Bright young fortune gatherers of the City and Canary Wharf may well resort to Astons Champagne and Wine Bar for their flutes of Veuve Cliquot, the Counting House for their tankard loads of Franziskaner HefeWeizen - and may even buy their Lotus Exige S wheels off Piccadilly.
But it is often to Newcastle upon Tyne rather than Savile Row they look when their bonus has burnt a hole in their pocket and they need to replace their suit.
It has long been known that in a little hamlet 10 minutes drive from Newcastles airport, a skilled tailor will be found whose fi rm shake of the hand comes on an agreed price that is not greedy.
That’s the reputation John Blades the bespoke tailor still enjoys in London as well as across our region, as he celebrates his 50th year in business. He too lived in the fast lane in earlier times. He is still so widely known as a former racing driver that on his 70th birthday party three years ago received a congratulatory e-mail from the great Sir Stirling Moss, once known as Mr Motor Racing.
“My 70th birthday celebration was the best party I have ever attended, and I mean to ensure my 80th is even better,” quips John who continues to work from his Blagdon Estates’ showroom at Berwick Hill, near Ponteland.
He has trimmed his business in recent years by focusing on tailoring in the North East for the gentry and in London, almost entirely the City itself, where the average age of his clients is in the late 20s.
“Well,” he says, “there are standards - aren’t there? - that need to be upheld and decent, quality, tailoring is one of them. A good cut, be it to a jacket or a suit, makes for confi dence. It’s a refl ection of success and I fi rmly believe in this. “You know, people trust in two things – their hairdressers and their tailors. For my part, I make sure this measure of trust is lived up to.”
Though not mentioning specific gentry, he treasures an old shooting card that shows him as the only commoner among a host of dukes and lords. “A memorable day,” he recalls. His “six days a week” approach to business even now has given John a client base as solid today as it was 30 years ago, when he traded from several regional showrooms.
“These have gone,” he says. “I have sold my formal hire business to Suzanne Armstrong. But my brand, John Blades Bespoke Tailoring, continues to thrive. And once I leave the stage it will continue through my son’s Jules B business.”
He once raced in Lotus cars himself, and in Ginettas, Chevrons and GT 40s. His application for membership of the British Racing Drivers’ Club is presently being considered in what John admits is his “last wish in life”.
He’s getting much support in this from former racing drivers in a high-speed band of brotherhood. John has strong local links with the Croft circuit near Darlington, where he presents the Derek Bell Trophy for Formula 2 and 5000 cars at the Darlington & District Motor Club autumn meet each year.
There is also an ever-present John Blades Trophy. “I once held the outright best ever time for the Croft circuit,” says John, smiling. “I had it for one week.” Fortunately for him, his day job has lasted signifi cantly longer.