Last Wednesday I went to Santamaria Shirtmakers in Notting Hill to catch up with Ana Rodriguez, the owner. As mentioned in my review of Santamaria, Ana and I were practically neighbours! We got to know each other over a shirt fitting and – because of the shirts’ high quality – have been on good terms ever since!
Can you tell us a bit more about the textiles: where do you get them from? What sets them apart?
“My entire family is in the fashion and clothes business. We originally started with importing fabrics. My mother runs this part of the business, working with Spanish and Italian textile suppliers such as Rubinelli and Thomas Mason.
As a rule of thumb, the finer or thinner the fabric, the more expensive it is. A finer fabric is lighter to wear, breathes more, it just feels more smooth and silky. These would typically be done in a Poplin weave which enhances the lightness. For formal occasions, these are perfect. Beware, however, that they do wear out quicker than heavier fabrics!
How do you choose the patterns on your fabrics?
As my mother sells to Spanish shirtmakers wholesale, she is really in tune with what is good and what is in fashion. Of course, there are a few variations in taste between Spain and UK. Because of the heat, fabrics in Spain tend to be lighter than in the UK. British customers also tend to be slightly more traditional – 80% of the shirts we sell are plain blue and white!
We do get a few more adventurous customers. For them, we bring out our catalogue of “Thomas Mason” fabrics. These are more unconventional with patterns of palm trees, dots, and flowers.
Who buys your shirts?
We have all sorts of customers! A lot of them are Notting Hill locals. Many are in banking or own a business, but we also get a few artists come around.
We do get a lot of customers who will order another batch the moment they come to pick up their shirts! Sometimes they’ll do this to avoid carrying their shirts around different homes. In other cases, it’s because they have lost or gained a bit of weight. We’ll often send the clothes back in those cases to get them redone for the new measurements at no extra charge.
Why did you decide to do Santamaria and what did you do before?
I used to work in HR and in Fashion. I have a degree in Psychology from Complutense in Madrid, and a Master’s degree in HR. For three years I worked in HR at Merril Lynch. Because my family is in clothes, I pivoted into that industry. After a few courses in Product Development and Design, I ended up working at Primark, Jigsaw, and Burberry before starting Santamaria.
You mention the “family business” in Spain. Is there a sister store in Spain?
My dad runs Monte Lys in Barrio Salamanca in Madrid. It is a very different store: whereas we have a small space focusing on bespoke items and minimal stock, he sells a big range of items including coats, hats, and canes.
Do you plan to expand your range?
Yes! We might move to a bigger space in Mayfair and add suits to our offering, remaining bespoke of course. This would also allows us to do bespoke jackets and trousers.
We also have a few Teba jackets on offer made by Justo Gimeno. These are named after the Spanish Count of Teba. With their origin in shooting and the country, they carry a very rustic look. For winter, these tend to be made of Cashmere wool, and in summer wool or linen tends to be used.*
Then of course we could also stand-alone jackets and trousers. However, we would need more space. We would want to keep it mainly bespoke because managing the stock would be difficult, especially with the high rents in London.
Finally – we are getting close to summer. What shirt would you recommend?
Definitely linen. It is much lighter than cotton and great for casual. Many customers go for plain blue or white shirts. But in summer and on holiday, you can be a bit more expressive. For example, we have prints with butterflies, or subtle patterns in red and pink.
* Follow the hyperlink for a good article on Teba jackets.