LONDON — Daisy Knatchbull knew she was on to something interesting when she showed up at Royal Ascot three years ago, dressed in a bespoke morning suit, top hat — and heels. At the time, Knatchbull was working as communications director for the Savile Row tailor Huntsman so the suit was a natural, if unusual, choice for a woman attending the annual event beloved of Queen Elizabeth.
What surprised her most was the avalanche of reaction she got from other women wanting to dress in a similar sharp, masculine way. It spurred Knatchbull to start The Deck, a tailored clothing brand for women that will launch later this month with a studio space on King’s Road and a made-to-measure tailoring offer built around sustainability, longevity and equality.
Her aim is to offer women the same sort of made-to-measure service as men get from their tailors. She said the name, The Deck, came from the idea of reshuffling a pack of cards and moving forward. “Men aren’t the only ones wanting tailored suits — and women don’t just want them for work,” she said.
Knatchbull also wants her customers to slow down, think about what they want from clothing, and buy trousers and jackets to last a lifetime. She values the considered purchase over the impulse one, and believes a small, versatile wardrobe can be mighty — and a boon for the planet.
“My aim is to get women to buy less. You pay 2,000 pounds for a suit, but you can wear it in five different ways, and beautifully tailored clothes will never go out of fashion. What I’m creating is a capsule collection that fits well — and looks good,” said the fast-talking, enthusiastic Knatchbull, a natural marketer and entrepreneur whose grandmother Lady Mountbatten was a Member of the House of Lords, the upper house of the British Parliament and a cousin of Prince Philip’s.
Knatchbull’s business is low on waste, as she doesn’t have to bulk order fabrics, hold stock, or discount. Transportation costs are low, too, as The Deck’s fabrics come mainly from the U.K. and Italy, while the suits are made at an atelier in Porto, Portugal.
The fabrics themselves are natural, and include linen, wool and cotton, while some samples are made from bamboo. Customers can choose from hundreds of textures, patterns and treatments including a range of cool wools, velvets, pinstripes and crease-resistant linen.
Sustainability came naturally. “I knew that if I started a fashion brand there would have to be a huge sustainability element to it. You need that if you want to be relevant. Today, a brand is not only about the product and the experience, it’s about the ethos, the belief system. Part of that is sustainability, another part is the empowerment that comes with wearing my product. It’s up to you what you buy. It’s a consumer-led process.”
Knatchbull, who raised the money from private backers for the venture, has hired women to work at her King’s Road store. She wanted to empower women at all levels and ensure her clients were as comfortable as possible during the preliminary chats and fittings that are part of the experience at 336 King’s Road.
During an initial consultation, customers are asked myriad questions about how they live, work and dress, and about their wardrobe peeves and needs. Knatchbull’s team then gets to work on the clothing, which is designed around four basic blocks: There are single- and double-breasted jackets as well as a four-patch safari one, and trousers that come straight-leg, flared, wide or cigarette-shaped.
Customers can mix them up as they please, pick thread colors, buttons, monogramming, special linings and a peak or notched lapel. The process takes four to six weeks, and the price is 2,000 pounds for a jacket and trousers, roughly the cost of Gucci’s spring/summer 2019 pleated metallic leather midi skirt, Burberry’s cotton gabardine trench with a corset belt, or a double-breasted twill blazer by Giorgio Armani.
Although the brand doesn’t launch officially until April 25, Knatchbull said she’s already written about 90 pre-orders, and is also planning to take the concept to the U.S. with a series of trunk shows. She cannot wait to get started: “We have the ability now to move fast, listen to what women want and pivot the business around what we are hearing,” she said.
Although she has plans to expand into other categories, Knatchbull is maintaining a tight operation, and doesn’t want to stray far from her core proposition. She’s keen on partnerships and has already done a deal with the British brand With Nothing Underneath, which specializes in cotton poplin boyfriend shirts for women. She is currently on the lookout for a lingerie partner.
Knatchbull is also planning to hold customer events at the new King’s Road space, which is located downstairs from the multibrand fashion and lifestyle store Baar & Bass, and launch a series of “Behind the Suit” interviews aimed at fostering a sense of community among customers.
Once the made-to-measure business is humming, Knatchbull plans to branch into bespoke tailoring, and ready-to-wear, although both offers will be tightly edited, and as sustainable as possible, she said.
Of the ready-to-wear, she said she won’t be going into mass production. “It’s going to be a very small capsule collection of basics, the perfect silk shirt, cigarette trousers, little black dress. We’re reining it in, focusing on beautiful garments that are made like masterpieces, durable and quality-driven.”