House of Nutter: The Rebel Tailor of Savile Rowby Lance Richardson Published 1 May 2018
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The strange, illuminative true story of Tommy Nutter, the Savile Road tailor who changed the silhouette of men's fashion – and his rock photographer brother, David, who captured it all on film.
From an early age, there was something different about Tommy and David Nutter. Growing up in an austere apartment above a café catering to truck drivers, both boys seemed destined to lead rather humble lives in post-war London—Tommy as a civil servant, David as a darkroom technician. Yet the strength of their imagination (plus a little help from their friends) transformed them instead into unlikely protagonists of a swinging cultural revolution.
In 1969, at the age of twenty-six, Tommy opened an unusual new boutique on the “golden mile” of bespoke tailoring, Savile Row. While shocking a haughty establishment resistant to change, “Nutters of Savile Row” became an immediate sensation among the young, rich, and beautiful, beguiling everyone from Bianca Jagger to the Beatles—who immortalized Tommy’s designs on the album cover of Abbey Road. Meanwhile, David’s innate talent with a camera vaulted him across the Atlantic to New York City, where he found himself in a parallel constellation of stars (Yoko Ono, Elton John) who enjoyed his dry wit almost as much as his photography.
House of Nutter tells the stunning true story of two gay men who influenced some of the most iconic styles and pop images of the twentieth century. Drawing on interviews with more than seventy people—and taking advantage of unparalleled access to never-before-seen pictures, letters, sketches, and diaries—journalist Lance Richardson presents a dual portrait of brothers improvising their way through five decades of extraordinary events, their personal struggles playing out against vivid backdrops of the Blitz, an obscenity trial, the birth of disco, and the devastation of the AIDS crisis.
A propulsive, deftly plotted narrative filled with surprising details and near-operatic twists, House of Nutter takes readers on a wild ride into the minds and times of two brilliant dreamers.
"House of Nutter: The Rebel Tailor of Savile Row" Reviews
I received this advance reader copy from Crown Publishing via NetGalley.
Being a lifelong Beatles fan, when I saw that this book involved Savile Row in London, England, my interest was immediately piqued. For I am well aware that the fancy tailors dominated that road. The Beatles new entertainment company Apple Corp. Ltd. set up headquarters in 1968 right in the middle of all that, at 3 Savile Road. But, little did I realize just how much celebrated bespoke tailor Thomas Nutter and his brother, photographer David Nutter's lives were intertwined with that of The Beatles. The three Beatles wearing suits on the album cover where they are crossing Abbey Road...were made by Thomas Nutter. Thomas Nutter also made the cream corduroy suit John Lennon was wearing when he married Yoko Ono at the Rock of Gibraltar. Not only that...David Nutter took the wedding photographs and was listed on the marriage certificate as one of the witnesses!
What is bespoke tailoring? It's the opposite of off-the-rack. Garments are custom made to your specific body measurements. At the tailor shop where Thomas Nutter first apprenticed, a customer's measurements were kept on file until they saw his name in the obituary! Another very interesting factoid was that 95% of men "dressed to the left".
Brothers Thomas and David Nutter were both gay, and each creative in their own way. Thomas became wildly successful during the late sixties designing suits and opening his own shop "The House of Nutter" on Savile Row. He was financed by lover Peter Brown, former personal assistant to Beatles manager Brian Epstein and Apple Corp. board member. Thomas made suits for Bianca and Mick Jagger, Elton John, The Beatles and other celebrities. David Nutter found his own success in photography working with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Elton John. He created that famous picture of John and Yoko which covers a ceiling in the Lennon's apartment at the Dakota, where it looks as though they are flying among the clouds over a London skyline.
Thomas Nutter died of AIDS in the 90s, and the whole terror of this new unknown disease was covered as it unfolded in the eighties. David is still alive and quite happy that this book exists to document their artistic contributions, born during the sixties and lasting through the next few decades. He shared many personal documents such as diaries, letters and photos which add a great authenticity to this book.
I love reading about sixties London, The Beatles and other rock bands that were around at that time, so this book was quite an interesting read for me. There were also many wonderful photos included in the book.
This was a such an informative read about the fashion and menswear trade from the late 1960’s and through the rock and roll years when a lot of his clientele were famous rockers among many other celebrities and worldwide famous folks. The book is also about the other Nutter brother who took up a career in photography and many times orbited around many of the same celebrities oddly enough, and on odd occasions at overlapping moments and locations.
The book recalls their lives and outcomes, following Tommy Nutter through his time in Savile Row learning to be a tailor working for another. Then when he’s finally able to get backing and open his first shop and breathe life into it and make his vision of fashion at last. Then he begins to dress the moneyed and famous and gains some fame of a sort for himself as he builds his business, always a walking advertisement himself and dressing his photographer brother in his fashions to advertise for him as well.
Brother David was often tasked to come in to do last minute photo shoots, getting great shots of the clothes on attractive volunteer friends and acquaintances who jumped in to help out and make things happen to get sales brochures out in time. There are lots of stories of becoming friends with the rich and famous and getting pretty successful, going out to all the “in” places, seeing and being seen and doing things to excess. They see the good side of things, and later the not so great sides as well. A very well told story that goes into other areas that are also important and gives a good bit of history. Well worth the read, but I don’t want to give anything away. An advance digital copy was provided by Netgalley, author Lance Richardson, and the publisher for my honest review.
Publication: May 1, 2018
(minor spoiler alert) I haven't given a book five entire stars in a really long time, but here we are I guess because this book was PHENOMENAL.
Not only was the history of the Nutter brothers meticulously researched, but the narrative had a voice to it that made the story engaging and relaxing to read. And being that the content of the narrative was so fantastical that it was almost hard to believe that the events happened in real life, having such a vivid voice was necessary.
If you don't read this book for any other reason than to see the magnificent photographs within its pages, all of which had fascinating stories described throughout the course of the book, then that would be reason enough. There are pictures here that you would see basically nowhere else, featuring celebrities of the seventies and eighties (especially Elton John) doing incredible things that you'd never have thought they would do (getting into bed with drag queen Divine), bespoke suits that changed the way we see fashion (Tommy Nutter's various revolutionary designs), and more.
And you might even learn a thing or two about LGBT history along the way (since both of the Nutter brothers were gay).
Bottom line, READ THIS BOOK (immediately, if possible).
I really enjoyed this biog - really of the 2 Nutter brothers: tailor Tommy and photog David. There remarkable lives are more than the broad-shouldered bespoke suit trend Tommy started after first bringing in the altered style of an English horse riding jacket. Bother moved in orbits with Elton John as a focus and thats three of Tommy's creations on the cover of Abbey Road. Both gay men lived a colorful club life that was eclipsed by the specter of AIDS. The decades covered here feel like a generational sweep of the '70s thru the '80s and succeeding (at times) with a creative life.
Thank you NetGalley for this advanced eGalley of "House of Nutter: The Rebel Tailor of Savile Row".
On the surface, and based on its captivating cover, you'd think this was going to be a book centered around Thomas (Tommy) Nutter--one of the pioneering designers of the once ultra-conservative Savile Row.
However, it is about BOTH David and Tommy Nutter, almost in equal measure.
Both ahead of their time in their respective disciplines.
Tommy hoped to turn the fashion world on its head with his otherworldly suit designs. Designs that would find their way onto the bodies of the Beatles (who wore his suits for the cover of 'Abbey Road'), Elton John, Diana Ross, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Mick Jagger. And while his successes would make him, at one time, the toast of London, his desire to remain true to his vision would also alienate and eviscerate relationships he'd develop with others.
One thing was frustratingly clear about Tommy, he wasn't willing to compromise under any circumstance.
His is a story of ups and downs--with the downs being nearly as notable as the ups--which culminates in his life being cut short by the growing AIDS epidemic.
On the other side of the pond, in New York, his older brother David's story would take place in parallel form. While younger brother Tommy was navigating the fashion waters, David's flare with a camera would bring him into contact with music and art royalty.
In an almost 'Forrest Gump' like fashion, David's ability to take pictures brought him into the orbit of not only the Beatles, but Elton John, Michael Jackson (before 'Off The Wall' made him into an other-worldly success), Freddie Mercury, and Mick Jagger.
Truthfully, as one who adores pop culture history--particularly where music is concerned--I was more fascinated with the world David inhabited. I couldn't believe the serendipity of his life.
A life that, sadly, was also spent in the grips of depression, thanks to undiagnosed manic depression (i.e. Bipolar Disorder).
David often turned to drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication, to no avail. By the time he figures out how to control his moods more effectively, he's endured more than his share of emotional, and physical, turmoil.
House of Nutter doesn't make it a point to dwell on David's mental health, but it was easy to see how it effected his ability to take better advantage of his opportunities--of which he certainly had many.
It also highlights how devastating the AIDS epidemic truly was, at that time. So many friends would eventually be lost to the disease--including Tommy himself (who died of AIDS in 1992).
That may have been the saddest part of all of this. Tommy didn't live long enough to see his influence come to fruition in many of today's most relevant designers--including Tom Ford.
An entertaining read for anyone interested in a time when creativity and innovation were at the forefront of progression, and art was about making something last, rather than setting a trend.