Paolo Martorano bespoke, New York

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Friday, January 31st 2020
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Most bespoke tailoring in New York is structured differently to the old houses of Europe. It tends to be based around a designer or salesman - with extensive bespoke experience - rather than a cutter. 

There are exceptions of course, including Leonard Logsdail and (in Brooklyn, Jersey and Sacket’s Harbor respectively) Joseph Genuardi, Yosel Tiefenbrun and Frank Shattuck

But most outside of visiting Europeans are more designer-led. There is an extensive list (and 229 comments with experiences from readers) for those that want to dive into it, on the New York tailors article

There are cultural reasons for the difference - and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I find there is just as big a risk the other way: that a lot of tailors are craftspeople with little awareness of design or style. 

But it is crucial that the person leading the house has a deep understanding of bespoke, the ways it can be used and the intricacies of fitting. 

Paolo Martorano is one person that - from what I’ve seen - definitely qualifies. (Even if some of his customers have a fondness for flash linings...)

I first knew Paolo when I started working with Paul Stuart several years ago. I wrote about them a few times, and we did a book launch there.

Paolo did briefly work with Alan Flusser, but his tailoring education came at Paul Stuart, where he worked under Mark Rykken in the custom department for seven years. 

It was there that he gained his love of bespoke shirts and tailoring, which he took to Dunhill before setting up on his own.

Most tailoring brands in New York also offer some form of made to measure as well as bespoke. Again cultural reasons - perhaps New Yorkers’ lack of patience, or more generously, a lack of familiarity with the bespoke process - makes it a business necessity. 

But Paolo wanted to do only bespoke in order to try and separate himself. “There’s a lot of made to measure in New York, and it rather swamps the market,” he told me in New York last year. “This felt like one way to say we were different.”

The quality of the work I saw was certainly high: nice, neat jettings and fine buttonholes; hand-padded collars; interior pockets cut into the cloth of the jacket rather than the lining. 

The taping inside is all sewn by hand, the linings felled nicely by hand, and trousers are offered with a hand-sewn lap seam.

The trousers have some other nice touches too, like the shape of the single-button bearer on the fly, flaps for braces, and the holster-shaped side adjustors shown above. (Although the finishing on those could perhaps be a touch finer.)

Paolo also offers two types of hand-padded chest (shown below), which is interesting. One rather loose and large, the other small and tight. They’re intended to create a softer, more drapey chest and a harder, more structured one respectively. 

This is symptomatic of Paolo’s approach, which offers variety wherever possible. One customer, for example, likes a very strong and structured jacket - so Paolo uses overcoat-weight canvas, plus two layers of pocketing on the lapels. 

“It’s very stiff - the jacket could stand up on its own,” he says. “But I do see the appeal. It’s a very sharp look.” On other jackets, he runs the domette (felt) all the way down the front of the jacket rather than just under the chest. 

Paolo also tends to do the first fitting in just cloth, without any canvas - which is unusual. One reason is that customers are often only in town for a day or two, and this way he can quickly put together a fitting quickly.

But other customers have plenty of time, and prefer to see how the commission will look earlier on, so he fits those with the suit more put together. 

I find this kind of flexibility interesting, because in most of Europe it’s generally associated with tailors in small markets, where they have to offer variety to survive. And the need to just make whatever the customer wants usually drives down quality. 

Top-end tailors in New York, however, are trying to be innovative rather than flexible, and it’s an interesting contrast to the very tradition-driven tailors of Savile Row, Naples or Milan. 

Very few of those would ever offer such a variety of canvassing options. They’re only just getting comfortable with the fact there could be more than one house style. 

The cutter and tailors that Paolo uses work off site, as they do in most similar tailors in New York. 

There isn’t room to do much else in these city blocks - and apparently licensing laws are a pain too. Even Leonard Logsdail, despite doing the cutting himself in his studio, uses tailors based outside. 

The only reason to want to see tailors on site, really, is to be assured that the work being done is bespoke. That it’s not being outsourced to a large, assembly-line factory. 

I can attest to the quality of the work - so I would have no concerns there. The only thing I can’t pass any comment on, or direct recommendation, is the fitting, having not had anything made myself. 

But we took a few measurements while I was there, just in case we can arrange to do so around a coupe of transatlantic trips in the future. 

You’ll notice that Paolo is a big fan of measuring devices - alongside normal measurements. According to him, these were derided at Dunhill when he was there, until they saw the results he could achieve with them.

Pictured are devices for measuring shoulder slope, shoulder hunch, and trouser rise. 

Paolo does seem to be doing well, with a few customers carried from Paul Stuart and several that had previously used New York greats like Bill Fioravanti and Raphael Raffealli. Readers have also recommended him to me personally. 

He’s travelling regularly around the US (details at the bottom of this article) and when we met, was about to travel down to Palm Beach with Gaziano & Girling. 

G&G actually share the space shown on West 57th street with Paolo. It’s the same building (number 130) that has been described as the ‘menswear ghetto’ in New York, given everyone from Huntsman to Domenico Spanno, 18th Amendment to Cad & The Dandy, are based there. 

I was also pleased to hear how much Paolo emphasises aftercare with his tailoring. He offers a full clean, press and repair service himself - which US tailors sometimes don’t. Customers regularly pop in to have something pressed before an occasion. 

Those silks on display are old Marinella ones that Paolo collects, and likes to make into bespoke ties. 

And the bearded gentleman is old friend Thomas Mastronardi, long Chief Marketing Officer at Paul Stuart and now his own man, helping small operations such as Paolo.  

As I said, I should emphasise that I can’t attest to Paolo’s fitting skills or the quality of his finished tailoring, as a result. But he’s certainly doing all the right things, and readers should have no qualms about whether this is ‘real’ bespoke. 

It's worth saying that Paolo does offer two types of service though - what he terms 'bespoke' and 'bench made'. But the only difference is that the latter is made entirely by one tailor, whereas the first is made by more than one. The former starts at $6500 for a suit, the latter $8500.

Personally I'm not sure why someone would pay such a large extra for that difference.

Some would argue sectional work leads to more specialisation and therefore quality; others that the eye of one person makes a difference. I've lost count of the number of times brands have argued one side or the other to me. In reality it's the quality of the worker and management that makes a difference, not the system.

A 'bespoke' jacket starts at $4500, trousers have just one level at $1500, shirts are $500 and bespoke ties $275.

Upcoming trunk shows are:

  • Boston: April 1, 2
  • Chicago: April 3, 4
  • Los Angeles: April 19, 20
  • San Francisco: April 21, 22
  • Washington, DC: April 2,3
  • Palm Beach: February 7, 8, 9 and March 15, 16, 17
  • Miami: February 10
  • Houston: March 20, 21

Photography: Jamie Ferguson

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IL

Looking forward to your review of whatever it is you’ll order with him – and would very much appreciate if you also comment on the other NYC-based tailors if you’ve the time to observe their work one of these trips… I’m sure my compatriots would appreciate it too!

Small typo, I think: did you mean to quote trouser prices in pounds, not in USD? Regardless – these are quite high, though I suppose rents on 57th aren’t cheap…

Love the posts, look for them 3 times a week, and am incredulous at the consistently high quality of your prodigious output!

Scott

Interesting article. Any plans to visit and write a review on Oxxford Clothes in Chicago?

IL

Scott – I fly to Chicago pretty often – what’s your take on Oxford Clothes?

Scott

IL, Oxxford makes excellent garments that are virtually all handmade. The company moved into a new facility three or four years ago so, if you go to Chicago regularly you definitely should pay a visit. In my opinion, Oxxford’s quality of construction exceeds Kiton and Attolini and rivals the high end English and Italian bespoke tailors. What is the basis for my opinion? Well I own at least 15 Oxxford suits and sport coats and have shown several of them to tailors with knowledge of bespoke and exclusive mtm brands. In every case the tailor was literally stunned by the quality of Oxxford. The main issue however, has always been the relative conservatism of the company compared to the Neapolitan tailors for example in terms of model, particularly for rtw. Most of my Oxxford garments are mtm, but I still had my fantastic alterations tailor make some modifications after wearing them for a time that worked out well. The company now offers models that have more of an Italian look along the lines of the northern Italian tailors which is what I like. Take a look a the short video on the website which should be very helpful to you. Personally I think Oxxford is an American treasure that isn’t really that well known, even though they’ve been in business since 1916. All the work is done in house, no outside tailors needed or wanted with these folks. Also, all the cutting is done with shears only. You won’t find one laser fabric cutting machine in the building! Oxxford really is just a very large tailor shop that produces about 4500 suits a year.

IL

Scott – thanks so much for a great review! I’ll definitely take a look at Oxxford next time I’m in Chicago (in 2 weeks, hah!). Out of curiosity, is the alterations tailor you mention located in Chicago? If so, would you divulge his/her name? Sam Wazin in NYC is quite good – comes recommended by the Armoury crew as well, FWIW. He also offers shirts & suits under his own label, though I can’t comment on how/where these are made or their fit/quality (yet)…
Thanks in advance!

Scott

IL, my alterations tailor isn’t in Chicago, sorry. The main question to ask any alt tailor is what high end garments have they worked on regularly? And then ask specifically about Oxxford. For example, my tailor had worked on Oxxford for years, along with Brioni and other high end makers, on a regular basis before she opened up her own shop. Obviously you can avoid most problems by going direct to Oxxford and have them measure and fit you on the front end. So, for example, you’ll get the shoulder and chest right up front which is very important. If you have a local merchant, or one close by, that carries Oxxford that be ideal because the store’s tailor should be well trained in working on the garment.

IL

Simon – yes, your initial post on NYC tailors, and the attached comments – continues to serve as an excellent reference – thank you! Out of curiosity – how come you chose to review Paolo in more depth before the others?

Anon

Why is the trouser price listed in pounds and the others in dollars…?

Daniel Gutin

How would you describe his style? More English drape or Neopolitan or some other?

VSF

Simon, you make an excellent point that tailors are craftsmen that don’t necessarily have a good sense of style and/or design. Say what you want about companies like Zegna, Caruso, Belvest etc not making bespoke or lacking handwork, but they spend a lot of time and money on studying the male physique and designing models that fit well with attractive silhouettes. The materials are all top of the line and the garments hold up very well. Certainly not bespoke in terms of hours spent on construction, but the fit is surprisingly good, if not excellent. There’s definitely a lot to be said for quality mtm clothing.

Herrie

Simon, do many of the tailors you work with/interview adjust canvas and pad stitching style to meet a client’s broader stylistic sensibility, or is Paolo fairly unique in doing this?

It’s always interesting to read about tailors who work outside of the main hubs of bespoke– how they fit into the industry, how they don’t, and what their clientele is like. I’d be really interested to hear about in tailoring and boot making in Argentina if the opportunity to cover such a thing should ever cross your path…

Craig

I’ve had a jacket made by him in a drape cut. He did a fantastic job.

alex

Did I miss you actually identifying the cutter? At the [absurd] prices you list it would be worth knowing this isn’t just a front-of-the-house branding up-sale of a cutter/tailors that do work for multiple operations (a routine NYC shell game tactic: multiple brands and price points all made by the same person).

Adam

“….always worked with tailors…that work for different houses.”

Bit of a generalisation, misleading to those who don’t really know. Some, or many, regularly or often, but not always.

And there are Row houses where all the work is done by their own team.

Alex

“Out of interest, why would it make a difference if the cutter also worked for other people, as long as the quality of the work is high enough?”

Um, price, maybe? I mean, If one house is charging 8k for a suit cut and made by Mr. X and another house is charging 3k for a suit cut and made by Mr. X, I think I would like to know. You wouldn’t (For example, is it the same cutter that Paul Stuart uses for its bench-made suits?)? At one point, the cutter I work with actually was going to work for an additional firm and was very upfront about it and why, and what the differences would be, etc…I found it to be useful info anyway…

Alex

Thanks for your responses. I understand a lot of the points you make re shared labor etc. But at prices [starting?] between 6.5k-8.5k can’t you simply tell us who strikes and cuts the patterns? I don’t feel like this is a weird request, no?

Frank Shattuck

Also, if I may, the term “ cutting” in the old sense of the word, had nothing to do with the actual cutting out the suit with the scissors. If that were so anyone could be a cutter with a week of instruction. That actual cutting out of the suit was done by a “striker”. This is after the “cutter” had taken the customers measurements and assessed all of his bends and curves and structural foibles and then transferred all of this information to the paper pattern. Transferring the customers unique structure from nature , to the flat paper. The term “cutter” is tossed are so loosely today.

Frank Shattuck

I am quite familiar with Paul Stuart’s pressing room. Let’s not be hoodwinked. Paul Stuart never did their own cutting. Ever. They did use Adrian Jules. Perhaps they still do.

PM

Hi Alex, If you are having a garment made by us, you will meet your cutter, he will do the fittings, unless it is an outside Trunk Show. We don’t have a large enough staff for him to be with me when I travel cross country. All jackets/vests are cut by the same master tailor, who oversees everything. We have 2 coat makers under him, and a finisher. We are really lucky that since the start of the year we took on two apprentice coat makers. Separate trouser orders are fit by myself or the tailor if there is jacket/suit in the order. They are in basted form too, many times we will do a scrap pair in a similar cloth. We spend many hours alone ironing the shape into our trousers. This is very important and it makes a huge difference. We don’t give names of our employees to the public. These are tailors, who tailor for the art and the craft, they’re not like tailors in UK or Europe who are showmen. You’re more than welcome to meet them and get to know them if you work with us. I’ll even text you photos of us making the garment from start to finish.

Ben

Prices are insane. Why would someone want to pay such high prices and have zero transparency? Also, there has to be a price point where this is is no longer elegant but rather vulgar.

PM

Hi, Retail is all based on costs, cloth, etc. It’s pretty much the same with all real tailors in the US. A tailor I am friends with in Florida charges $6500 as well. If you see our Instagram (PaoloMartoranoBespoke), we post almost daily clothing in works (cutting, drafting, sewing, finishing, fittings). If you ordered from us, I can show you photos of it as it’s being made, and of course, the tailor making your garment will be there for the fitting process. Also, I come from 3 generations of master tailors in my family, so fitting is something I grew up with…just like Luca Rubinacci for example.

Frank Shattuck

Ben, twenty years ago Fioravante charged $7000. If Henry Stewart were business today he’d be charging 10,000 or more. Kiton MTM factory made at Bergdorf Goodman starts at $8000. The going price in NYC for benchmade trousers is $1500.
Permanent Style reports on the top benchmade tailoring around the world. Many of the suits you see on here take 60 to 70 hours of very highly skilled and very hard to find craftsman’s handwork.

Chingstein

Yikes! For a new comer his prices are in the leagues of Huntsman and Cifonelli…not to mention the sales tax on top of that. About two years ago, I tried a relatively unknown Milanese tailor who was in town doing a trunk show. I took a chance and commissioned an Ulster coat (Standeven Escorial) only because it was 1/2 what Dembech was charging. Had the pricing been similar I would’ve gone with the more established Dembech. I wish Paolo much success, but I hope his prices don’t scare off potential clients.

Daniel M

Are these considered tailors now? Dissapointed that you would promote a product you’ve never seen and cutter/tailor you’ve never met. Should I just take your word for it that this $6,500 garment isnt made in China? Your content had changed quite a bit, I guess business is business I suppose.

Alex

You make you good points again. I’m not trying to drag this out (sorry), but I would just like to note that I, for one, would A) consider Rubinacci’s long and storied history in the development and morphology of Neapolitan tailoring, and by extension the many examples we all know via clientele, as a parts of their pricing logic (…and we do actually we know who many of the cutters have been…), but yet B) still insist on meeting the cutter personally during the process if I were to commission a suit from Rubinacci.

BV

Simon- this article feels out of place. You are someone who talks about transparency and building a relationship with the cutter, yet this product is not that at all. Also you are reviewing the product without having tried the product. Here, you are merely observing the product. Add to that the fact that Paolo advertises on your site, and this piece feels more like a puff piece than anything else.

WES WP

I’m sure I’m alone in my thinking here, but the value-for-money proposition with any tailor in this league – seems non-existent. There are thousands of fully-hand made garments – deadstock – on Ebay (for instance) by Oxxford, d’Avenza, Kiton, etc. – selling for dimes on the dollar. For instance, I can get a Kiton cashmere suit for $1200 on Ebay (new, with tags). Every stitch is done by hand. I can take that suit to my tailor and – for $300 – have the entire suit recut: sleeves slimmed, sleeves shortened from the sleevehead, the pockets moved (if they’re patch pockets), the collar gap/bump resolved, etc.

No one, and I mean no one, will know that the suit wasn’t made for me. It will fit me like it was bespoke.

And that’s on the high end of things. That Kiton cashmere suit for $1200 is the top of the line. I can get the Oxxford suit for as little as $650 (again, new, with tags). I can get the d’Avenza suit for as little as $400 (new, with tags). With tailoring, I’ve got the perfect suit for $700. We’re talking the best cloths (not vicuna, but, who wants a vicuna suit?). We’re talking every stitch done by hand (and tons of handwork). We’re talking a silhouette that already works for me. We’re talking sense, too.

I don’t make hedge fund money, but I do okay. I just don’t understand how anyone (and I mean anyone) – unless you’re making seven figures a year and then some – can justify these prices. How can anyone amortize a suit at these prices?

I have a lot of hand made suits. Because I have such a large wardrobe, I can only wear any one of my suits (due to rotation) about twice a month. But they’re also seasonal. So, I wear any of my suits about 8 times a year. If I bought a suit for $7,000 (USD) – which I wouldn’t – each time I wore it for the first year would cost me $875.00. How do I amortize that? The most I’ve ever spent on a suit (for the suit alone) was $600, plus $300 for the tailoring. I’m still “all in” for under a grand.

I’m just curious how – unless you make a million dollars a year or more – anyone here justifies spending $4K, or more, on a suit when there are better options that exist in the world. I’m also curious to know how people deal with all of these bespoke failures that Simon chronicles: whether it’s paying a ton of money for bespoke trousers that fit worse than off-the-rack, or a multi-thousand-pound bespoke jacket that has shoulder or drape problems…I wouldn’t accept these problems from an off-the-rack garment.

I know that Simon can take the hit financially because this blog survives and thrives by the experiments he undertakes, but what about the rest of you “bespokers?”

Just curious…

Michael

Wes,

Thank you for your post and thoughts. I cannot speak for anyone else, but my reaction is that you’re not comparing like with like. I believe that you are comparing expensive RTW (bought at a heavy discount) and querying why anyone would buy bespoke.

For myself, I can only note that I believed my wardrobe fitted me perfectly when I purchased RTW (and had it altered). Since moving to bespoke, I have noticed that I get significantly more compliments. Some of this may be due to better styling as I age (it certainly isn’t due to a better physique) but I also think the fit is notably better and, as a result, the garments more flattering.

I cannot and will not say that bespoke is the right choice for everyone, or that it represents better or worse value for money than the alternatives. I think you make an excellent point that the law of diminishing returns will often prevent bespoke from offering great “value” in purely functional terms and I personally believe that unless clothes are a hobby then bespoke is likely to be a waste.

However, I believe the correct point of comparison with the most expensive tailors is a lower priced bespoke tailor. Assuming you like house styles equally, I would prefer to compare W&S or Ciardi with Cifonelli when discussing the “value break” in bespoke. Where a given buyer comes out will depend on their preferences and available income. I also think more modestly priced bespoke tailors are the correct point of comparison when deciding whether to go bespoke rather than stay with RTW/MTM (or if somebody buys luxury RTW off the rack, then tailors of a similar price).

On a personal basis, while I am envious of the variety in your wardrobe if you only need to wear each suit 7-8 times a year due to your rotation but for myself I would choose to spend more per garment and accept that I have to wear them more often. Of course, that helps me amortise the cost over a greater number of uses per year, which helps me decide whether to go bespoke.

Thank you again for your thoughts.

Michael

Scott

Excellent comments. What’s interesting is that there are a few companies such as Oxxford in the U.S. and Sartoria Formosa in Naples that make rtw and mtm to bespoke standards in terms of construction. For example, Sartoria Formosa is a bespoke house, but also makes mtm and rtw garments to the same standards of their high quality bespoke and at much more reasonable prices. So I wonder if mtm in cases like this would be a very good alternative to bespoke, provided that the person taking the measurements knows what he’s doing. Perhaps an interesting alternative for people who don’t have access to bespoke tailors, most of us, or just don’t want to deal with 3 or 4 fittings and wait six months for a suit. And if the garment is rtw, but made to bespoke standards and you have a qualified alterations tailor, that should work well also.

Scott

Simon, I know that Oxxford definitely hand pads the lapels and I’m pretty sure they do the same for the collar, but I don’t know about the chest. I just sent an email to the company asking for confirmation concerning hand padding of both chest and collar. I’ll report back with the answers, provided I get a response of course.

Scott

You’re talking about the collar, right? What would you look for?

Scott

Simon, I looked at the underside of several of my Oxxford jackets as you suggested, looking for the slightly irregular line of stitching. You were right that they were hard to see, but they were just as you said somewhat irregular, not in a straight line.

Scott

Wes thanks for the discussion. I’ve thought about doing that with brands such as Isaia, Brioni, Barbera, Caruso, Belvest or Oxxford as an experiment. Your comments have given some food for thought.

WES WP

Thank you both – you have given me some things to think about.

I don’t know how Kiton gets away with its claims of “not a machine on their premises.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXo7g3_reY0

VSF

To avoid any possible concerns about lack of transparency or flim flam, which are legitimate, about who is actually cutting and making the garment just use a firm that has all the players in house. That way you’ll know who the cutter and the tailors are and where they’re located, problem solved. For most of us this will require travel, but it will be worth it to get the true bespoke experience, if that’s what you seek. The prices mentioned here rival the more expensive on the Row and in Italy without the corresponding experience of either so, caveat emptor gentlemen. The fact that Paolo travels with G&G and that Simon has personally seen his work does give him credibility of course. Personally I’d like to see Simon commission a suit from Paolo, and Oxxford too, and review the whole process and garment upon completion, just as he’s done many times before with others. After all, this is a big part of his job.

VSF

Thank you sir. I agree with you concerning outsourced trousers, but that wasn’t the point of my comment. Please refer to the opening line “to avoid any possible concerns about transparency.” This comment was meant for people who may be new to bespoke or just like the idea of having everything done under one roof. I tend to fall into the latter camp, but a very seasoned and knowledgeable bespoke client, such as yourself, may have no issues with outsourcing of certain functions.

VSF

By all means keep doing so as you continue to educate your readers on this endlessly fascinating subject.

VSF

Actually Frank Shattuck and Eric Jensen would be two other United States tailors to consider for a full blown commission and suit review. I just saw a Kirby Allison video review of his Eric Jensen commission which was very impressive. Of course Kirby isn’t in your league concerning knowledge of bespoke and taste level so, your analysis would be extremely valuable.

Richard

On every purchase, I always remember price (what I pay) with value (what I get) and never to confuse the two.

WES WP

I see that you’re making a distinction, Richard, and I appreciate that.

What I haven’t experienced, personally, is that there “is” a distinction to be made here. Yes, with bespoke tailoring there’s fabric to let out, but there’s fabric to let out in most RTW garments. Bespokers who argue that “nothing has fit as well as bespoke” (perhaps) haven’t found the right RTW suit block for their body type. When I found, for instance, d’Avenza – the search had ended. When I discovered Tombolini’s Zero Gravity suits – I knew I didn’t want (or need) to wear anything else, ever, ever, ever again. I have no idea what people mean by “value” when it comes to bespoke. Yes – many of us buy too many suits and blazers that are cheap or mid-range, and we don’t really wear them. Sure, that’s a lack of value. But the price of bespoke can’t be justified by – I can have it tailored later on, when I get fat…there’s enough fabric there. Or, bespoke means a 10% better fit, when the cost is 10X the price of RTW. Or, you’ll always have a collar gap on RTW – but not bespoke (because you can fix a RTW collar gap or bump with a good tailor). I see “value” as – “value for money.” And we live in an Ebay world (Simon calls it thrifting, I’d call it shopping), where we can get (more or less) hand-made stuff for very little money. And that stuff can be tailored expertly. And that stuff has extra fabric to let out for when you get fat. And that stuff often fits better than some of the stuff Simon has had made bespoke (per his reviews).

I just don’t see value here at all.

VSF

I watched that video again and really enjoyed seeing the quality of the craftsmanship. The pants were fantastic. Davide’s work is growing on me, even though I normally favor the Italians in terms of style. Concerning weight gain, I was told by a tailor that a man could gain up to 20 lbs and he could adjust a quality suit appropriately, after that garment balance was negatively affected. He advised keeping one’s weight under control.

Frank Shattuck

Wes, you must have never had a suit benchmade for you by a tailor who can engineer a pattern to you.
F

WES WP

Hi Frank – I need to do just that. I’m near NYC, so there are some options for me. I don’t want to be the kid who won’t eat the food because he “knows he won’t like the taste” (without having tasted it). At the same time, I am concerned about the notion that “bespoke is the way to go,” when Simon has had so many bad experiences, and spend so many pounds in the process. If bespoke artisans often get it wrong for Simon (who has the UK’s leading style blog and is a known quantity – unlike the New York Times’ Critical Shopper John C whose image isn’t known by most when he enters a retail store) – then what are my chances of “getting it right” the first, or the second time? And do I really want to spend a lot of money trying out something that is – essentially – a test run? I’m not sure what I’ll do – but I’m interested in giving this a shot. Thanks

Frank Shattuck

Wes, great point. 15 – 20 years ago there was Raphael, Morty Sills, Nicholosi, Myself, Fioravante, Maurizio, John Tudor and others. Men in the business for 50 years. 50 years of solid tailoring, cutting and fitting experience. They are not there today. They are all gone. I see much luxury marketing and glorified MTM today. Much Razzle Dazzle. But it is what it is. I see, everywhere, the melding of “MTM” into “bespoke”. The sledgehammer of mediocrity.

VSF

Hey Wes, that’s an interesting idea. If you do the bespoke thing who would you use? Frank Shattuck or Eric Jensen might be good choices or even the English tailor Huntsman which has a shop in New York. I too have noticed many of the sartorial mishaps that have happened to Simon that he’s dutifully written about. I don’t dispute that an outstanding fit can be achieved via the bespoke process, but I do question the extent of improvement over a well done mtm garment, particularly given the often significant additional cost and completion time needed. Does a bespoke suit provide a 50% improvement in fit, don’t think so. How about a 30% improvement? I’m skeptical, but willing to posit that at least a 15% better fit is certainly possible which is significant. So I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that bespoke is really for men who have close proximity to quality bespoke tailors, the resources to pay for it, who consider clothing a hobby and appreciate the beauty of the craftsmanship. I agree with you that a good alterations tailor can do wonders with a well made suit that will fit very well and cost much less money. The great thing about Permanent Style is that Simon writes about so many other interesting things besides bespoke tailors. If I lived in London, Milan, or Naples would I have my clothes made bespoke? Probably, but since I don’t bespoke really just isn’t realistic or practical and this the case for most PS readers, particularly the Americans ones. Please keep us informed.

Richard

Wes Wp – Both sides of the argument can cite my post in support of their viewpoint. It wasn’t intentionally ambigious, but merely a key driver in my purchasing. You make my point. Indeed a trusty tailor is a godsend for alterations on garments as much as knowing your measurements as a starting point.

Frank Shattuck

Wes, I’d also like to say that I have absolutely nothing against factory MTM. I use MTM for friends and family. And it’s great. But it is another universe compared to a well cut individual pattern and benchwork. I see so many charlatans calling one the other.

IL

Frank – thank you for your insights! Simon in the past had opined that having trousers be made bespoke is perhaps less important than jackets, coats, shoes, etc. given the relative ease with which they could be adjusted, and his interview with Davide Taub seems to confirm that. I’m curious what your opinion about this is – would you agree that a very similar fit can be attained with RTW/MTM trousers being adjusted by a good tailor? If so, then the doubling (or more!) of the trouser price as you go from MTM to bespoke is due to having more choices in cloth and in hardware details (zipper or buttons, belt loops or adjusters, etc…) – is that all?
Thanks in advance for your thoughts – and anyone else’s, too! Paolo too, maybe?

Frank Shattuck

Sir, for an average skinny gent , he can get away with MTM. Get away with, I say. But it’s not better than having your trouser pattern made by a true tailor. For gents with a more difficult figure the answer is no. A good pant is actually more of a mystery to most tailors. A pant cannot be recut for, say , a prominent seat. Yes, the seat can be let out, but it’s never the same. The prominent seat manipulation must be done on the paper pattern. Well cut pants are made for sitting and walking with ease and comfort. Pants must me made to be comfortable when walking and sitting. ( I’m rambling) Poorly cut trousers will pull up your behind when sitting and the leg will pull on the knee. And the cuffs will hike way up when you walk. It’s all in the angel of the “stride” on the pattern. The Stride. If you have a prominent seat your pleats will always open up unless you have the proper Pattern manipulation. Also, all pants should be properly “dressed”. This has the same effect as a high armhole when you walk. The crotch seam slides up the side. Very comfortable. I said in another post that MTM is being melded with bespoke. This is what I mean. As the old tailors who knew how to really cut a trouser pattern pass away the benchmarks for true craft go with them and MTM fills in. The sledgehammer of mediocrity. Boom

David

Simon – when you gave the address on 57th Street, you neglected to write whether it is 130 West 57th Street or 130 East 57th Street. In Manhattan, this is a crucial difference. Please update your post as a help to folks who are unfamiliar with Manhattan or do not know of the location you’re describing. Many thanks.

WES WP

I’m curious to know Simon’s, Frank’s, Scott’s, VSF’s, Richard’s (ETC) opinion on Nick Foulke’s new bespoke commission from KENT, HASTE AND LACHTER. His write-up of the process, the people and the product can be found here: https://therake.com/back-issues/devil-wears-kent-haste-lachter/

I suppose the true appeal of bespoke (beyond the 15% fit improvement – which sounds about right – and significant), is that you can literally get whatever you can afford. I wonder if people think the color of this suit (or the proportions) are flattering to Nick?

Frank Shattuck

Wes, I like the suit very very much. If I were cutting his pattern he would definitely get a chest dart. Definitely. The cloth is great for this individual. He can wear it. It will not wear him. In my opinion John Kent is the most authentic tailor in London. Seems Terry Haste is too.
ps… the %15 percent ratio , or whatever it is, is beyond my grasp. And I’d just as soon keep it there.

WES WP

That’s helpful, Frank.

I think you’re saying – don’t bother to quantify bespoke’s benefit (the 15%)?

Scott

What’s wrong with making an attempt to quantify the fit improvement? Isn’t that one metric, among several, of trying to establish, however imprecisely, the value for money of bespoke? If a bespoke jacket gives a 15% or so better fit but costs three times as much as the mtm option, is that a good value? As a consumer, I think that’s a legitimate question. After all, we’ve seen examples of poor fits of bespoke on this blog that were very expensive. Virtually all my suits and sport coats are mtm and they all fit me very well. I also have a few rtw pieces that look fantastic thanks to my alterations tailor. I often get comments that my suit or jacket looks great, dapper etc. To me, compliments are an excellent barometer, though anecdotal only, of the fit of a garment.

Scott

Having fit issues seems to be one of the most common gripes about expensive clothing. So, your clarification about fit problems with mtm is not surprising. So, clearly when anyone has a fit problem it’s an expensive problem as that garment won’t be worn much, if at all. Do you have a short list of of both tailors and mtm houses that you’ve had the most consistent fit experience with? This could help your readers potentially avoid fit pitfalls on the front end.
There does seem to be a reluctance to try to quantify how much of an improvement in fit and value that quality bespoke offers over quality mtm, or rtw with an excellent alterations tailor, that Wes has raised. In fact, the underlying attitude implies that it’s heresy to even bring up the subject. In one of your recent articles you had on a Drakes jacket that looked fantastic and fit you as well as any of the bespoke jackets I’ve seen you wear and better than a number of them. I subscribe to your view that fit is the most important component of clothing. In that context, some of Wes’ points are worth serious reflection. What is very clear is that it’s essential to work with people who know what their doing when fitting a client.

Frank Shattuck

Scott, my favorite wine is from a winery in northern New York. It’s $12 a bottle. It also comes in 4 pack cans. I have absolutely no idea why anyone would spend $200 on a bottle of wine from Beaune France. Tastes the same yo me.

Guy Graff

On the subject of bespoke trousers…..I reside in NYC and have commissioned bespoke trousers from a tailor costing anywhere from $650 to $895 (the $895 pair with the Fox Bros cavalry twill I discovered from PS). I should also say that I had spoke with Frank Shattuck some time ago and the reason was I discovered he once worked with Henry Stewart in NYC. Henry was a Savile Row ex pat to the US, made TOP quality garments equal to or exceeding Savile Row . He made a number of suits, sport jackets, blazer, overcoat, trousers, and dinner jacket or me. I respect Frank and his views very much. As I still have all garments made by Henry Stewart, I gave a pair of trousers to the current tailor to take the measurements from to make my commission (thankfully my measurements have remained somewhat stable). Being that Henry is no longer with us, I had no issues about doing this.

Knowing that with measurements taken from these trousers and moreover the less complicated process of making trousers vs jacket, I have a wonderful bang for the buck. Make is very good. pick stitching, I chose the materials, etc. I compare this to Simon’s use of less expensive trouser makers for odd trousers.

Carl

Dear Simon,

As one who is heavily involved in the N.Y. Bespoke scene, all kinds of red flags pop up when I hear the production is off site, and see that the establishment can not give a CLEAR answer about their location. Perhaps this has not been an issue in Europe, however in the states we have had many many individuals claim to be bespoke houses, yet not one individual in house could sew more than a button on a jacket. What makes the house a bespoke house if there is no trained cutter or coat maker in house? How does that differ from a salesman taking measurements and sending the order off to a third party manufacturer? If the tailors in this case do exclusively work for PM he should clearly state so. Otherwise this could just be another clothier sending his orders off to one of the two small workshops located in NYC capable of this work. Let’s hope this isn’t the case as PM seems like a lovely guy.

SJ

Came across this article and read through the comments and I for one would be quite wary of using PM:

1. From experience, Flusser, Rykken and Paul Stuart all produced ill fitting garments that would not please someone who’s used to one of the better British, French or Japanese tailors – so that association isn’t a positive in my mind.

2. PM may not realize but the comparison to Luca Rubinacci isn’t necessarily a positive one either because again from experience Luca is not able to appropriately fit garments.

3. PMs prices seem higher than even Len Logsdail’s and Frank Shattuck’s and more than most quality traveling bespoke tailors to NYC with the exception of Berluti/Arny’s – so it’s an expensive gamble.

NYC is a funny place for bespoke as we’ve always had the likes of Jon Green and others that pretended to know all the intricacies of fit but really couldn’t hold a candle to any one of several established bespoke houses around the globe. Like PM they offered quality finishing but that did not necessarily result in a quality garment.

I wish PM the best but with all the options available to a New Yorker – including several well known and less well known bespoke craftsmen, I would try elsewhere.