I was fortunate enough to spend a happy afternoon with both of them yesterday here in New York, alongside English tailor Kenneth Austin of Benson & Clegg, well-known writer Gary Walthers and Stephen’s brand manager, Rob Solis. For a lively debate on style fora, judging customers and making suits only using ‘rock of eye’, I highly recommend it. Ask for the bottle of red and pick one of the high-backed armchairs.
Logsdail makes a full-bespoke suit out the back of the rooms he shares with Stephen at 53rd Street Manhattan. Just four people are involved, including one lady for basting, finishing and buttonholes. Although Logsdail has been in the US for almost 20 years, he trained with a fair few names on Savile Row, including Bernard Wetherill and Welsh & Jeffries. He was kicked out of the former when Kilgour turned towards ready-to-wear – a decision that it is ironically now reversing.
Kempson’s strength is design and colour. A former Brioni man, I could tell he liked his cloths and combinations from the off. He was wearing a grey-flannel double breasted, with alternating thin and thick chalk stripes. Buttons in high-contrast yellow horn, four working buttons positioned close and tall, elongating the shape. Big roped shoulders too.
Clients that use Stephen are often those that want an entire wardrobe picked out and shipped, or designed for a particular itinerary or trip. He famously told Financial Times editor Lionel Barber that he dressed appallingly during an interview for an FT piece on bespoke (when Barber was US editor). Fortunately, Barber took it on the chin and asked Stephen to re-work his entire wardrobe. An interesting sales technique, though obviously effective.
Logsdail, for his sins, once made a bet with a friend that he could make a suit for a customer based entirely on rock of eye, so without taking any measurements. He won the bet, backing up his assertion that tailoring is 90% about sizing up the client – both physically and psychologically.
So a nice place to be and a good bottle of wine. US terminology does drive me up the wall though. If you think it’s hard in the UK, with every tailor and his dog misusing the term ‘bespoke’, count yourself lucky that at least some people agree on the terms and their meaning. Custom tailoring has a legitimately wide range of meanings, there are grades of made to measure and bespoke is more often called bench-made. Which just makes me think of leather suits being lasted over a wooden mannequin.