Armitage Outfitters is a bespoke outfitters offering premium menswear brands, tailoring services, barber facilities, dry cleaning and premium leather care. We chat to Neville Armitage about his one-stop-shop for the bespoke man and his passion for quality apparel.
Neville Armitage looks like he has just stepped out of a Stuttafords catalogue. A Maritzburg old boy who has worked in Durban for 21 years, Neville has admittedly “done everything to do with clothing”. Having studied Clothing Production Management at DUT and working for 20 years in retail in the buying and planning of goods, he spent the last three years importing leather shoes, bags and belts before opening his first flagship store, Armitage Outfitters. “At school, I worked in clothing stores, which had me unpacking boxes and thinking ‘where did all this come from?’ That’s what first ignited my interest,” he tells me, his voice as eloquent as his perfectly-fitted suit.
It was when Neville wore the title of Buying Manager for many categories from stationery, toys and luggage, to Christmas decorations, that sent him to different countries and exposed him to the global buying experience. “I got to go to Hong Kong a lot and this is where I experienced proper bespoke tailoring — things like barbers and tailors and the typical services and standards you get overseas. And I kept thinking, we don’t have any of this back home”, Neville explains, informing me of the gap – especially in KZN – for luxury. “My travels allowed me to shop overseas, I would come back and wear something and everyone would want it, and before you know it I was importing goods for my friends and people back home”.
Armitage Outfitters is a tribute to Neville’s love of buying and selecting the finer things. “I’ve made a serious effort to stock natural fibre clothing and accessories, and to move away from the chain store mass production and cheap polyester”. Neville has chosen his own favourite brands and admits it was difficult to be selective. I’m suddenly curious as to how Neville’s own closet looks. “My whole philosophy is quality over quantity. I can’t remember when last I shopped for myself, but the things I do have I take care of. If I don’t use it I will donate it, and only then will I replace it,” he says. But when he tells me about his absolute favourite shirt brand – Stenströms of Sweden, that specializes in unique design and superior twofold cotton shirts with mother of pearl buttons, I’m sure he can’t help but own one too many of these. “I think it’s the best shirt in the world because it’ll last you for life”, he grins, as he shows me the neatly folded stacks of soft, exquisitely designed shirts with matching bow ties and patterned pocket squares. They truly are something to behold!
As Neville shows me around the rest of the store, from the barbershop to the tailoring, he points out that all the services are visible, emphasizing handcraft and negating the closed-door, mass production of the factory. “I saw some horrendous things abroad, and you’re ignorant until you educate yourself”, Neville says, showing his desire to distance himself from the darker side of manufacturing, such as worker exploitation, cheap fabric and bad quality products that don’t last. “Instead, he opts for individualism and craftsmanship. “People who come into the store speak the same language. Our shirts may be more on the expensive side, but you can spend the same amount of money over 3 months on 10 shirts that will only last you one season, whereas ours last for years”. And especially when you properly care for them!
Neville goes on to talk convenience. “When you’re in corporate, you don’t want to drive across town to drop off dry-cleaning and then go somewhere else to get your haircut. We chose this store because it’s easy to park here, and it takes one-stop to do your grooming, get your shoes shined and shop, while enjoying a coffee or cognac right here at our bar”. He tells me that women are also encouraged to bring in items for dry cleaning and leather care, and my mind casts to my trusty leather bag, which definitely deserves some TLC.
It’s no doubt that tailored clothes make a difference to one’s appearance, showing a whole new level of self-care and professionalism. Thank you to Neville and his team for keeping Umhlanga residents well-groomed, well-dressed and exceptionally debonair.