Richardson, Lance. “House of Nutter: The Rebel Tailor of Savile Row”, Crown Archetype. 2018
Tommy and David Nutter, Brothers
Lance Richardson shares the strange, illuminative true story of Tommy Nutter, the Savile Row tailor who changed men’s fashion—and his rock photographer brother, David, who captured it all on film.
Tommy and David Nutter grew up in an austere apartment above a café that catered to truck drivers and they both boys seemed to be headed to lead rather humble lives in post-war London. Tommy became a civil servant and David was a darkroom technician. However, the strength of their imagination (and a little help from their friends) changed them into unlikely major players in a swinging cultural revolution.
In 1969, when he was just twenty-six, Tommy opened an unusual new boutique on Savile Row. While shocking a haughty establishment resistant to change, “Nutters of Savile Row” became an immediate sensation among the young, rich, and beautiful and it charmed everyone from Bianca Jagger to the Beatles who wore Tommy’s designs on the album cover of “Abbey Road”. At the same time David’s across the Atlantic to New York City, where he found himself stars (Yoko Ono, Elton John) who enjoyed his dry wit almost as much as his photography.
This is quite a story about two gay men who influenced some of the most iconic styles and pop images of the twentieth century. Richardson uses interviews with more than seventy people and unparalleled access to never-before-seen pictures, letters, sketches, and diaries to give us a dual portrait of brothers improvising their way through fifty years of extraordinary events as their personal struggles played out against backdrops of the Blitz, an obscenity trial, the birth of disco, and the devastation of the AIDS crisis. Brothers Tommy and David
Tommy had no formal education as a fashion designer, and no advanced training as a tailor aside from his own “in-built feeling for clothes.” Nonetheless, he immediately found himself outfitting everyone from rock stars to members of parliament, Twiggy to Diana Ross. Within a few years, the “Evening Standard” pronounced Tommy “as established and as important as any British tailor or designer.” He gained quite a following in America that stretched from New York to Los Angeles. People raved about his Savile Row suits and his legacy is in menswear today.
Today, his suits are now safeguarded in the Victoria & Albert Museum and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Tommy was friendly with Princess Margaret and joined her at galas in Venice and Munich. He was a gay man who managed to pull himself out of the working class using nothing more than his own imagination.
Tommy Nutter was obsessed with his public image and was also gay. He personalized forty years of critical gay history. Tommy’s focus on outward appearances might have been a way for him to take control and overcome the more challenging aspects of his own experience. Tommy ultimately died from AIDS-related pneumonia in August 1992. The lives of many artists, performers, and designers were lost pre- maturely to the plague and have since been unfairly marginalized in the collective memory.
Tommy and David were two gay brothers, two halves of a larger, stranger whole and the book about them is an analysis of the British class system and the fashion industry, gay liberation and the Aids crisis, and it is written with flair and erudition.
It is the story is of two brothers who rose from modest north London origins to the fringes of international stardom.
What is unique here is that we are frequently reminded of the unremarkable humanity of celebrities and the variety of experiences in the book.