Sean Connery had his 007 suits made here, while Paul McCartney once used its Mayfair HQ as a studio. The duo behind tailoring firm Anthony Sinclair tell us about funding, family and taking the business online
David Mason Necessity is the mother of invention. I was working in a Manchester clothing store while at college, and couldn’t get trousers the length I wanted them with a turn-up cuff. So I sourced some tartan cloth from a guy in Huddersfield and gave it to a tailor.
I’d wear these trousers in the shop, and customers would say, ‘Where can I get those?’ I’d say, ‘Well, you’ll have to meet me outside the shop when we’ve closed…’ The shop’s customers became a ready-made market. I thought it was just beer money, not a career.
Elliot Mason My career started even younger, as I’ve pretty much been involved since birth. Dad’s been in the game for 30 years, so during school holidays it was all hands on deck.
David Mason After graduating, I’d started to fit and sell clothes, and was producing silk pyjamas, dressing gowns and shirts. I ended up working with Mike Summerbee, the Manchester City footballer, who had a small bespoke factory.
He’d starred in Escape to Victory with Michael Caine, who introduced him to everyone in Mayfair. Eventually I realised that the way to scale was to develop a brand – or acquire one. We acquired Anthony Sinclair in 2012, with help from the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, which is brilliant for start-ups.
You can raise up to £150,000 and the investors can’t take more than 30 per cent of your equity but get 50 per cent tax relief on their investment. We acquired this small flat – our despatch room, our warehouse, everything – a year later (see panel, below). Our timing was excellent because we launched to coincide with the golden anniversary of the Bond franchise.
Elliot Mason The whole ‘You’re bringing James Bond’s original tailor back’ thing really caught fire, and before long we were in the Sunday Times, Esquire, GQ, How to Spend It, the FT and Businessweek. Bond is everything for us. When you go to our website homepage the first image you see is [the late tailor after whom the company is named] Anthony Sinclair fitting Sean Connery.
David Mason Elliot coming aboard last year changed everything. Once, to scale a business like this, you needed so much capital to open stores. But suddenly the world changed enormously. Elliot and his younger brother started putting stuff out on social media and in the first week, the editor of US Esquire started following me. That’s about when I started to understand it a little better.
Elliot Mason We couldn’t afford to advertise, so social media was the perfect way to communicate that we’d brought this brand back to life. I was about 13 when Facebook started booming. Dad’s plan was for me to follow my mother’s footsteps into the City, and learn about finance before joining him, but that wasn’t for me.
I was doing an internship with a start-up app company who were trying to create a new form of social media, going around the street trying to enlist people in person rather than via an existing online forum. They taught me what not to do – if you’re launching a social media site, you have to do it online – and I only stayed two or three months.
David Mason Because of social media we’re very connected with the real Bond enthusiasts. For a while after he was demobbed, Ian Fleming even lived just across the corner from us [in Montagu Square]. People want the whole look – the cocktail-cuff shirt, the knitted tie, the linen pocket square.
Elliot Mason Now, we’re developing a hybrid model whereby customers come here and try on a ready-to-wear suit which may need nipping and tucking. Then, we know what fits them perfectly and so they can just click on our website to order more garments and we know what adjustments are necessary.
We’ll never be completely online, as we need part of our [tailoring] heritage to keep going. Moving forward, we’re going to need more try-before-you-buy centres and more people to help with fittings.
David Mason Elliot’s e-commerce business has achieved greater turnover in its first 12 months than the annual revenue of the tailoring business that has taken me 30 years to build… and online sales are forecast to triple next year. We’ll probably do up to half a million pounds online this year.
Elliot Mason Being father and son definitely makes a difference to our working relationship. Even though I’ve only been working for my dad officially for a year, I’ve been in the thick of it all my life. I know what my dad’s good at and what I shouldn’t stick my nose into and vice versa. In a whole year there’s not been any confrontation – we just crack on with what we know we’re doing. It works really well.
Watch a history of the tailoring firm at here
Founded The 1950s, by the eponymous tailor, who died in 1986. David Mason purchased the brand in 2012.
HQ A London property which Ringo Starr leased in the mid-1960s. Paul McCartney used it as a studio, and Jimi Hendrix and John and Yoko were subsequent residents.
Staff Just David and Elliot. For now. “Our PR people, web developer, tailors – they’re all freelancers,” says David Mason. “Where we need staff now is for customer services online, and for packing and shipping products and handling returns.”
Most famous product The ‘Conduit Cut’ suit, as worn by Sean Connery in the early Bond films. Over 1,000 have been sold since they relaunched the cut in 2012.