A bespoke riding and hunting wear tailor, who was on the cover of H&H as a Pony Club champion more than 50 years ago and later completed Badminton, has become the first tailor for 350 years to be Master of a historic livery company.
Michael Skinner, chairman of Savile Row tailor, Dege & Skinner, was elected Master of the Merchant Taylors’ Company of the City of London, which was founded in 1327 as a religious and social body for tailors and linen armourers.
“I’m a master tailor; that’s something I’ve done for 45 years, and I’ve loved it. And here I am in my 70th year facing another challenge,” says Michael, whose firm has a stand at Badminton and Burghley, and gives a bespoke riding coat to the highest-placed British competitor under 25 yet to represent their country. This year marks the firm’s 40th Burghley attendance.
Berkshire-based Michael, who used to hunt with local packs, was a member of the South Berks Pony Club team that won what was then the inter-branch competition – the equivalent of today’s Pony Club Championships – in 1949. His team-mates were Marian Lester and Prudence Knowers.
“We were mounted on riding school ponies belonging to the Pullein-Thompson sisters [of pony book fame]. Mine was called Pilgrim and I had to ride-off against Jane Drummond Hay,” recalls Michael.
He completed Badminton on his family-owned Quality Street in 1961.
“The main thing that has changed in my time [in making riding wear] is price,” says Michael. “The Marquis of Exeter bought a woollen tie in 1964, and it cost 12s 6d. We don’t make many pairs of breeches now and weight of cloth has changed.”
In his new role, Michael will develop the Merchant Taylors’ Company’s charitable and educational activities.