Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
It’s a good job I’ve at last found someone to replace me in a few years. I’d like to introduce you to Tom Ritson my apprentice cutter for the last year. By coincidence, Tom grew up in the same area as myself and also went to the same school. You cant get more English Cut than that even by his name which is local to the area. So let’s hope he enjoys the business as I have for the last thirty years. I only feel like I’ve been in this trade for five minutes but incredibly it will be thirty years next November since I entered this trade finishing at Anderson & Sheppard before starting on my own with Edwin of Steed in 1995. Time flies when your having fun.
Many of my customers know Tom already but he’s rapidly learning our craft and will hopefully be wielding the tape for his own clients in the not too distant future. You’ve may have been wondering where I’ve been as the posts have been somewhat scarce. It’s pretty easy to deduce why, a very busy expanding business and two young boys taking up the rest of my time. So there’s never enough hours in the day to cut, teach, run a business and write.
Fortunately, young Tom is not only learning very well, he thoroughly loves the craft. So much so he wants to teach the next generation all about it. He’s going to fill the gap of the often overworked Tom senior and help out with the blog.
We’ll be freshening it up this summer and doing something very exciting. Tom will be posting regularly about his journey through the trade. He’ll be showing you literally what’s being cut and made and give you a new aspect to the trade from an apprentice mastering his craft. I hope you’ll enjoy the regular updates and pictures and also following Tom’s career develop. I certainly know the readers of English Cut will wish him every success.
Talking of bright futures I’d like to wish my good friend Hugh McLeod and his new wife of two weeks many wonderful, happy years together. Early readers of English Cut will remember that it was Hugh who gave me the idea to start writing down my experiences in this wonderful trade. Hence, English Cut was born. The first ever tailoring blog.
I’m’ off on my usual spring trip to the USA next week and my full itinerary is here. Next year I hope Tom will be joining me so he can meet our friends in the US and carry the bags.
Thursday, November 29th, 2012
I don’t know if it’s just me but there’s an interesting shift in style ideas going on, certainly with a lot of our bespoke at the moment. Although many of the high street suits and including James Bond’s are going for an almost 60′s style slimmness of cut and thin lapels.
(Mr Sinatra with proper lapels)
However, many of my clients are asking for wider lapels, especially in double breasted. Also, there’s a strong return to shawl collars, such as the one I’m cutting here. This is particularly unusual as it’s a shawl collar on a double breasted dinner jacket. There’s no doubt it’s a beautiful classic style but I have haven’t cut something like this in years. (Mr Bond, very slim and a bit short in back balance) When I talk about the DB lapels being wider I mean really wide, almost coming out the full width of the shoulder.
(slim cut Mr Bond and a bit short in back balance)
It seems strange to cut these these days but I must admit when a client of mine dropped in to see me in NYC last week he did look fantastic. It’s literally time travel, back to the 30′s and 40′s. It’s not a look everyone can pull off and the rest of your dress has to match but there’s no doubting that that’s from an incredibly stylish era. All we need to do is get a run on the hat wearing then we will have gone full circle.
(Basil Rathbone, a very elegant Sherlock Holmes)
So you’ll have to decide if you want to be James Bond or Sherlock Holmes.. I’m begining to prefer the latter :)
Monday, September 17th, 2012
( shorter and easier to wear)
In bespoke tailoring the main thing that gives so much pleasure for me is that I’m dealing with individuals. People who have different ideas and personalities which I have to remember and adapt my fitting and styling to so that we both achieve what we want. Yes, we’ve a house style but subtle differences are what it’s all about.
As I’ve always said you’re only as good as your last coat. This is not simply a matter of technical ability or quality of workmanship. It’s very much to do with understanding what your client truly wants from his commission. In simple terms you can cut what you think is perfect but find your client’s not as convinced. In exactly the same way I may not be happy with the result but my client is over the moon as we’ve hit the spot exactly. This is of course is because it’s for an individual who thankfully has different ideas from everyone else which lets me enjoy a different challenge every time I put my shears in the cloth. It’s the old saying, “one mans meat is another mans poison”
The picture above is a classic example of this. This belongs to a lovely client who’s been kind enough to order a very substantial wardrobe from us. He’s all the classics then some very unusual suits that break the mould. He owns a beautiful classic single breasted overcoat but he wanted something shorter, more fitted and easier to wear on all occasions.
When I started in the trade this type of garment was called a “car coat”. You don’t hear the term any more but it was for exactly as its name suggest. Originally it was from the great days when most cars where open topped. The were rather chilly and and a nice coat was always needed, certainly in the UK. A classic overcoat would be too bulky and awkward to wear so the driver needed something sporty and comfortable but still had you looking elegantly dressed upon arrival.
So out of necessity the car coat was born. Shorter with a little flair for sitting comfortably with easy to access pockets to get your keys etc. Usually made as our example here of a sportier less formal material such as this lovely tweed from W. Bill which we’ve cut with back darts and a half belt for a little extra style. I’m not sure if my client will be wearing this in an open top vintage Bentley but when he does arrive at his destination he’ll definitely look the best dressed.
For my US clients you’ll be pleased to hear I’ve booked my tickets for the US this Autumn. The details are here.
Orders for car coats are being accepted
Thursday, July 5th, 2012
It never rains but it pours they say. New baby one week then flooded out of our home the next No matter, life throws things at you from time to time and all I can say is thank goodness for home insurance.
Even with the little hiccups that come our way, life here at English Cut is very good indeed. We’re loving our new home and I know a lot of people have been asking to see some pictures of the new place. The good thing about the internet is that I’ll be able to show you exactly what the new place is like with videos and pictures. But as we all tend to be a little house proud I’ll wait till all the paint’s dry and the carpets are down. Then you’ll all be invited both electronically and physically to drop in.
My cutting room has stone flagged floor and a wonderful old fire range in it. It’ll be a a bit too much of an effort to make a cup of tea on this but just knowing how many brews it’s made over its two hundred year old history will be comforting enough. It looks a bit rough at the moment but wouldn’t we all if we’d been covered up up for about sixty years.
(a bit of tlc ?)
(and it could be like this)
It was interesting that earlier that I spoke of the the lovely fabrics that are available for the summer months. I thought I’d show you these striking cottons from Holland & Sherry. As you can see they’re refreshingly different with such a bold stripe in them. Of course you’ll all be aware that we’re not the fastest tailors in the world and you’re probably wondering how will this fellow get these in time for an English Summer? Fortunately for him he enjoys the year round sunshine of California. So whenever they’re ready it’ll always be in time for summer
(cotton in the boardroom)
Thursday, June 14th, 2012
(Peter Day of Denman & Goddard)
We’re all nearly settled in our new home but it’ll still take a couple of months to get things the way we want it. When our new home’s ready we’ll give you an online guided tour and I’m sure you’ll be delighted as me to see a full traditional tailoring business at work.
When I was in our London office earlier this week I had the chance to have a good chat with a friend who’s been on Savile Row longer than we’d both care to remember. Peter Day of Denman & Goddard was telling me all about this lovely garment that was made around 1895. It’s a junior diplomats uniform, or secretary to the ambassador with the diplomatic corps. This is a rather grand uniform but these were the grand days of the British Empire when dignitaries from around the globe wouldn’t have expected anything less.
The workmanship on this material is incredible. Let me elaborate on a few things. First of all every stitch is by hand, every one, even the the long side seams. Also the doeskin it’s made of is far superior than anything available today. Sadly, you can’t feel the texture but to give you some idea the bottom of the coat is a raw cut edge. As in there’s no turn up or seam. The fabric’s so tightly woven it’s not frayed in the slightest. Of course today we’d never dream of leaving a raw edge like this. However, if we could you couldn’t get anything as clean and elegant.
(back pockets to keep your credentials)
When this was supplied by the military tailors of the day they took care of everything the hat and even the sword. As you can see the tailors name of Meyer & Mortimer can be seen on the sword blade. Obviously it comes as no surprise to find all the gold leaf embroidery is done by hand using 2% gold over silver wire laid on silk velvet. There was a few people who specialised in gold embroidery at the time such as Hands & Co, Hobosons of Tooley Street. There were more and it’s amazing they employed a lot of people creating the beautiful embroidery that was needed in those grand old days.
I can’t thank Peter enough for such an insight and I must say he always makes time for people. Apart from being a very nice chap there’s no doubt how respected a figure he is in our craft. However, what made me smile most that day was how after all these years he was still so exited when he was looking at such beautiful work. After all that’s why we’re in this business.
Thursday, May 31st, 2012
I’ve been travelling for most of May and it’s good to be home. We’re all looking forward to the jubilee and long weekend to celebrate a marvelous sixty year reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the 2nd. It’s a very special time to be here and I’m extremely proud that our Queen has reigned all of my life and God willing we’ll enjoy this for many years to come.
Celebrations, of course but we wont be having much of a break here at English Cut. We’re extremely busy and we’re taking advantage of the weekend to move into our new premises. I’ll show you the new place when we’re in and settled.
I’ve been asked a lot recently about cooler fabrics to wear in the hot summer months. Something we’ve had the pleasure of enjoying recently here in the UK. I answered this question a number of years ago. Here’s the article, tweaked and brought up to date but very relevant.
(A sample bunch of fine linens from Dormeuil, the cloth merchants on Sackville Street, around the corner from Savile Row.)
Michael Alden of The London Lounge recently asked me the following question:
Many of our [London Lounge] readers are preparing their wardrobes for Spring and Summer. I have always felt that the Anderson & Sheppard style of tailoring always worked exceedingly well in warmer weather as long as the choice of fabrics was correct. Rigid, lightweight fabrics like frescos and Irish linens when hand sewn and without lining always seem to be the best solution to warmer weather. What advice would you give our readers about garments, their sewing and choice of cloth, destined for these seasons?
The truth is, there is no magic, secret formula for making coats for warm climates. It’s just common sense, with three main tenets:
1. Only use fabrics which are extremely light.
2. Only use fabrics that are extremely breathable.
3. Always build the suits with a very light internal structure.
Allow me to elaborate:
We’re all aware how wonderfully cool cottons and linens are. The downside, of course, is that they do look as if you’ve been sleeping in them after a few hours of wear. Still, it’s the honesty in these fabrics that gives them their charm. We all know they crease badly, but that’s their style.
But if we want to stay cool, whilst still wearing the proper, formal business attire, what’s on offer?
Your standard worsteds (Super 90′s} are usually out of the picture; the lightest this quality is found is usually about 9 ounces (light enough in one of our suits).
In very lightweight wool fabrics you’re usually looking at finer quality Super 120′s/150′s. These do indeed crease, however the compromise in comfort is a fair exchange. Besides, I’ve taught you how to press, haven’t I?. These materials are going to cost more, but that’s par for the course when you get into these lightweights.
Another option, which is a very viable one, are the modern ‘High Technology Materials’. These probably sound as scary to you as to me. Especially with names like, “Supertronic” ( now called “Business Class“) from Scabal. Believe it or not they don’t have a strand of man-made fibre in them just a very tight weave in the cloth that literally makes them bounce back into shape. It’s all good, honest and most importantly, cool, pure wool.
Even without their unsettling names, if you take a look and feel the texture of these materials, I’m sure like me you’ll find them a little, dry to the touch and you could be convinced there must be something awful in there, like polyester. But there is none- this as I said is simply the way the cloths are spun to produce this robust, stretchy texture, even in 7 ounce materials.
This is the main problem with these materials. Customers and tailors alike feel that these cloths are somehow hiding something, unlike something traditional as a cotton or linen. Our minds trust them, but our hearts do not.
That’s about it. Compromises do have to be made in warm climates, but c’est la vie. Still, if you follow the obvious three rules above, you can still look good and keep cool at the same time.
Friday, April 27th, 2012
Bags are packed and diary’s full and I cant wait to get back to the USA. As usual it’s been extremely busy here before my travels but last week I managed to give a day to teach a pattern cutting masterclass . This was for around a hundred students and teachers at Somerset House for the British Fashion Council. It was lovely to asked to attend and it reminded me how much interest there is in our craft. I’m sure I was probably the least fashionable person there but they all seemed to enjoy.
(somerset house, quite a venue)
On my return from the US we’re opening a large ( over 2000 sq ft) new workshop for our bespoke tailoring. It’s a beautiful listed building over three floors. A wonderful environment for maintaining our craft and training new tailors for the future. The tradesmen are all at work at the moment but we should officially open this summer. I’m not sure but It will definitely be one of the largest workshops I know dedicated to one business offering true bespoke hand tailoring. It reminds Paul and I of the old building that was once Anderson & Sheppard’s workshops on Savile Row when we worked there. It’s going to be a fabulous place and you’ll be very welcome to come and see what we do.
(the pretty market place of Brampton, our new home)
Also, I’d like to welcome back Christopher Price to English Cut. Some of you may remember him from six years ago. It’s great to have Chris back and he’ll be helping me run things from our office.
(a young Chris Price from six years ago)