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The eye of bespoke

Some thoughts on the value and appeal of bespoke tailoring

Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment. ~ Alexander McQueen

Bespoke is a term that is used to describe an item that is commissioned for someone who has complete control over every small detail of that item right from the way its crafted to its finest details. Over the years, the term has become synonymous with superior craftsmanship and perfection. Its essence lies in Savile Row, the holy grail of bespoke suit makers in London. Bespoke tailors have carefully guarded the craft of suit making for centuries and passed it through generations. However, not everything that is “custom-made” can be called bespoke.

A bespoke tailor will first ask you to choose from a wide array of fabrics, after which you are carefully guided into making all the major and minor decisions that your suit will feature. These include choosing your pocket style, lapel style, buttons, buttonhole colour, button thread colour, vents and other major features that will shape the overall appearance of your suit.  He will ask you to choose your own lining fabric from different colours and designs and will also give you the option of having your name or initials inside the suit.

Some other special features that sets a bespoke suit apart from off-the-peg suits are working cuffs on your suit sleeves, having the last buttonhole and button thread on your sleeves to be a different colour and having a handmade lapel hole in a colour of your choice. Any special requests such as having a pocket inside your coat to the exact measurements of your wallet, phone, pen or cigar can also be accommodated, as a bespoke tailor never says no to any request made by a client. After everything has been discussed, the Master Tailor will take detailed measurements of your body.

As part of the bespoke tradition, it is important that your suit is hand-cut by the same hands that have measured you. Most tailors usually cut a pattern of your suit on craft paper before actually cutting your fabric, though there are a few tailors on the Row who are confident enough to cut the fabric directly by mapping your pattern on it. Your suit will then be handcrafted using a floating canvas, which is hand-stitched throughout the front part of your coat. A bespoke suit is usually seventy per cent handmade with at least fifty hours of handwork, so the real price of your bespoke suit is patience, apart from its monetary value.

Among the many tailors that exist on The Row, there are only a couple that I would consider as the masters of the bespoke industry. The first of its kind was the Legendary Henry Poole, the first Tailor on Savile Row- Located on No. 32 since 1847. Henry Poole till today holds over fifty Royal Warrants and has been a tailor to people who have left their footprint behind such as the Rothschilds or Sir Winston Churchill. He was also the creator of the suit we today call the ‘tuxedo’ or the ‘dinner jacket’.

However, it was Anderson & Sheppard who had created the revolutionary Drape Cut suit, a cut that most tailors on The Row today model their suits on. Frederick Scholte of Anderson & Sheppard, who was the personal tailor of the Duke of Windsor, hated the fact that suits were always restrictive in movement giving a corseted look to the body. He created a cut in which the fabric was not fitted to the body, it was draped over the body in a way that gives a sleek curved silhouette from the sides without restricting movement. He further created a technique where a larger sleeve head could be eased into a smaller armhole by creating small pleats, a technique that can only be achieved by hand, giving immense ease of arm movement and comfort.

It is therefore no surprise that some of the world’s best-dressed men such as Fred Astaire, Rudolph Valentino and Tom Ford have been clients of Anderson & Sheppard. Regardless of whether someone has commissioned a suit from Henry Poole, Anderson & Sheppard or any other bespoke tailor on the Row or around the world, they would all agree that once you have found a tailor that gives you the bespoke experience you have always imagined and opens up your sensibility to the ‘Eye of Bespoke’, stick to him. He is worth his weight in gold.

Pawan.B is a Savile Row-trained bespoke tailor and shoemaker. His tailoring house, Knights & Lords, is headquartered in London and has a flagship store in JBR, Dubai. Knights & Lords is known to be one of the few tailoring houses to have mastered the famous “drape cut” and continue to provide bespoke services to corporate and royal clients. 

Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment. ~ Alexander McQueen

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