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While Heads Rolled at Deutsche Bank, These Tailors Were Sizing Up Managers for New Suits

July 10, 2019, 4:06 PM UTC
Deutsche Bank London Suits
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 08: A security guard stands outside the Deutsche Bank building in central London as city workers walk past on July 8, 2019 in London, England. Deutsche Bank have started to make the first of a proposed 18,000 job cuts as part of a radical restructuring plan. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Leon Neal—Getty Images

On the very morning Deutsche Bank scheduled massive staff cuts, a series of other snips, tucks and measurements was going down in a corner of the German titan’s London headquarters.

Ian Fielding-Calcutt and Alex Riley, two up-market tailors, were on the premises of Deutsche Bank in the City of London measuring up a selection of the bank’s top managers for new suits. Elsewhere in the building staff were getting the sack.

“It was the right place, wrong time,” Fielding-Calcutt, founder of Fielding & Nicholson, a firm that sells customized suits starting at $1,500, told Fortune. “A lot of our clients work there, and worked there previously. We just got caught in the cross-fire with the media.”

A few hours later, when the tailors stepped onto the street, towing their wares in suitbags, the assembled photographers started snapping photos of them, assuming they were among the ranks of the recently fired. “The photographers were out there looking for scoops. And they’re waiting for people with bags, etcetera,” he said. It took a few hours before the case of mistaken identity was clarified, but not before their unlikely brush with infamy went national.

“Then it kind of re-exploded, because everyone was like, ‘Oh, so people are getting tailor-made suits made on the day everyone’s getting fired,’ which painted a really bad picture,” he said.

The British press, citing recruiters, estimate the cuts will impact 3,000 of the 7,000 staffers who work at the bank’s London offices, one of the firm’s biggest. Fielding-Calcutt though described the scene inside the bank on Monday morning as business-as-usual. “It was fairly normal. It wasn’t like people were running around screaming and crying. It’s a professionally run business,” he said.

Fielding-Calcutt has built the firm into one of the city’s up-and-coming bespoke tailoring firms. According to its website, it has a presence in New York and Zurich too. The firm describes a four-step process to suit-making, beginning with a consultation before moving to selecting the style of cloth, and moving on to the measurement and fitting. For top clients, the tailors come to their offices for some of the final stages, including measurement. “We work on a one-to-one basis. We don’t run it as if it’s a trading floor, measuring up 100 people,” he noted.

London’s financial sector, once the envy of Europe, has been hit hard by Brexit and the relocation of the banking giants to outposts across the English Channel. As a result, firms like Fielding & Nicholson have had to diversity their client portfolio to stay ahead. To appeal to a new clientele, Fielding & Nicholson even decided recently it would accept bitcoin for payment. “We are a traditional company, but we embrace new technology and new ways of working,” he says. If the bitcoin gambit adds up to a new market, all the better, he adds.

Fielding-Calcutt says he’s cultivated several clients at the city’s top banks over the years. While the sector has been plagued by mass firings since the 2008 financial crisis, this was the first time he’d ever been inside a bank on the day staff were being shown the door. And he hopes it’s the last.

But Fielding-Calcutt will likely be back soon. The Deutsche Bank clients they fitted on Monday were all spared, he noted. “They weren’t really connected with what was going on.”

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