John Pearse

British tailor to the stars

One sunny afternoon, as I walked out of a fashion college course and found myself puttering through Soho, John, perched on the stoop of his Meard Street haunt, asked if I fancied a beer with his wife, Florence.

Twenty-five minutes later, the conversation turned. Florence said, “John, can’t you see she needs a job?”

John gave me the once over and replied, “Come in Monday morning. Look sharp.”

At the start of the week, I arrived in a pair of Vivienne Westwood seditionaries, bondage pants, and a clean pair of Chucks.

That was four years ago.


After the war, John grew up an only child in Queenspark, where he found work in a printing press off Carnaby Street. The noise of the machines was so deafening that he left quickly and completed an apprenticeship at Hawes & Curtis. He found a home in the quiet cutting rooms right behind Piccadilly.

Around the corner hailed a new way of life for the youth in Britain. Along with Nigel Waymouth, John opened Granny Takes a Trip in 1966, on the bum end of King’s Road, later celebrated for Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s shop, SEX. Granny’s was a low-light clothing retailer for a new generation. It opened to a crowd hungry for dandies, floral shirts, and velvet suits: sharp, classic, and somehow psychedelic. The clothes flew out of World’s End and onto the backs of musicians, actors, and hedonists.

During the first months at my new job, I started to understand why so many people passing through Soho stopped asking if the shop belonged to the John Pearse. He was so renowned for his work, they didn’t need to ask.

In the early ’80s, John, who’d sensed a shift, began a small and exclusive tailoring business, which he opened on Meard Street. Women’s wear followed quickly, with the mole coat soon becoming a house staple. A simple black suit on the right woman never goes wrong. John was the first to recognize that women need particular tailoring, the kind that emulates the masculine without losing its edge.

Sibylle And John

Here, Sibylle found herself looking for the perfect men’s coat and suit. Again, the story of their meeting can be traced back to a gallery opening, as so many catalysts in John’s life.

This was the first of many suits that Sibylle commissioned. Her interest in collecting men’s coats was also vital, combining a slightly more fitted feminine cut made from men’s cloth. Sibylle greatly admired the detail in which John would interpret her ideas into something wildly different and unique.


Cloth, buttons, and lining all seem to find their way to John. A piece of linen from Corsica, a printed cotton from Totnes, buttons from a pile in the Goutte d’Or in Paris—nothing is beyond the realms of possibility when being fitted for a John Pearse suit.

If you’re not so keen on corduroy? Never mind. We’ve got cashmere cord, needle cord, and elephant cord, in red, green, and purple—it sounds all wrong until it’s on your back.

Never mind a cash pocket. John left all the correct ways of doing things at his apprenticeship, only keeping the cut and wit.

John’s moleskin coat is his signature piece. It has a high neck and comes belted for women and without for men. The cloth is a heavy cotton with a pile on one side (similar but less thick than velour). It’s very hardwearing but soft to the touch. Brad Pitt wears it in the original beige/tan colourway on the set of Ocean’s Eleven.

The clothes are objects of beauty. A tailor is quiet, a designer is loud. A tailor is a one-off, fashion is cyclical. The red under-collar set John on a path from one client to the next, catering to the every whim of whomever wanted a suit. With single-breasted jackets, boat-out breast pockets, and eight-button waistcoats, John cut his way through the fashion crowd and into art and performance. His trademark soft-shouldered two-pieces, made of denim, age as gracefully as the wearer.


The John Pearse campaigns archive has grown to near to fifty postcards and mail-outs. Here, the house wit is evident. John and his long-standing assistant, Dominique, work together to create these images with the new styles he’s designed. At first the campaigns appeared on postcards, which were sent to his clients, to be replaced by emails.

Today, John Pearse stands at 6 Meard in the center of Soho. His busyness having scaled youthquake and red carpets alike, John continues a steady stream of useful clothing. We have wardrobes full to bursting with pointless outfits. John Pearse makes modern suits and coats for modern people. Whenever asked about his favorite suit, his answer is always, “The next one.”

Photo credits: John Pearse, Lotte Andersen, Sibylle

John Pearse
By appointment only
6 Meard Street, Soho, London W1F 0EF