Lutays made-to-order jacket: Review
Lutays is a French brand making casual jackets in a couture workshop in France. It was started by Jean-Baptiste Rosseeuw (above), whom readers might know from his previous job at glove maker Lavabre Cadet.
JB - as he is known to those that know him - wanted to launch a product that was particularly French. Not just made there, but projecting a style that was distinctive from those of England, Italy or America.
For him, this French style is to be found in the clothes worn at the end of the Napoleonic era, before British suits became dominant. These were practical jackets, for activity as much as meetings, and were characterised by soft shoulders, open quarters and natural materials.
He also dug into regional traditions and French military clothing, bringing up details like high-fastening gilets or a general absence of breast pockets.
There is inevitably something of the old Arnys style here. But while JB reveres that tradition, and wishes to build something equally, distinctively French, there are clear differences: the Lutays fabrics are noticeably more sober and textured, and the designs are less eccentric.
The decision to make in a couture workshop is an interesting one, because most of the time I think it leads to a garment that is precise and clean, but free from the flourishes that menswear usually associates with hand-worked clothing.
It also means Lutays is relatively expensive. Everything is made to order, with jackets ranging from about €1100 to €1800 depending on the material and style, and the full couture experience with fittings in Paris starting at €4300 (VAT inclusive).
JB decided to make this way after several experiments with tailors and shirtmakers. The shirtmakers’ jackets he found were too unstructured - basically, just shirts with pockets - and the tailoring versions too structured, as well as too sharp and formal. He also didn't want to make with a factory, for example in Italy.
It wasn’t easy to find a couture workshop that would take him on, as most only make for women. But finally he found one that understood his aims, and would make in the traditional couture manner, with one person making each garment.
Earlier this year JB offered to make me a jacket remotely as an experiment, sending me a few of the fitting toiles that are normally held in the Paris atelier, to try on and then order from a swatch.
Of the styles on offer, the one that appealed to me the most was the ‘Boutet’, an overshirt style with just two angled breast pockets. Some others I discounted because of the belts, or band collars, but my second choice would have been a jacket similar to the Boutet, like the ‘Zola’ with its simple pockets.
A special word should be said about JB’s fabric selection, because he has gone out of his way to source unusual, natural-coloured cottons, linens and wools, which I think give the brand as much identity as the designs of the jackets.
Some of the swatches he supplies are pretty small, and harder than normal to get a sense of what they’ll be like at scale. But it’s a long way from an MTM brand that just shows all the same Loro Piana or Scabal cloth books.
The fit models I was sent to try on were all in a toile canvas, which I think limited my ability to get a sense of the designs. I did feedback to JB that it would have been nice to try a finished one, and ideally something in a similar material to the one I had selected.
The fitting process all went quite smoothly though. I took pictures of the fit from every angle, and we spoke on the phone about my thoughts. I basically requested the neck and waist from one size, and the shoulders, chest and length from a size up.
When the jacket arrived a few weeks later, the fit was good, but the waist and hips were a little large. This is the problem I have with overshirts generally: being slim, they tend to look a bit A-line as they drop from my shoulders to the hips.
The jacket was sent back, this was changed, and the result is what you see below. Interestingly, the adjustment on the hips was done with two darts running into the bottom hem, rather than the side seams.
So do I like it? Well, the first thing to say is that I’m in two minds about the material.
It’s an unusual wool/cotton twill, a beige or oatmeal colour but with some lovely browns and caramel colours in the yarn. A good example of how JB has turned up some materials that are different to most things in tailoring bunches.
The only problem with it is that it’s a very dense weave, and quite firm. That can be an advantage with something as unstructured as an overshirt, and it certainly helps this piece look more like a jacket.
But I’ve worn this about a dozen times, it hasn’t softened and it does hang rather stiffly. I think there will be some people that will like it, but had I seen a jacket made up in that material (even in a different colour) I’m not sure I would have chosen it.
The style of the Boutet has grown on me, but it's a different style to what I would normally wear, and I think it's another reason to see the models in person.
It has quite a dramatic collar, one most commonly on traditional safari jackets. The breast pockets are quite low on the chest, and the buttoning is rather high (in fact the central button is almost parallel with those pockets).
The fit is also very large in the chest. This is most obvious when I have my arms outstretched, as shown in the image below.
None of these things are too unusual, and the buttoning point in particular is something seen on some work jackets. The body fit is also quite deliberate: one of the things JB always disliked about Arnys jackets was the size in the neck and shoulders, so these are generally smaller in relation to the chest.
But it’s not a style that fits naturally with other things I wear. I don’t mind loose clothing generally - see my Prologue linen shirt, Adret bomber, or Ramon Puig Guayabera for examples - but they all tend to work with tailoring clothing elsewhere. This doesn't so much.
The process I went through was an experiment, and not one JB is going to offer in the future. So just to be clear, there are two offers today.
The first is buying a piece online, in any size (even from 42 to 60) and any Lutays fabric, delivered in six weeks. If the order is placed in Paris, it's possible to adjust the sleeve and body length. But otherwise it's simple MTO.
The second is a couture experience, which means toile fittings in Paris, at least three appointments, and much more flexibility around design. I had elements of this because I changed the fit so much, and adjusted the finished garment too.
I would struggle to justify the latter experience, given the cost of €4300, although of course I didn't change the design too much in that case. The former is much better, at €1100 for my jacket, and is made in the same place in the same way.
The only thing there is I think you need to be certain about liking the style and the fit. So again I would recommend buying in person in Paris (below) - or on a trunk show. JB has been planning these for a while, but they haven't really been possible during Covid.
Finally, Lutays does have some international partners. You can try the styles at Brio in Beijing, and particular designs have been created for stores in Japan: Q store in Osaka, Strips St. in Tokyo, Wolf and Wolff in Tokyo, and TF Labo in Tokyo.
Photography: Mohan Singh