George the Presser

Monday, November 5th 2018
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There are many unsung heroes of bespoke tailoring, but one of the biggest has to be the presser.

Frankly, a jacket can look awful once a coatmaker has finished with it - dragged all over the place and wrinkled to hell. It’s the presser that gives it life again, bringing out the beautiful shape of bespoke.

Pressing is also almost as good as shoe polishing for making something feel new. (Or better than new, given how you’ve now broken in and shaped the canvas.)

The steam relaxes the fibres and helps them recover their original shape. And it cleans - surface dirt taken off and odours washed out.

Unfortunately, this kind of service is not something that’s easy to get unless your tailor is local.

A Savile Row tailor will happily take in your suit and give it the once over (often, these days, for a fee) but they usually won't with the work of others.

So what to do when you use tailors like Ciardi, Solito, Cifonelli or Caliendo, who visit here from Europe?

It’s a lot of fuss to go see them at a trunk show, give them a few pieces, and then go see them again at the next show just to pick them up.

I’d looked for a presser who would take outside work for a long time, and many people recommended George Varnava (pictured), who does pressing for many of the Savile Row houses.

For years George was based in some of those houses, latterly Huntsman (although being independent) and therefore couldn’t take on private customers.

But last year he set up on his own - on the top floor of 59 Brewer Street in Soho, under the name The Pressers. 

George now has three people working for him in this space, and is taking on an increasing amount of private work.

I’ve used him for several things, including all the suits and jackets from foreign tailors featured in our Style Breakdown series.

He also said he’d done several suits of mine over the years from various Row tailors.

George’s work is great, as you would expect.

There was a risk that an English presser wouldn’t have much experience with foreign tailors, and wouldn’t get the roll quite right on the jacket, for example.

But George got that spot on. He even explained how he alters the roll very slightly up or down, for different customers. Another likes a harder crease on his jackets because he thinks it looks sharper.

Of course, the roll of a lapel is carefully set by the tailor; its intended place can be seen by the position of the seam on the front edge; and it is held to a certain extent by the tension in the collar. But some small variation is still possible.

The only thing George didn't quite got right is the vent design on my Camps de Luca suit.

The overlap on a Camps jacket is large, and folded back so the vent looks more like a pleat. George pressed this flat, but it was easily fixed.

It’s important to emphasise that George is only a presser, and won’t do the various other services a tailor would, such as tighten buttons, repair linings, or spot clean.

 

If you need those things, it’s best to take it to a tailor (original or other). George also has a local repair tailor he works with, who things can be passed onto.

George has some people send him pieces that have been dry cleaned, but not pressed yet. So that’s an option if the suit needs a clean.

“When things come from the dry cleaner they’re not in bad shape, because the cleaner will normally have put them in a steam room and taken the wrinkles out that way,” says George.

“But the suit will have no life in it. It won’t be shaped or three-dimensional. Most of the beauty of bespoke tailoring, basically.”

Another good option that I’ve recommended before is Michael Norman, who cleans and presses tailoring well. (www.mnbespoke.com)

Michael’s slight disadvantage is that he doesn’t have a physical location, but rather comes to pick things up.

George will pick up pieces from anywhere in London, but some clients do also send things in by courier from around the rest of the UK.

“One client has his driver come over every couple of weeks, with a dozen pieces hanging up in the back,” says George. “He likes things very sharp. All the time.”

When I visited most recently, to take these images, it was nice hanging around and actually watching George at work for once.

Good pressing is so labour-intensive. The lining, for example, has to be pressed into shape before the outside can be done (to avoid distorting the outside). In the image above George is doing that on the pleat down the centre of the lining in the back.

But then, once the outside has been done, the lining has to be finished again, because it will have become slightly wrinkled while working on the outside. Below, George is finishing off the end of the sleeve lining.

And then there's the shape put into the chest and shoulders, which involves manipulating the jacket around a board, and applying a surprising amount of pressure.

George doesn't have a website, but can be contacted on [email protected] and 020 3370 4068.

Address is 59 Brewer St, 4th Floor Room 4A, Soho W1F 9UN.

Pressing a two-piece suit starts at £50, a jacket £28.

For more recommended places for clothing care and alterations in the UK, see post here

Photography: James Holborow

 

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Philipp

Very helpful, thanks Simon!
How long, on average, does it take before you can collect the pressed items?

Anonymous

Simon, do you know a presser of similar experience with bespoke items but based in the US?

Faga

I’d recommend Rave Fabricare out of Arizona. Their work is top notch.

Sam

Simon, is there much benefit in getting the trousers of suits professionally pressed? Given they don’t have a canvas I’ve always just given them the once over at home with an iron – am I missing something?

Anonymous

Don’t ever think about pressing a bespoke coat at home. It will end in tears.
Trousers should be a walk in the park.

Burt

A professional might give your wool trousers its S-shaped line back, though. It’s done by shrinking and stretching with an iron and a damp cloth, mostly around the knees & calves. I felt confident about my homemade pressing just giving the trousers a sharp crease. But one day my tailor noticed immediately “the shape has gone”. I guess few will notice that though, other than “men of the cloth”.

Tom

Is pressing a suit a good idea for RTW too do you think Simon? And after how many wears roughly do to tend to press?

Anonymous

Why do you say pressing a RTW is less required than on bespoke?

Richard

To the question about pressers in the US – Rave Fabricare in Scottsdale, AZ is wonderful. I’ve used them for pressing exclusively for the last 10 years, and they are experts across the full gamut of styles and materials. It comes with the added cost of shipping, unless you live in the area, but they do absolutely wonderful work. They also do garment restoration, and have successfully brought velvet piles back to life that had been stained with food and rewoven moth holes for me.

They also ship the garments back fully suspended in a box to minimize any wrinkling that may occur during shipping. A word of advice if you do use them: Go with FedEx for shipping things like suits and jackets on the return, because they will follow the “this end up” stickers while UPS and USPS will ignore them, improving your odds of getting your garment back in perfect shape.

Ian H.

Whilst I’m clearly not up to professional standards, I do like to give a blast of steam from my iron to a jacket when it’s on the hanger. This is especially good for removing creases from the sleeves – I’ve never been able to master the art of pressing a sleeve, even with a sleeve board. In fact I regularly steam my jackets in this way: I suppose it’s a less messy version of hanging them in a steamy bathroom!

Alex

I’ve been told steaming rather than pressing a jacket can ‘blow’ the seams, which is to say they open up and no longer sit right.

Don’t know how true this is but it does make a certain amount of sense.

Ian H.

That’s interesting to know….I do tend to avoid the seams though, and just go over the plain fabric.

Burt

“One must not steam a suit”
Jeffery Diduch wrote an interesting blog post about the art of pressing:
https://tuttofattoamano.blogspot.com/2008/11/vital-importance-of-pressing.html

Ian H.

Wow! That’s a lesson learnt – thanks for that!

G

I had no idea pressing was such a science. Great revelation in an informative article.

Alex

When I was a student l used to buy slightly tired Savile Row suits from the various charity shops in and around Chelsea.

These usually cost about £20 and so afforded me the freedom to experiment. With a little practice I learnt to press a suit with some success. It really isn’t that difficult but you do need something you don’t care about to make mistakes and learn lessons.

Phil Stirling

Great article and as some have mentioned, an often overlooked area of looking after your clothes. It would be great to have a video of it, similar to the shoe polishing. I was always under the impression that you’s need to use a pressing cloth to avoid glazing.

Thanks
Phil

Phil Stirling

Great article, often over looked aspect of looking after your clothes. Be great to have a video along the lines of the shoe polishing video.

Thanks
Phil

Lynn

Can you tell me the maker of that beige tweedy coat with the purple tattersall? Could it be Humtsman.

Andrew Davies

Living in Somerset and owing mainly made to measure, the only option I really have for pressing is to use a Dry Cleaners or attempt myself. The last Jacket I had Dry Cleaned came back with flat lapels and no roll to it.
It would be great to have a HOW TO ‘Press your own Jackets & Trousers’ with tips of the trade.

Bernie

Hi Simon,

I’ll be taking delivery of bespoke garments mostly by shipments, and not by person, so my commissions will invariably arrived wrinkled. Since I don’t have tailoring centric pressers like George where I live (just standard dry cleaners), what are my options? I’m worried I might ruin the garments if I pressed them myself…

Bernie

Excellent idea! I know even suitsupply offers that option at an additional fee. Thanks again

Fu Pei

Hi Simon,

I read a lot about NEVER IRON YOUR SUITS, STEAM THEM. Is this a myth?
They claim Iron gives the very shining and sharp look but harms the fabric.

I know I am not talking about skills of presser in a bespoke house, but the care of suits.

Could you shed some light?

David

Hi Simon, I suppose a pressing service would be the best thing for my quandary? Basically, my few suits, including tweed and flannel, spent three months in boxes (in garment bags but not at full length) on their way back to Ireland from the US, and the flannel in particular has been affected. It’s an unlined Drakes’s suit, and so the shape has been affected a bit. Would a presser be the best for it? Thanks, David.

Richard

Hi Simon
Living just outside London whilst my local dry cleaner is perfectly capable, they do not offer a sponge & press service. I work in London, not too far from Savile Row Valet and am considering taking my suits into them once back in the office. However, it would mean taking them home on the train probably doubled up. I wondered if this would actually undo much of the work of the pressing, what are your thoughts?

Richard

They would certainly be in a suit carrier. I was thinking more about having to put it on the overhead luggage rack where it would be hanging over the side or in my lap. It’s less than an hour so probably not going to cause to much of a problem. The joy of commuter trains!