Thursday, January 6th, 2005
These are the points that are important to me:
If you’re told it’s “bespoke”, make sure it is. Ask if he is the actual cutter.
Will he cut you a personal pattern? Any company or individual should have a pile of individual patterns adorned with names of his clients. Be very wary here, there are some good CMT houses (cut, make & trim) who merely receive your details and then effectively make you a ready-to-wear suit- using a standard template, not an individual pattern- that’s been slightly adjusted.
Yes, it’ll be a great suit, but it’s not “bespoke”. Remember, a BMW 640’s a great coupe, but it’ll never be a hand-built Aston Martin.
With a proper bespoke tailor, he’ll make you a set of patterns which will belong to you and nobody else but you. And he’ll hold on to them for next time, for years. Decades.
Cutting is an art. We’re like painters, novelists or film directors. Some you like, some you don’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean good or bad. Our job is to fit and flatter your body, and just as importantly, your mind.
Although I’ll have my style of cut, you’ve got to feel your own individuality being expressed, or it simply won’t work. If you already find this with your current cutter, for goodness sake, hold on to him for dear life, don’t come to me.
But the cutter is only part of the equation. Obviously the best materials & trimmings (linings, buttons,etc) have to used. At this point we involve this next rare (& getting rarer) breed, the tailor, who actually sews the garments by hand.
Although they’re very few and far between, you may find an old tailor who cuts & makes all his garments, but you’d be lucky, it’s just not commercially viable any more.
So now we’ve more to consider. I have various tailors who work for me, ranging from 35 to 68 yrs old. As you’d expect, they contribute hugely to the outcome of a garment. They’re individuals, they express themselves in their work.
Some make a slightly firmer coat, with more stitches per inch and a little less fullness, thus creating a slightly sharper image. Another might add lots of fullness, with easier stitching, to produce a more relaxed, draped style.
Again, the cutter has to decide who’s best for you, and as importantly, keep it that way. In some of the bigger houses your suit can get handed out to different tailors every time you order, and believe me you’ll notice.
Make sure it’s hand-made. Yes, I know we use sewing machines for parts of the garment, but that should be where it ends.
Make sure your coat has a “floating” canvas, this you should be able to feel, floating between the facing & forepart. If you can’t feel it, ask to be shown it at the fitting. A hand canvassed coat must be expected at this level. I point this out, as the far-inferior alternative is a “fused” canvas, which effectively glues the innards of your coat together.
The fused canvas looks impressive when it’s new, but it’ll subtract years off the gament’s life in the long run.
Oh, and wait until you’ve had a few trips to the dry cleaners, or a bit of singing in the rain, and it becomes unstuck, yuk.
Check out for the obvious- hand-sewn buttonholes, hand-sewn edges, and make sure the buttons are made of animal horn, not plastic.
Don’t be convinced by the narcotic effect of labels, they mean nothing. Have your eyes and senses tuned. Don’t trust the glossy magazines for your info, they are writers, not cutters. Their world is about PR, not about the actual stitching.
No journalist ever had to spend seven years as a proper tailor’s apprentice. Their agendae are different from yours.
All business is personal. Especially in tailoring.
Thursday, January 6th, 2005
A lot of people use the terms “bespoke” and “made-to-measure” interchangeably. They are mistaken.
‘Bespoke’ is actually a term which dates from the 17th century, when tailors held the full lengths of cloth in their premises.
When a customer chose a length of material, it was said to have “been spoken for”. Hence a tailor who makes your clothes individually, to your specific personal requirements, is called “bespoke”. This is unlike “made-to-measure”, which simply uses a basic, pre-existing template pattern, which is then adjusted to roughly your individual measurements.
The first thing I’ll do is discuss with you what type of suit you are looking for, and its uses. Then a cloth is chosen from the full range available today, and also which type of style and fit would be most suitable for you.
Clothes made by me have all the hallmarks you would expect from true bespoke tailoring:
More than 20 measurements and figuration details are taken from the customer. Then a personal pattern will be hand-drafted and cut from scratch- not the basic, adjusted template pattern, as used by so many other tailors these days.
Using your pattern, the cloth is then cut and trimmed, along with the finest linings and silks available. A single tailor is then given the parts of the garment to sew together, from the earliest fitting stages, to the final, complete suit. Each suit is completely hand-made, even down to the button holes.
[For a fuller explanation of the different levels of tailoring (ready-to-wear, made-to-measure, bespoke etc) please go here.]
Thursday, January 6th, 2005
[Photo of myself, courtesy of Scott Schuman.]
[NEWSLETTER: Please subscribe here.]
After more than twenty years experience of hand tailoring in Savile Row, I can offer my customers the traditions and expertise of the finest bespoke tailoring available today.
At the moment I’m one of the youngest tailors on Savile Row, and am lucky to have enjoyed making for an interesting list of clients, celebs, business icons etc.
Shameless Namedropping: Clients have included Prince Charles, Chief Ralph Lauren Designer John Vizzone, Bryan Ferry, and some other bright sparks who I can’t mention for *Ahem!* reasons of discretion.
Once, after I had made a jacket for John Vizzone, he showed up at the door with a copy he had made for the Ralph Lauren label. Tsk-tsk. He then asked me if I would be interested in going to the USA and working for him. But of course, arrogant chap that I am (not really), I had bigger ideas (silly me). Something to do with staying up in Cumbria- where I grew up- and just enjoying life more, far from the madding crowd etcetera.
Still, Ralph Lauren managed fine, and their ready-to-wear lines are up there with the best.
I hope with my classic background in bespoke tailoring, coupled with a more open approach to this business, the experience of having your clothes made will be as enjoyable for you as it is for me.
I began my career training for 7 years with S. Redmayne, a great little company. After that I spent 5 years with my alma mater, Anderson & Sheppard, the most famous and respected tailor on Savile Row. There I was undercutter to the great Mr. Hallbery, who you could intellegently argue was the greatest tailor of the twentieth century.
I then started Steed with Edwin in 1995; a partnership that lasted six years. Ed & I are still pals and work only a few miles from each other. I’ve been independant since 2001.
My style of tailoring is soft and unstructured, classic “Anderson & Sheppard” style, which offers comfort and a natural look. Apart from a bespoke fit, I always try show a joint expression of style, my client’s as much as my own, something that all of us wish to express. Sadly, much of today’s tailoring appears very stiff and structured, with a uniform sameness that’s, well, utterly boring.
[Further Info: Why buy a suit from me, as opposed to the other excellent Savile Row tailors.]
My workshop is where I live, in Cumbria. I do most of my cutting there, though the sewing is almost exclusively done by Savile Row tailors. To sew my suits you need to have been trained to sew “The Anderson & Sheppard Way”, hence why most of the sewing tailors I use are based within a stone’s throw of Savile Row and A&S. Most of the the tailors I use also are also currently employed by A&S on a regular basis.
I am down on Savile Row most weeks, seeing clients and visiting my tailors. My movements are posted regularly on English Cut to keep everyone abreast of them. My offices are at Number 12 Savile Row, on the Eastern side of the street.
Besides London, I regularly visit New York, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco every three months.
I am more than happy to travel to faraway places off my regular beaten track, but of course, this has to make good business sense. Usually a larger order would need to be involved.
Though I keep one foot always firmly planted on Savile Row, in today’s world one has to also remain extremely mobile. My clients all lead very busy lives themselves, so they understand and appreciate this.
Apart from my love of tailoring, I like to have my base here at the Warwick Hall in Cumbria. It’s great to make my frequent assaults on London, New York Paris et al, but I’m less distracted up here.
I like to sail my little boat on one of the lakes, and when I’m lucky I get to sail my good friend’s yacht Andorina. If you don’t want to visit your tailor in Savile Row, then try a 65ft ketch on the west coast of Scotland or have a weekend at Warwick Hall; I promise you’ll love both.