A tailor’s shop in Piccadilly in London, on one of those famous streets where the best tailors concentrated, once left a great impression on Augusto Brandão on a trip he made early in the 20th century. Some years later, and after a number of applications had been submitted to the Lisbon City Council, he finally opened the tailor’s shop of his dreams. The year was 1918, the year Londres Salão opened its doors. The name not only reflected the inspiration provided by the English capital, it also mirrored the tastes of the day, as there was a very visible trend in the neighbouring streets alluding to all things French or British. Just a few blocks away was Old English, and a few doors down on the same street the Sapataria Lord shoe shop and the Camisaria Pitta, two more stores with a clear predilection for English tastes in decoration and ambience.
Later, in 1950, the Quadros family – the current owners – took over the tailor’s shop and turned it into a fabric shop. They remained true to the shop’s British heritage, keeping the shop very much as it was, and maintaining the elegance conferred by the dark macacauba hardwood furnishings and the authenticity of the English coats of arms at the back of the shop. Where they endeavoured to innovate was in the range they offered, seeking each season to stock, as early as possible, a selection of high-end fabrics – natural silks, brocades, piqués, linens and sequinned fabrics. The current owner, José Quadros, tells of the importance of the experience of following “the trajectory of the merchandise”, when he took over the shop.
By this he means that, like a piece of incoming fabric, he progressed following a certain order, which today constitutes the company’s work method, remaining for long enough in each individual stage until he understood what was needed in each one. Of all the stages he went through, perhaps the most challenging, even frightening, one was serving at the counter. It is somewhat commonplace to say that traditional shops like this one offer personalised service, a service one cannot find elsewhere, but that requires detailed and in-depth knowledge – not only of behind-the-counter activity (the fabrics, the cutting methods, what is most suitable for a specific project, etc.), but also from the other side – which sometimes boils down to pure psychology. Knowing how to deal with people, their needs and what they reveal about each individual.
Today, having ingrained all that experience, José Quadros has left the counter to his assistants, whom he fully trusts to maintain the good reputation the shop enjoys in this respect. A place where one can find high-quality fabrics, receive highly dedicated service, and also what one would call empathy. Some of the assistants have come from other shops in the same branch that have since closed, including Casa Sousa.
Dressing the shop window is an essential aspect of all shops, and Londres Salão is no exception. One has to think of the right colours for the season, what is going on in the street, the message to be conveyed. Here, there is always the additional challenge of anticipating each season just a little, because, what with choosing the fabric and having something made to measure, a garment for summer has to be planned when it is still chilly. In order to achieve that harmony, Londres Salão employs its own window dresser, something that is rare amongst the traditional shops. Speaking of the shop windows – in 1957, when Queen Elizabeth II came to Portugal, the window was decorated with replicas of the English crown jewels. That surely went down well with Her Majesty.
The link to the latest trends is exemplified by the magazine pages exhibited both in the windows and the display cabinets inside, giving a material interpretation of the dreamy images presented in the glossy mags. The shopper immediately has something in common with the always stunning women from the magazines and catwalks: the fabric. It’s not everything but it’s a start, as the vain optimist might say.
Fabrics for making garments and other items