(Bloomberg) -- Sean Dixon, co-founder and managing director of menswear brand Richard James, knew precisely when his company had succeeded back in 1994.

“Elton John and Gianni Versace and their respective partners came in, and they basically took one of everything we had and cleared out the entire store,” he recalls. Thirty years later, on March 1, the brand known for bringing bright pops of color and fun patterns to suits on traditionally staid Savile Row is opening a new 2,500-square-foot London store in a three-story Georgian townhouse. Clients can sip cocktails from a private bar as they’re fitted for totally bespoke suits that start at £5,500 ($6,967), or pay £1,500 for made-to-measure suits in which existing patterns are used as a starting point. The new flagship, essentially across the street from the old one, is part of Richard James’ big bet on bricks and mortar and custom tailoring. 

“We have an e-commerce business, but when you come in for a suit, it’s very important that you try it on and have someone help you throughout the process,” says Dixon. 

The company opened its first shop in Savile Row in 1992 and became known as the “rebels of the row” for designs that used nontraditional fabrics such as denim or camo print. The brand even did a Spongebob Squarepants collaboration; its neon-yellow homage to the cartoon character underlined the company’s sense of humor and love of bright colors.

“When we opened in ’92, the rents weren’t too high, and we were able to work with mills that wouldn’t normally work with us because the UK was in a recession at the time,” Dixon explains. It took a few years to build up a customer base, but the risks eventually paid off, he says. Eponymous designer Richard James stepped back in 2017 due to health reasons, with Toby Lamb taking over as brand and design director. 

Dixon—whose clients have included everyone from rapper Stormzy to Prince William—says the store opening comes amid a renaissance for the suit. (And neckties.) It seems that people who sat around in sweatpants during the Covid-19 pandemic wanted a change when they emerged. 

“I had a lot of people ask me what I was going to do during Covid—and tell me that no one was ever going to wear a suit again—but that just hasn’t been the case,” says Dixon.  He says the return to dressing smartly happened quickly for office wear and even faster with suits for special events like weddings. Dress to impress still exists.

“The suit as a uniform is not so important now,” says Dixon. “It’s more that people are choosing to wear them.” 

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Client appetites have changed, though. “One of our bestselling suits last season was a pale, pink corduroy suit, which 20 years ago would have never happened.” Dixon says younger men are far less fearful of color and how they are seen and perceived. They wish to have fun with their wardrobes. 

He adds that his customary clients used to work in creative fields, but bankers and finance professionals have been catching on. There’s been a real reaction against the pinstripe suits traditionally associated with the City of London, says Dixon.

“It’s about subverting that now. We’re seeing an appetite for colors like green, pink and lilac,” he says. The next trending color: rust. 

The new store takes its design cues from the menswear on display: A polka-dotted staircase is inspired by the store’s ties; beneath a 1970s Murano Glass chandelier is a display of fabrics from such global luxury brands as Loro Piana. Upstairs are “cuts” with the measurements and fit of suits made for famous Richard James clients like Tom Jones and Benedict Cumberbatch. Elevator walls are painted London phone-box red, and framed magazine covers of rock stars and royalty wearing the brand’s suits adorn the walls.

The effect is meant to calm visitors, Dixon says of the deep burgundy, plush carpeting in a fitting room. His regular customers will return often, but some will come just once—to get wedding suits, for example—and he wants their experience to be relaxed, not intimidating. Hence, the bar and comfortable sofas. (The suits are quietly crafted in the basement.) 

The new space, which cost £2 million to build out, embodies the company’s bid to preserve Savile Row as the home of British bespoke tailoring. “We’re sitting here in London—in Mayfair, in one of the most expensive parts of London, in one of the most expensive cities in the world. It’s difficult to maintain work rooms in these spaces,” Dixon says. If he were to start a company as he did in 1992, today’s higher rents on “the Row” would make it difficult, if not impossible.

With rising rents and Covid closures, the past few years have challenged Savile Row. In 2022, the UK’s Office for National Statistics  removed the men’s suit from the basket of goods it uses to calculate the annual inflation rate—the first time since 1947. The office now tracks prices of formal jackets and blazers instead.

“Savile Row is an invaluable historical and cultural jewel in the UK’s retail’s crown,” says Dixon. “There is nowhere else like it in the world. Richard James wouldn’t be where we are today without it, so we’re calling for Unesco-protected status to preserve its rich fashion heritage.”

People all over the world know Savile Row, he continues, and he’d like to inspire a fresh young designer to pick up the British baton for menswear in 30 years. “Winston Churchill used to get suits made here, and celebrities, CEOs and business leaders of our time still come to the Row to get their suits made.”

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