This article – by Richard Godwin – first appeared in the London Evening Standard…
An invitation arrives in the post. Hornets, the gentlemen’s attire shop in Kensington, is having a party. In attendance will be Steve Cossey, the last apprenticed hatter working in the UK, a man who “knows everything about making a hat”.
The reality of this party was even better than the invitation suggested. A small crowd of regulars squeezed into the little store to drink champagne, politely pass up the sandwiches and inspect the new arrivals. Mr Cossey, true to his claims, did indeed know everything about making a hat, having spent seven years learning how as long as it takes to become a junior doctor.
Hornets’ stock, a mixture of second-hand and specialist, comes with stories attached, not just the hats. It has an incredible range of tweed and worsted. If I were to need a cummerbund, this is the place I would come to.
Yet more remarkable is the charming obliviousness of the staff in all three branches to the vulgarities of the high street. You are treated with courtesy and respect, whatever your budget.
Only in Kensington do you find its exact combination and commuting here from north-east London each day, I have grown to love the contrast. While Hackney’s population is essentially transient, Kensington has been secure in its wealth and poshness for decades. It is insulated from too much change; there are people living comfortable lives here who you would only otherwise expect to find in an episode of Poirot.
Naturally, if some of Hornets’ tweeds were for sale in Hoxton, they would probably be going for twice the price.