How to Pick a Bespoke Tailor

pattern

These are the four points that are important to me when picking a bespoke tailor:

Point 1

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.

Point 2

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.

Point 3

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.

Point 4

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.

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About Thomas Mahon

Thomas Mahon is one of the most experienced tailors on Savile Row with a list of clients including royalty, celebrities and business icons. Tom has almost thirty years experience of hand tailoring in Savile Row including five years at Savile Row’s most famous and respected tailor, Anderson & Sheppard. His clients experience the traditions and expertise of the finest bespoke tailoring available today using a soft and unstructured style typical of Anderson & Sheppard. His workshop is based at Warwick Hall in Cumbria and also meets clients at his office in London, Tom also makes regular trips to visit his growing international client base in Europe, the USA and further afield. When not creating beautiful bespoke suits, travelling to see clients or sharing his sartorial advice with his internet followers, Tom enjoys teaching sailing and is the boats officer for the Sea Cadet Corps near his Cumbria home. For the full story visit www.englishcut.com
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