Writers routinely emphasise technical and decorative prowess when recommending a certain tailor: fineness of stitching, shapeliness achieved by padding, and accomplishment of faithful fit. Equally important when choosing the artisan who will make your clothes is that person’s style. Simon Crompton points out that only a small number of tailors are good designers; it’s an observation that assists in comprehending the sentiment behind Giorgio Armani’s infamous missive that Savile Row is a melodrama lost on the past. Nonetheless, in a fundamental sense the design of your ensemble is executed by your tailor and for this reason it’s essential to find an artisan whose style attracts you.
An artisan’s aesthetic may have its origin in the individual’s experience and taste or in the house’s style. It’s perceptible in the media visually, in photos of finished garments, and often conceptually in the individual’s discussion of his or her work. The ideal, though often impractical, scenario would be to see the object in a bricks and mortar workshop or boutique. Notably it’s here that the casuistry of the chameleon tailor, who offers all styles to all people, is exposed. It’s more likely that such an offering amounts in substance to hollow technical replication without personal expression, a product that resembles everything but which features this year’s sartorial buzzwords. True style is attained by those artisans who pursue it for its own sake.
In the hesitant stumbles of my journey toward acquiring a bespoke ensemble, I initially considered tailors based partly on affordability. The invaluable Simon Crompton has usefully reviewed tailors at all points of the spectrum and I was gravitating toward a house that seemed to offer a sensible entry, albeit given a few concessions to finer technical details and geographic convenience. As I enquired after a first appointment I noticed that I was hesitating, almost imperceptibly so given the clamour of more rational considerations. Simply put, I wasn’t swooning over his style. And for that kind of engagement, one should experience precisely that calibre of reaction. Finally I settled on another house whose style I judge will deliver a sustainable thrill and whose coat construction encapsulates what I currently imagine to be my ideal of a gentler shoulder that doesn’t wilt.
This lofty benchmark of demanding technical, aesthetic and stylistic satisfaction in a garment goes far in illuminating bespoke’s attraction and its challenges. Practically it’s a serious financial outlay (or ‘investment’, the darling of compliant ****wear hacks worldwide), at least for those of us who are not of freewheeling fortune. Personally it’s a concerted foray into stylistic achievement, allowing us to sense perhaps a shade closer to esteeming ourselves to be objectively well-dressed.
It’s worth keeping in mind that the value of a newly-acquired instrument of style is equally about its and your appearance and how that makes you feel. Consider the tailor’s style.