Saturday, May 20th, 2006
I’m pleased to say that many of the first English Cut shirts have been delivered to their proud new owners. And as I expected, they are delighted. Nigel and everyone at Rayner & Sturges have done a sterling job.
It’s nice for me to be able to offer my clients such a wonderful product, which I truly believe compliments my tailoring, and also helps a little in the support of British craftsmanship.
As you know, until now the English Cut shirts are only available to my bespoke suit clients. I know this has caused a lot of disappointment for people who would love to order shirts, but the cost of a suit is a little out of their reach.
This I can totally understand, however we did not do this for the creation of some exclusive club. It’s simply that I can only truly look after so many bespoke suit customers at any given time.
I’m sorry that it appears that were making it difficult to buy something as “simple” as a shirt, but it’s not just the shirt. It’s also the experience and service you’ll value and remember long after the shirt has been laundered and worn to death.
[Miss Lucy Adams, who assists me on my U.S. visits.]
To make the shirts more accessible, I’m delighted to announce that Lucy Adams will be again travelling with on my next US trip. And apart from the super job she does of keeping the English Cut tour on track, she will be measuring and looking after shirt customers who are not yet ready for one of our suits. As my existing customers will testify, apart from being one of the most charming young ladies you could ever meet, Lucy is extremely efficient and professional in her work, and will do a first class job of measuring and dealing with all the details of your shirt(s).
People who know me are fully aware of my faults, but one thing I don’t do is take this business lightly. I have every confidence in Lucy and Rayner & Sturges. Therefore, should you wish to sample an English Cut shirt, our U.S. itinerary is here, and you can arrange a U.S. appointment with Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, February 15th, 2006
Like I said earlier, I was on the hunt for the best shirts made in England.
This search was brought about, of course, by readers of English Cut, and the desire of my clients to find a shirt to perfectly compliment the “soft structured” suits they were buying from me.
And as you read the other day, I reckon I’ve found one of the best shirtmakers out there: Nigel Sturges, of Rayner & Sturges.
English Cut shirts will work like this:
First of all, upon meeting myself for an appointment, I will show you a range of wonderful shirt fabrics, whose choices I have limited, under the good advice of Nigel Sturges, to the highest quality from SIC Tess in Italy, and Alumo in Switzerland.
Sadly, cotton of this quality is no longer made in England, at any price. But this fabric is made by two of the smallest and most exclusive mills in Europe, which in comparison to other cotton manufacturers, limit their production to about one tenth of commercial suppliers.
Unlike the Jermyn Street or Savile Row norm, there is no minimum order with English Cut. My customers can order only one shirt at a time, if they prefer.
I will then personally take the measurements myself, including discussing your requirements, showing you examples of all the collar and cuff styles, pocket details, and type of cut etc. All very similar to how you’d order a suit from me.
I then indiviudally discuss your requirements with Nigel Sturges at Rayner & Sturges, and once both parties are in accord, Nigel proceeds with the shirt’s making.
The first step is that their wonderful cutter, who has been in the business all his working life, will draft you an individual shirt pattern, which will be yours and yours alone, to be used and adjusted every time you order again, hopefully for many years to come.
Once the pattern is made, the shirt goes into production. The core of craftsmen at Rayner & Sturges will then start to make your shirt, using a combination of hand cutting and individual machine work.
The linings that I have chosen to use in my collars and cuffs very much compliments the “soft” architecture of my suits, which will give the shirt a wonderful appearence of softness and depth, that will improve over time.
This has always been a bug-bear to me: how so many shirt manufacturers have an extremely hard, stretched look to their collars and cuffs, which can not only be uncomfortable, but even more concerning, ends up with an apparent “sameness” in both a £30 shirt and a £150 shirt.
[A butterfly gusset.]
Little details in the production make all the difference. The use of “single needle” work throughout the entire workings of the shirt, as opposed to the far more common (and cheaper) “double needle” mass-produced system. The beautiful “butterfly gusset” at the bottom of the sides. And of course, the highest grade mother-of-pearl buttons, instead of plastic or even the inferior troca pearl buttons.
You can easily tell mother-of-pearl by its lovely iridescent colour, which when you compare to plastic, the latter looks dull and yellowy in comparison. This is especially apparent on a a classic white shirt.
Obviously the other details you’d expect will be there. Ten-piece collars, four-piece yokes, matching stripes and patterns, and as the shirt is designed to be worn only by yourself, any other details you may deem important.
In Jermyn Street shirtmaker’s parlance, this process is called “Bespoke”. However it varies slightly from the bespoke suits of Savile Row, as unlike the latter, there’s no need for the customers to have a fitting halfway through the making.
Instead I “straight finish” your first shirt from the details I took at your initial appointment, then courier it to you. After that, I ask you to wear it and launder it a few times, to see how it wears on you. Then we discuss any further alterations that need to be made to your pattern, or to your style details.
Please do not be concerned that your first order can not be altered if it’s slightly incorrect. We do have allowances built into the shirt, which we can use if necessary- lengthening sleeves etcetera.
The good news here is, after your first shirt has been deemed perfect for your needs and your happily wearing it, you will have now have an existing “bespoke” pattern available for any future shirts you may wish to order, with all your individuals details and adjustments already worked out. This will make ordering any subsequent shirts in the future extremely easy and efficient. No appointment with me necessary, just drop me an e-mail or phone me up, and I’ll put Nigel on the case.
All in all, the time between placing an order and receiving your shirt via courier is about 28 days. The price per shirt is £150 [roughly $260 USD].
All technicalities aside, at the end of the day the most important thing to me and my customers is how these shirts feel. That is the proof of the pudding. This is the train of thought behind my bespoke suits, and now the selection of my shirtmaker.
If have any more questions, feel free to drop me an e-mail. Thank You.
Thursday, February 2nd, 2006
[The entrance to Rayner & Sturges Ltd.]
I mentioned earlier that I was on the hunt for the best English shirt made today, to supply to my customers.
Sadly, most of what is purchased in Jermyn Street these days is made in India, Peru or some other distant country, far from England’s green and pleasant land. We all know the reasons for this, and I don’t have a gripe with it. Everyone deserves to earn a living, and everybody benefits from the lower costs that manufacturing abroad affords them. But all this has made English manufacturing a very tough business to be in.
In spite of that, even if “Englishness” may not matter to everybody, it still matters to me. Having “English Cut” on the label is nice, but I believe “Made In England” is equally important. And if I have to pay extra to have that honour, then so be it. Life is short.
As far as I know there are only a handfull of proper shirtmakers left in the country. They’re all producing shirts of exceptional quality, as they must, to survive the high cost of manufacturing here. For example there’s Kerry at Russell & Hodge, and Turnbull & Asser, both super companies. But there are others, if you know where to look.
I’m very pleased to announce that I have indeed found a shirtmakers that will more than stand up to my scrutiny, and more importantly, to yours.
To make a long story short, my favourite shirt is one I’ve owned for over eight years. It still hangs in my wardrobe. It’s all dog-eared and worn, because I’ve enjoyed wearing it so often. Sadly, the label only mentions the retailer who sold it to me, not the actual manaufacturer. The retailer I bought it from went out of business a few years ago, however there was something special about this one, so I kept it around as a reminder of how a real shirt should feel.
When I decided to start selling shirts, I promised myself that this old favourite shirt would be the inspiration. This old shirt embodied everything I was after.
I’m happy to report that after doing some digging and a lot of phone calls later, I finally discovered the manufacturer of the shirt. Rayner & Sturges Ltd, based in England’s garden county of Kent, about an hour South of London.
[Nigel Sturges at his desk.]
I initially telephoned Nigel Sturges, and I immediately found him delightful. With a lifetime in the business he was one of the best authorities on shirtmaking alive today. The company was founded in 1913 by his great-grandfather and still occupies its original building.
When I first visited their workshop I was astonished to find such a gem of a company, still producing the best quality shirts available, still here in England.
I won’t embarrass the blue-chip Jermyn Street shirtmakers who have at least some of their work done by Nigel, but they are numerous. If you are currently a Jermyn Street customer, the odds of you owning one of Nigel’s shirts are remarkably high.
Needless to say, since our first meeting I’ve really had my eyes opened by Nigel and his colleagues, to this very special craft. All my demands in a shirt were well covered, and surpassed. Also, after spending several days with the company I’ve learnt some fantastic details which I never knew existed. And don’t worry, I am determined that you’ll also know all about it by the time I’m done.
I shall let you know the full details of how the system will work very soon. But I do feel confident that I’m working with the best. I know a lot of tailors say they’re shirtmakers, but more than often they’re not. I’m certainly not a shirtmaker, but I will gladly act as a catalyst between my bespoke customers and one of the best shirtmakers in the world. I feel certain that between us we can do a pretty good job, with Nigel doing the making, and myself no slouch with the tape measure. I honestly do think we’re going to be able to offer my customers something special that they’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else, including Jermyn Street.
I plan to have the shirtings available in time for my next American visit at the end of this month. Please let me know your thoughts, I would love to know what people think. Thank you.