If asked about Welsh and Jeffries on Eton High Street, Old Etonians (OEs) of a certain vintage will recall Mr Body, the tailor who perhaps ran up their first suits. But for the past 34 years, the establishment has been in the exceedingly capable hands of the remarkable Elie Kazan, who retires this Christmas.
For any OEs who studied at Eton from 1990 onwards, Mr Kazan has surely been an Eton College institution, though the story of his coming to the world of tailoring is a striking one. Born in Lebanon, he left the country during the civil war and came to study at Cambridge College of Arts and Technology (CCAT) to embark on a career in communications technology. Indeed for 11 years he worked in Dubai and travelled in the Emirates as a representative for Telecoms companies, with his fluent Arabic and French being of great help. Marriage to Suzanne and the arrival of children led, however, to a change of career – Suzanne’s father had acquired the lease of Welsh and Jefferies (running his own wholesale cloth business from the rear of the premises) and asked Elie if he might consider getting involved. Training from Mr Body and others saw him launched on a new path.
Starting out in 1988, it is remarkable to think that at that time Welsh and Jefferies did not involve itself in the provision of School Dress (the boys’ uniform). Elie describes it as a slow progress, much encouraged by Eric Anderson as Head Master at the time. He, of course, understood the importance of excellent tailoring from his own family background, as the son of William James Kinloch Anderson, proprietor of the Edinburgh-based kilt-making business Kinloch Anderson. But in time Elie has prospered and his business is surely indispensable to Eton’s way of life, so much so that it is a considerable relief to learn that as Ellie retires, the shop will be in the hands of his son Tuffy, as good as – possibly even better than – ever.
He has provided thousands of tailcoats, hundreds of Pop (prefect) waistcoats and Colours blazers (not least those outsized Eton Blue ones required by the denizens of the VIII). The forest of ‘Leavers’ on his walls shows the appreciation of his clientele, numerous of whom still call on his services. Impressively, Elie has still found time to pursue passions outside his shop. He has run five London Marathons, raising a considerable sum for Leukaemia charities, and was a stalwart ringer for the Master’s football team, perhaps modelling his play (if not his suiting) on the stars of his beloved Liverpool FC.
It has been a remarkable journey, and it is a delight to say that with Welsh and Jefferies in the hands of Tuffy, we may not quite have seen the last of Elie in the High Street.