Some of my best, certainly my most original bespoke projects have been undertaken with Davide Taub, head cutter at Gieves & Hawkes. Regular readers will remember the bespoke leather jacket we made together in 2013, and the pea coat in 2014.
If I learnt one thing from those projects, it was to keep things simple. Reduce the number of variables and you’ll be more certain of success. The same goes for collaborations – stay with what the manufacturer does best, but change one thing that they either didn’t think of, or didn’t think was commercially viable.
For our next project together, therefore, I took a part of Davide’s innovative driving jacket he made for the Bentley exhibition, and adapted to my own uses.
That driving jacket included a quilted panel that buttoned into the front, zipping up the centre and giving the impression of a gilet worn underneath it (below, left).
The whole thing was nothing more than one long, vertical panel of cotton and straps that fastened around the neck and waist. But the effect was striking.
It’s a look that many fashion brands, such as Brunello Cucinelli, try to affect with actual gilets worn underneath tailoring – but the gilets are inevitably too bulky.
This fake-gilet look that Davide created is also not new – Corneliani have done it successfully for many years by zipping in front panels to their ID jackets (above, right). But doing it bespoke is special, and has many advantages.
The biggest one is that this gilet can be adapted to fit many jackets. As long as they are roughly the same style, the buttons that it attaches to can be sewn into any jacket, inserted precisely into each one so that front piece lies perfectly down the chest.
I decided to have the gilet cut to fit into my Neapolitan jackets from Elia Caliendo. I have three: a grey Permanent Style tweed (shown in this post), a tan lightweight jacket and a brown Harris tweed. The gilet probably wouldn’t work with the summer jacket, but it would be great with the other two – as well as a caramel-coloured cashmere that I am having made for winter.
So the next question was, what colour should the gilet be? In order to work with as many jackets as possible, brown was the obvious choice. Initially I thought about dark brown, but looking at the cotton bunch, a biscuit-coloured mid-brown was actually more interesting and worked with all the jackets.
In the images here you can see our first fitting, with the brown cotton twill up the front and the canvas around the neck (which will eventually also be covered with the cotton).
There will be a discrete zip down the middle (thinner than on the driving jacket) and quilting across the front. Unlike the driving jacket, the zip will reach right up to the chin, rather than having a flap across the top. (And the quilting lines will definitely match across the front!)
There are many other issues to talk about – including the nature of the quilting and the necessity of a waist and neck strap. But I’ll leave those for another post.