Ralph Lauren, Prince Charles, and You!
By Lauren Goldstein

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Ralph Lauren had a problem. When he was preparing his Purple Label suit line, he wanted to offer English-looking suits that actually were English. But England's standing as a men's wear mecca stems from the tradition of elderly tailors sitting cross-legged in the windows of Savile Row--not a means of mass production. There was only one place Ralph could meet his demands for British-style quality and American-style quantity: Chester Barrie.

The 63-year-old Chester Barrie factory, located in the town of Crewe, is staffed by 476 tailors, who sew some 30,000 handmade suits per year. (By comparison, Savile Row's H. Huntsman & Sons produces 550 suits per year.) On top of that, the factory produces 117,000 more suits with the help of--shhh!--sewing machines. Chester Barrie is now signing agreements to produce ready-to-wear lines for British designers like Timothy Everest. But lately it's Ralph who has kept those tailors busy: Some $16 million worth of his Purple Label suits sold last year in the U.S.--as opposed to only $5.5 million of Chester Barrie's own label. The irony of an English firm's reaping such huge rewards from an American is not lost on Colin Houlihan, Chester Barrie's managing director. The company does have one prominent British customer: After his tailor's death, Prince Charles began buying his suits at Turnbull & Asser, where he has always been fitted for shirts. But Turnbull & Asser's suits aren't made on Savile Row. They're made by Chester Barrie.

--Lauren Goldstein