PS readers’ Customer Service Award 2023: Anglo-Italian

Friday, March 3rd 2023
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Results of the Readers Awards 2023:

  • Best customer service: Anglo-Italian. Runners-up: Anderson & Sheppard, The Armoury
  • Best product: Private White VC. Runner-up: Anglo-Italian
  • Best styling: Drake's. Runner-up: Rubato
  • Best artisan: Corcos. Runner-up: Ciardi

Whenever Jake (Grantham, Anglo-Italian founder) and I talk, we seem to return to themes around British retail, and running small businesses. 

Last time we went for a pint the topic was retail in the sixties: the burst of new stores like Granny Takes a Trip and others around the King’s Road. I believe he was reading a book on it at the time. 

I have to say I don’t find it as interesting as he does. Although we both agree that people in menswear should have more awareness of what came before them - a realisation that Dougie Hayward was doing no-padding shoulders before any of us were born - the things that interest us from these periods in the past are different. 

I’m mostly taken with aesthetics, with style. The things I'll find interesting from that era will be something like the use of suede, or mixed-gender clothing. I'm the same whether it's 50s sportswear, 80s Armani, or 90s J Crew

Not that Jake doesn’t love that stuff too. The stack of reading material in Anglo-Italian might be the most visually stimulating in any store. 

But the thing we always come back to when we talk - and argue about, usually - is the business side of retail, the entrepreneurship. 

Why were people like the British chef Marco Pierre White so successful? Or another hero of his, Terence Conran (below)? What drove them and how did they achieve what they did?

This might seem like a random inspiration for a menswear brand, but if you’re looking for it, there are a few parallels. 

The extent to which menswear brands simply copy things from the past, for example. Not just blatant things like ripping off Loro Piana Open Walks, but more nuanced questions like the use of Native American patterns, or mimicking another tailor’s lapel shape. 

Marco Pierre White (below) talked consistently through his career about his relationship to French cuisine and this tension - how he saw himself as channelling the tradition but also guarding it, in service to it. Few brands today are as honest or modest. (Japanese craftsmen being the obvious exception.)

However, from our conversations I’d say that the most direct link between chefs like White and fashion is how they ran their restaurants.

A restaurant run by a well-known chef is seen as an extension of their personality. Not just the recipes, but the direct management of the cooking, the service and everything around it.

Many chefs these days have multiple restaurants, even franchises, and White himself became an owner/operator after his retirement. But if a chef has one restaurant, we have an expectation that everything is part of their persona - and that was certainly true of White. 

The same should be true of clothing shops. We expect a particular vision from the founders or designers as to what clothes should be like, how they think people can look good. 

Yet with the majority of brands, there is very little of that. Certainly with the staff, and how things are sold, but even with the products themselves - with most mainstream fashion, you’d struggle to see an identity running through it all.

Jake thinks more shops should be run like this, and I tend to agree. I also think it’s a reason so many Permanent Style readers voted for Anglo-Italian as the best customer service brand this year. 

The team of people that now work in the Anglo store (above) don’t all have the same background - not the standard couple of years of retail experience, or the fanboy type that just wants to be close to the brand, but doesn’t perhaps understand the gruelling side of retail. 

Yet the customer service is always consistent, always good. The atmosphere in the shop is always a friendly one, professional but relaxed. In the words of one reader: “You get the impression that absolutely nothing is too much trouble, even with a relative novice, like myself, asking what I’m sure are some pretty dumb questions!”

Another said in the poll: “I find them relaxed and friendly (shout out to Martin and Jeremy in particular). Happy to chat, give advice…talk with your significant other while you try things on. The vibe in the store perfectly matches the vibe they are trying to create with their clothes.”

Note that the staff are always named individually: Andrew also gets a mention in another vote. There are few stores today where customers would do that, but it used to be much more common. 

Jake just takes retail very seriously. I’ve heard him (I promise he didn’t know I was listening) describe what he did as “running a shop in Marylebone”. You could certainly see some false modesty in there, but I find it significant that it’s the shop he focuses on - not which industry, or owning a business.

I know that’s one reason he finds inspiration in chefs like Marco Pierre White. Although, actually, in another way I think this underplays things. 

Because much as chefs can be great at getting everyone to do things how they want, they can struggle to delegate responsibility - for exactly the same reason. This is often the struggle menswear brands have when they grow too: founders struggle to duplicate themselves, to train people to be just as good as they are at communicating the product, and trusting them to do so. 

The most impressive thing about Anglo-Italian might be how much people like Martin and Andrew make the experience feel the same even when Jake isn’t there. 

Not that Jake’s any good at giving up control. He even worked his wedding day - something he’d definitely say today was a failing. But the size of the business today means that he can’t always be there, and in the view of PS readers he’s clearly done a good job at training people to take his place. 

Well done to everyone at Anglo, and to every other shop (Anderson & Sheppard, The Armoury) that drew similar praise for its quality of retail experience. There should be more shops with that kind of personality.

This year when it came to covering the PS Reader awards I decided to only write about one category in depth - this one. 

That made sense to me because the people that did well in other categories (quality, style, bespoke) were familiar names where I couldn’t see something we hadn’t covered. I completely agree on Rubato styling, or Private White quality, but I think I’ve written about them enough. 

I love the awards and enjoy reading all the nominations (all 20,000 words!) but wasn’t sure they needed another three in-depth articles. If you think that’s wrong, or there’s an angle you would have liked to have seen covered, please let me know. 

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Martin du Toit

I get that you talk up MPW as an outstanding chef in his field, but perhaps you should educate yourself about his life outside the kitchen. You may change your mind.
If you need to keep the chef analogy suggest you go with Michel Roux Jr.


Interesting point about multiple restaurants – back in the 1980s/ 90s the top chefs all had their “own” restaurant didn’t they- more character I think. Don’t think MPW would get away with the working environment at Harveys any more…


The same Michelle Roux Jr that was found to be paying staff at his Michelin-starred restaurant below minimum wage?

Martin du Toit

You may want to acquaint yourself with the facts on the minimum wage issue.


The Guardian exposed Michel Roux Jr’s greed a few years ago -

The former Masterchef judge, who this week apologised for paying chefs beneath the legal minimum wage following a Guardian investigation, has revealed he treats the 13% service charge “as revenue”. 

“The issue at Le Gavroche arose when chefs angered at their illegally low pay complained last month that their situation was made worse by not sharing in the service charge that many diners assume supplements staff wages.”

Truly despicable!




Lovely writing. However, I was waiting till the end about some words about corcos.


To echo the feedback that you’ve received in the feedback – the whole team are very strong and any time I’ve visited they’ve been fantastic. The shop itself is beautiful and laid back at the same time. Nice relaxed vibe even when the guys are incredibly busy (zero flapping). In addition to Jake, Martin and Jeremy have both been great. I’m sure the rest of the team are fantastic too!
I’d definitely recommend for someone going through a first MTM / bespoke experience.

Peter Hall

One thing I discovered whilst in the military, is how the ‘benevolent dictator’ can stimulate, lead and inspire change.
I’m not saying any or all successful creatives are, but it certainly gets things done.
It can be spun with any number of buzz words- inspiring leadership , vision etc etc , but when added to an ingrained ethos of customer service , it’s a very powerful force.

Well deserved congratulations to all the winners and thanks to you and your team for organising .


I didn’t get round to voting this year but am so pleased to hear of Anglo’s success. I have had a few items from them and they have always been so kind, professional and engaging, they really make you feel valued as a customer.


Great point on remembering names from Anglo Italian. I’ve had most contact with Martin but Jake and Jeremy have been fantastic as well. Fully deserving of their nominations.


My personal taste and style is very similar to Jake Grantham’s but with a few subtle differences. The outfit that he is wearing in the picture is exactly what I would wear on a day out in London. If a brand’s owner and staff are on the same wavelength as the customer, the shopping experience should be smoother, easier and therefore better. That is certainly my experience with several favourite brands. The main issues for discussion tend to be fit (especially after changes in sizing), stock availability and time scales for delivery.

A brand’s customer service and product quality appear to deteriorate with changes in ownership and/or senior management. Conglomerates, private equity companies and hedge funds have ruined or even bankrupted several British menswear brands. Key staff who provided great service have been forced out and replaced by younger (and probably cheaper) recruits with little or no experience but plenty of arrogance. For that reason, I no longer shop at a few well-known stores in St James’s and Mayfair. Let’s hope that the brands mentioned in the article do not go the same way!


What happened to Alex Pirounis. Where is he now?


Anglo are so good at customer service and its refreshing to read an argument for why that is. I can see the parallels with great chefs who imbue their personality into what they do. I think the key is definitely to do with size. Businesses that prioritise growth inevitably lose the personal flavour as they grow.


I love seeing you mention Douglas Hayward.

I was very fortunate to spend a week at his shop on Mount Street for work experience 20+ years ago.

I’m horrified to see his label in TK Maxx recently.


With the utmost respect, why do they present themselves in such a light online? If I didn’t know otherwise, I wouldn’t expect friendly customer service from someone who looks so serious! Thoughts? This is not meant as a slight to AI in any way. I’m just curious.


I think it has to do with setting themselves apart from Drakes. One is happy and quirky, the other serious and a touch “holier than thou” (at least in how they market themselves, the real people are lovely of course).


It appears that Drake’s and Anglo Italian are now targeting different markets. Drake’s is now going for younger customers with large disposable incomes. The collaborations with Aime Leon Dore and Rocky Mountain are the latest examples of this change. Who on earth would wear a Fair Isle balaclava?

To describe Anglo Italian as “holier than thou” is simply wrong. Its “Italian tailoring with an English palette” appeals to the mature customer who, like me, has no interest in Drake’s fleeces, hoodies and baseball caps with ugly logos. AI’s marketing shows that it knows how to communicate with its customer base that prefers classic style over rip-off fashion and its frivolous PR hype.


Kai yeah!


Starting and managing a successful menswear brand is a very serious business, especially with the added stress of Covid lockdowns and the increase in working from home. As a result several brands, e.g. New & Lingwood, have stopped stocking business suits which were a major part of their business. Anglo Italian has done very well to thrive in such tough times. Also, not everyone is comfortable in front of camera but I’ve seen many photos of Jake looking relaxed so don’t be too hard on him.


Very true!!


Gary, I get the sense that this Gregg’s comment bothered you a bit? Why is that? I think he actually has an interesting point and was certainly not throwing shade at AI or its founder.


Very offtopic but I’m aware rarely do men ever look good in shirt and tie with no jacket. Yet, I think in that photo of Terence Conran he does and I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps because he’s sitting with the table hiding the waist and he’s at work so it seems more natural?


Well deserved!
Big fan of Jake, the team and product.

Il Gormleto

I visited the store a while ago. I am in my mid eighties and Jake who was on the floor at the time could not have been more affable considering that he could no doubt suss me as a time waster. I was wearing an old Anderson and Sheppard Glen Urquart jacket he was most complimentary. Even if it was soft soap it made me feel good.


Congratulations to the Anglo-Italian team!
I will say that I looked to commission a suit with them but was turned off by the customer service (Jake was not present). I tried their RTW in-store and was told the fit was good, though it was much trimmer than what the staff wore. I explicitly said I liked their roomier, drapier coats, and was told that the way the RTW coat fit was good and they would change very little for MTM.
I think technically the fit was good (shoulder seams, length, no collar gap). But it was trim. And the drapier, roomier style was what I had come to AI for.


Does Anglo-Italian have plans to sell its products (online) to the European Union and thereby take care of customs and VAT? It would be a pity if they do not as their products are very appealing.

I think, and here I believe I echo the opinion of at least some European Union readers, that buying from an English (third country) retailer who doesn’t do this is a nuisance and I avoid it. In contrast, I have now bought a couple of items from Permanent Style, who takes care of E.U. customs and VAT, and it is straightforward with no extra hassle for me.

Another very interesting candidate would be The Armoury and Colhay’s, who also do not currently provide such a service for European Union customers.

Peter Hall

I’ve never thought it too much hassle that companies not use DDP as you can either pay by a link or on your doorstep. It’s more hassle but,I would rather do that than small companies go out of business.

In real terms, there are no extra costs for customers as Vat rates are the same.

Can you find an EU stockists I.e Michael Jondral ,Simon, or are volumes too low?

Peter Hall

Yes,there is that,of course. Sadly,I think these costs will eventually be passed onto customers.

I do think couriers are having a tougher time. I recently read a piece that Vinted is having a very tough time with postal charges. Within the NL €2.75 is standard, whilst charges from other EU countries are upto €15 euro – so there are other factors than Brexit.


If I read AI’s website correctly, they still offer DDP to EU customers.


I did not know that DDP was such a pain on businesses. I thought, once the system is set up, it is smooth going.
My apologies.

Gary Mitchell

Well done the winners and the also rans.


Hi Simon,
Firstly congratulations to all the winners and especially Anglo Italian. I haven’t bought there, but have visited and heard lots of good things, so well done.
I tend to agree that most entrepreneurs have a strong emotional connection to their businesses. What separates the best (in my opinion) is leadership by good example (you lead how you are led), empowerment, education, trust and excellent interpersonal skills.
On balance and in the interests of fairness to more mainstream brands, that emotional connection is unlikely to be there and the relationship with employees and customers is much more transactional, however it’s important that they also practice a high standard of behaviour and leadership. .
All the best.


Interesting read as always, and it’s good to know where to turn too, sorta conflicted between an Armoury sport coat and Anglo Italian sport coat myself if I’am honest.

One thing I was wondering ,are there any more categories you plan to add for instance you quite like drape cuts on your suits and was wondering who in your mind has the most comfortable drape out of all the artisans you have tried ,from Anderson to Stephen Hitchcock and Whitcomb & Shaftesbury to those you haven’t quite tried such as Redmayne and Steed. Also another category might be best new artisan or best new product line for instance common projects has released some new models of trainers in Suede.

So any plans for any more awards this year?


Simon – would love to learn more on Corcos (nice to see that they won an award). I know you did a write-up on them a while back but any personal experience to share?


Bravo to Anglo Italian and Anderson & Sheppard. They are the only two shops I enjoy going into and consequently are pretty much the only shops I do go into.
They both represent the gold standard in customer service and in both cases it comes from the top.
In the case of Anglo-Italian, Jake is a really nice guy with a great vision and consummate good taste.
Consequently he attracts staff and customers with a similar demeanour which gives the place a fabulous buzz.
Yes, he is a student of the past and he benefits enormously from that. His aesthetic is finely honed and his collection is entirely coherent which I love. It’s all deliciously understated and yes, so Anglo-Italian
I’d also encourage readers to take a look at their bespoke which is run by the delightful Caoimhe.
Thus far I’ve had two pieces from them and I must say I’m impressed.
Today they finished a beautiful corduroy suit for me and knowing I needed it for next week’s trip to NYC, she traveled by train to Farnham to make sure I got it in time. Now that’s what you call customer service !
It’s great that they’ve won the reader’s choice. It’s richly deserved.


I think people are getting a bit carried away and distracted here, as ever.
I agree that Anglo Italian is setting the benchmark for others to follow on the in-shop experience, each and every person on the shop floor is nailing it.
They seem adept at catering to the wandering tourist who buys some socks to the jet-setter who needs the suit fully finished for a certain date.
And thanks to Andrew (& others?) for the online bit.

Alex O

Of the Best Customer Service honorees, the only one I’ve had direct experience with is the Armoury, and I can see why they made the list. I found their staff to be very knowledgeable, observant and accommodating. They spent a lot of time with me and offered great suggestions, even though I was clear in advance that I was exploring fit, cut, and fabrics for some undetermined future occasion.