Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A new suit begins

I've been meaning to get a new bespoke suit for ages. It's been over six months since I bought my last (off-the-peg) suit and about a year and a half since I order a bespoke item. The interim has mostly been spent stocking up on odds and ends like tweed jackets, jumpers and a lot of new shirts. Anyway, the time has definitely come for something new and, for a long time, I've had a hankering for a single-breasted three-piece suit with a double-breasted waistcoat. This is a classic look which is increasingly popular with well-dressed men but is still almost impossible to find off-the-peg. Actually, it has hit a couple of top-end off-the-peg stores this summer but only, as far as I can see, in cream or off-white and I assume this is mainly the Great Gatsby effect (albeit more Redford than DiCaprio I think).

All that is by the by, because it is as a smart town suit that this style looks best and where it can be made with a sufficiently understated cloth to avoid the whole ensemble being totally overpowering. It's tough to find an example, but here's a good shot of... yes, Robert Redford as Gatsby. This picture is cunningly cropped to hide the fact that he's wearing brown shoes, but let's ignore that. 


For my own purposes, what I am after is something in a fairly sober business-like grey, but with a bit of texture and pattern that only becomes obvious closer up. I'm not really a fan of very plain cloths and, even when I'm keeping in check my passion for checks, I'd prefer a nailhead or birdseye to something totally plain, so it was with that rough brief in mind that I went for my first appointment at 13 Savile Row, the new premises of Cad and the Dandy

As I explained in my previous post, Cad and the Dandy has come a long way in a short time. For years they've been carefully following the bespoke process, hiring talented staff and turning out increasingly Savile-Row-quality suits but I get the feeling that recently they've taken another significant step up. Their Savile Row operation is overseen by Philippa May; a cutter who previously spent five years at Huntsman and, before that, at Gieves and Hawkes. And for a while they've used the same coatmakers and finishers as elsewhere on Savile Row (including many who've previously worked for big-name tailors). This and their permanent premises makes them, finally, not so much a 'good-value alternative to Savile Row' but simply a true Savile Row tailor.


So what's changed? Well, if anyone had asked me before what differentiated Cad and the Dandy from a traditional bespoke tailor I would have said it was the fact that the main customer-facing contact was often not the cutter. This wasn't a huge problem - James and Ian are talented and knowledgeable, and their head cutter was often around the shop - but in a real Savile Row tailor it requires the cutter to meet with the client so they are working not just from blunt physical measurements but from having personally seen how the customer stands and walks, how their shoulders slope, what they tend to fill their pockets with, and all sorts of other little details. The experience of working directly with an experienced cutter is a big part of the Savile Row process and it's a definite improvement for Cad and the Dandy now that their bespoke clients have their first consultation in person with Philippa.

As well as all the details of the suit requirements, around 20 measurements are taken and jotted down in Philippa's notebook (which probably tells you everything you need to know about the sort of places that claim to be able to make you a 'bespoke' suit on the basis of a handful of measurements entered online). Although Cad and the Dandy already have a pattern for me, Philippa will draft a new one to her own style. Naturally, given where she's spent much of her career, this will owe something to the classic Huntsman cut; one of the most recognisable Savile Row house styles. Although since my preference is for a two-button suit we've avoided directly aping their style, which is probably for the best. Huntsman is arguably (and I use the word advisedly, since any statement like this is bound to provoke an argument...) one of the best tailors in London so I'm definitely looking forward to wearing a suit cut by someone who spent five years there.


Of course part of the service is advice on style, cloth selection and so forth. Despite my vague idea of a nailhead or birdseye, I was eventually steered (with practically no resistance) towards a very elegant dark grey check in a lightweight cloth that will make this suit suitable for an August wedding when I hope to first wear it. The lining, which is especially visible on most three-piece suits that also use the lining fabric on the back of the waistcoat, will be a nice dark red and gold paisley pattern. The end result will, I think, be very smart indeed.

16 comments:

  1. "This is a classic look which is increasingly popular with well-dressed men but is still almost impossible to find off-the-peg."

    Actually, Charles Tyrwhitt does a three piece with a double-breasted waistcoat in navy or light grey.

    http://www.ctshirts.co.uk/men%27s-suits/view-all/Navy-tailored-fit-luxury-suit-?q=gbpdefault||EBA07NAV|||||2056,||||||||

    I bought the grey version a couple of months ago and can confirm that (with a few alterations from my friendly local tailor) it makes for a perfectly good work suit.

    Worth considering you're on a budget.

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    1. Aha, thanks! I had a feeling I'd seen this style in CT and was looking for it as I wrote the post, but then I couldn't find it on the website so I wasn't sure. Clearly I wasn't looking hard enough though.

      As I've commented before, I really like the fact that CT is doing some suits in really nice cloths and some more interesting and unusual styles, including waistcoats with lapels and these double-breasted waistcoats.

      My only issue with them is that often they seem to only do the more interesting suits in a modern shorter and narrower cut that I'm not wildly keen on. Still, buying off-the-peg is always about a certain amount of compromise. Backed up by a good alterations tailor...

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  2. Oddly, that is almost exactly the sort of suit I was thinking of having made as my first venture into personal tailoring - even down to the grey check cloth. I'll be interested to see how it works out.

    I see C&tD offer a fully bespoke and halfway house between MtM and bespoke option. Which have you gone for, if you don't mind me asking?

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    1. Well then, you are evidently a man of taste and style!

      I've gone for the fully bespoke on this, as I'm keen to experience the proper Savile Row effect. However my first C&tD suit (http://stjames-style.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/cad-and-dandy-final-review.html) was the basic option which is still somewhat bespoke but is not fully hand-made, doesn't have a full-floating canvas, and doesn't use a basted fitting. The result is excellent although, having since had a number of items made fully bespoke, there's definitely a difference.

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    2. The inconvenience of getting to London has led me to try a more local option. This is my first venture into something more than off-the-peg, so I'm still a bit nervy having handed over a reasonable sum of money for a suit I haven't actually seen.

      I am also aware that it is perhaps less than ideal that the stitching is to be done by a tailor I haven't actually met (they use another provincial tailor to create the suit, apparently). That said, I do at least really like the cloth (subtle check with a larger faint blue check running through it). And given I'm not paying for the train journey to London for fittings it will be a three piece suit for much less than I might get from somewhere like C&D.

      I shall watch your suit's development with interest, however.

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    3. Well, best of luck, and I hope it works out. I found my first bespoke suit quite intimidating but it's best not to worry, even a middling tailor is bound to produce something better than most off-the-peg purchases. And I wouldn't worry too much about not meeting the actual coatmaker, even on Savile Row many coatmakers are freelance and even those employed by the tailor rarely meet clients. Meeting the cutter is more important but, even then, not doing so doesn't in any way mean that your suit won't be up to scratch.

      Do let me know how it goes!

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  3. I'm quite jealous you're getting a SB with DB waistcoat. It is, I think, the most effortlessly elegant look a man can convey.

    I was flirting with a C+D three piece for a summer wedding, but alas, I ran out of time before funds were available. I ended up going for a Duchamp which, while I love the (altered) end result, was just too much hassle - and equivalent in price.

    I'll be back to MTM / bespoke for my next foray.

    Do post the final photos as soon as practicable - I'm sure we're all looking forward to seeing the result.

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    1. Thanks. I hope I'll be able to pull of effortless elegance and, if I can't, it certainly won't be the suits fault...!

      Although I really like Duchamp, I'm often surprised by the amount that designer suits cost for a fairly average fit and quality of construction, when the same amount of money could buy a perfectly-fitting and beautifully-made suit from any of a number of mid-priced tailors.

      Don't worry - there will be pictures in abundance.

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  4. Excellent blog post as ever. Out of interest, has the price increased for the fully bespoke option following C+D's revamp?

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    1. Thanks Jonathan. I don't think they've increased their prices specifically with the opening of the Savile Row store which, after all, is only an extension of the London Cut bespoke offering they've had for a while. The incremental fee for this has gone up from £300 to £400 at some point but I'm not sure exactly when that happened and whether it has anything particular to do with the new premises. Their base (cloth-based) prices have also increased somewhat since my first suit, but that happened a while ago. Taking both changes into account, you'd now find that a 2-piece suit would be between £550 and £1250, or from £950 to £1650 for fully bespoke. Three-piece costs roughly 20-30% more.

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  5. That's interesting. Thanks for the reply. I'm still somewhat skeptical about C + D. I've used the company before and wasn't overly impressed, either in terms of the quality of my suit or in terms of the customer service. I've since moved to Ede & Ravenscroft. The suits there are more expensive, but are more truly bespoke. I'm thus going to follow this new suit of yours with interest!

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  6. Did you discuss the cut you wanted? I was thinking of trying the C&tD bespoke option, but I'm not that keen on the Huntsman house style (even compared to other military / structured tailoring).

    -Balfour

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    1. We did discuss the cut although I was fairly happy to go with what Philippa suggested as the structured style will, I think, suit what I'm after with this suit.

      You raise an interesting point though, which is how far you can go against your tailors personal style. I obviously wouldn't recommend going to Huntsman if you don't like the house style - even if you could talk them into doing you something different, it probably wouldn't be as good as just going somewhere else.

      Cad and the Dandy, however, has less of a rigid house style and is much more happy to tailor (if you'll excuse the pun) its approach to suit the client. There's always going to be a limit, though, and it's true that Philippa's experience is mainly at fairly military/structured tailors so I suspect her best work is in that sort of direction. I'm positive that she'd be very happy and capable to make some allowances, but perhaps only within certain parameters, so might not be your best bet if you desperately want drape cut!

      If you're keen on C&tD in other respects, though, then it would definitely be worth having the conversation. Philippa will know best what she can and can't do well or it may be that their other cutter, John, could do you a different style if that was your preference.

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    2. Thank you for taking the time to reply.

      No problem with structured per se, but Huntsman seem to be at the extreme end (from what I've seen at least). I don't care for a very heavily built up shoulder, in particular, but something more middle of the road that was structured would be fine (i.e. not looking for A&S).

      Do you happen to know John's favoured style?

      -Balfour

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    3. Yeah, Huntsman are famously pretty structured. I shall be interested to see how Philippa's suit turns out.

      I don't really know what John usually does, although he cut my tweed suit and my POW jacket, both of which seem to be a nice middle-ground: a bit of definition in the waist and shoulder but nothing over the top. There's a picture of the tweed suit here although I don't know how much you can tell from it as it's not a great pic: http://stjames-style.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/completion-of-tweed-suit.html

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  7. Very nice. Hope the new one works out well.

    -Balfour

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