tailors, sewers and cutters practice the art that has defined this street for more than two and a half centuries.

The British call it "bespoke." Just don't call it "fashion."

"We're making bespoke garments, custom-made garments to the specification of the customer," said Angus Cundey,

"So fashion is irrelevant?" asked Mason.

"It really is, yes."

Angus Cundey is often called "the godfather of Savile Row."

He heads Henry Poole & Company, the first house to set up shop here back in the 1840s.

Here a bespoke suit might set you back three thousand pounds. Tthat's nearly $5,000 for a single men's suit (which is why you won't see your reporter on this story being fitted for a new suit).

"That's a significant investment," said Mason.

"Oh, indeed! Yes. But then I hope that the suit will last many years," said Cundey.

So just who's buying these handmade suits? The proprietors of Savile Row are famously discreet.

They won't discuss their customers ... at least, not until they're dead.

Cundey showed us the the archive room where the old records are kept. "We have 120 in all of the big ledgers. And the first one goes back to 1846," he said.

In those dusty account books you'll find orders for Charles Dickens, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Queen Victoria's son, the Prince of Wales, who became King Edward the VII.

"He got very big," said Cundey, "which was probably good for his tailor ... kept us busy, yes!"

He also displayed a suit made for Winston Churchill in 1936. "He ordered profusely right up until 1929," said Cundey. "And then there was the Wall Street crash, and I fear he lost a lot of money, and his orders went down and down. And, in fact, what orders he did give us, he didn't pay for."

Queen Elizabeth has been a more reliable customer. Poole and Co. has the prestigous "royal warrant" to make the uniforms for the walking grooms who escort the queen's gold state coach.

Keith Levett will spend four weeks sewing each uniform by hand. "There's a mere 35 yards of gold lace on here," he said. "They're being made in much the same way that they were 130-odd years ago."