The woman who gives us beautiful shirts and restores our faith in the human race
Luxury shirtmaker, Emma Willis, has been delighting customers with her bespoke and ready-to-wear shirts, combining careful craftsmanship with the finest cottons, linens and silks, since 1990.
Emma herself is immaculately turned out as she greets clients in her double-fronted shop on the prestigious St James’s corner, but beneath the façade of her beautiful, luxury shirts, lies a compelling story of a fine, upstanding woman.
As kind as she is shrewd, Emma has not only thrived in the male-dominated world of shirt tailoring, but she has also chosen to share her talents with others who are less fortunate. In 2008, she founded registered charity Style for Soldiers with ambassador David Gandy.‘I was very moved when I heard stories about how life-changing the soldiers’ injuries were and how, in many cases, they had lost their jobs… I was determined to do something to help,’ she explains.
Emma then decided to offer the injured service men and women a bespoke shirt as a modern day gesture of thanks, and set about visiting the military rehabilitation hospital to measure the brave souls herself. On top of this, she designed customised orthopedic walking sticks – hand-carved from black ebony, with a buffalo horn handle and silver band – engraved with the soldier’s initials and regiment. So far she has generously given a thousand shirts and over 500 walking aids, which is, as GQ’s Bill Prince, says, ‘a genuinely selfless achievement, and one that’s hard to imagine anyone from her immediate industry having the determination or, frankly, the cojones, to attempt’.
This remarkably noble approach to life, as well as an unbending devotion to the craft, defines Emma Willis. It also explains why, over the years, she has gathered a loyal following of discerning and international clients, including members of the British royal family and Barack Obama. In the last few years, Emma Willis has become the chosen shirtmaker for the top UK film studios, with many great British actors wearing Emma Willis shirts – Colin Firth in The Railway Man and Bridget Jones’s Baby and Benedict Cumberbatch in the new Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Strange, as well as Daniel Craig, who wore the tailor’s shirts, scarves and knitwear on his worldwide Spectre press tour.
She also boasts a team of loyal, exceptionally skilled cutters, machinists and fashion designers – the crème de la crème of the shirtmaking world – who are based at her English factory, Bearland House in the centre of Gloucester.
The interiors of her elegant Jermyn Street shop emulate a relaxed, English drawing room; with antique furniture, fine art, chandeliers and statement bouquets. Customers are welcomed as guests and benefit from the option of filing their patterns for future orders placed online. Equally, her bespoke online service provides an array of choices of cottons, silks and linens,
with the option to alter design details and fit.
Her range extends to dressing gowns, pyjamas, boxer shorts, djellabas and silk ties, all made in luxurious Swiss cottons; combining cashmere and silk for winter and linen and the lightest voiles for summer. She also makes women’s shirts, knitted walking socks and handkerchiefs, and many of her beautiful wares can be hand-embroidered for that personal touch.
If you’re looking for excellent gifts, there are a broad range of items and accessories to take the panic out of present giving. After all, what man doesn’t want a monogrammed, 100 per cent cotton pocket handkerchief or a pure cashmere tie? If you find yourself overwhelmed by all the offerings, remember you can never go wrong with a voucher – especially one presented in raised print with an elegant gold edge, tucked neatly into a gold-lined envelope and tied in with a black satin ribbon. Present shopping? Tick.
EMMA WILLIS 66 JERMYN STREET, LONDON SW1Y 6NY +44 (0)20 7930 9980