Fred Nieddu belted suede jacket: Review

Wednesday, March 30th 2022
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This is the belted suede jacket I had made earlier this year by Fred Nieddu, based on film and bespoke pieces he had made while cutter at Timothy Everest. 

It’s quite an unusual style, but after a couple of months of wearing it in different permutations, I’m now quite used to it. 

Although its roots were in a safari jacket made for The Crown, the design is better thought of as a belted smoking jacket, I think, just with a wide notched lapel. 

To the man on the street, it’s perhaps simply a suede jacket with a belt. But it’s cut with a slight overlap on the front - as a short robe or house coat might have - and it’s this that gives it a particular character. 

Belted, the wrap gives it more of the appearance of a robe; unbelted, with the fronts left to hang, that half DB gives the whole front a slouchy look, with excess material in the chest and hips. 

That’s accentuated by the shoulders, which we deliberately cut a little wide, as I usually prefer with my tailored jackets. 

There’s also relatively little structure - no shoulder pad and only canvas in the collar, not the lapel. The suede is also relatively heavy.

So if the jacket is simply worn open, the belt loose, it looks almost shapeless. Only the craft and structure of the collar saves it from being baggy. 

I’ve found I need to use the belt actively as a result: either to cinch the back a little, so the fronts are pulled back a little; or to wrap around and tie, keeping the fronts overlapped. 

As I said, it’s taken a little time to get to this point, but that’s half the fun of an unusual design. And it’s an original one, in the sense that Fred has never made this particular design and cut before. 

In fact, it’s worth pausing a moment to reflect on the various unusual projects I’ve taken on with bespoke tailors over the years. 

There were one or two with Graham Browne, the wrap coat with Whitcomb & Shaftesbury, the suede blazer with Cifonelli, and most notably the gilet and leather jacket with Davide Taub at Gieves & Hawkes. 

I’d say overall, my success rate is less than 50% - if we define success as still wearing and liking a piece now, several years later. 

That’s not great, though right now I think Fred’s jacket falls into the successful half, as far as I can tell after a couple of months. 

But I also think all the projects contain the same lesson, which is that creating something from scratch is very risky. Particularly with someone who is a trained craftsman, but not necessarily a trained designer. 

That’s not to say the tailors do anything wrong. Just that they don’t necessarily know how the final result is going to turn out; and even if they do, they might not be able to communicate that completely. You’re probably even less equipped to imagine, sketch out or communicate yor vision.

It can be very rewarding, and it’s certainly interesting and absorbing. But it’s a risky and expensive game to play. I feel I can only recommend it to readers that have that money to play with. 

But back to Fred’s jacket. 

The decisions we made during the fitting stage - described here - were all correct I think. It was good to remove the two chest pockets, good to add to the length and to raise the collar. 

The unexpected element was the suede, which as I said has proved quite heavy. This make the pockets bag a little, and the belt more tubular than flat. Fred was forced to source from a new tannery, which made this a bit uncertain, and of course with a suede jacket the fittings are usually in a toile rather than the final material. 

If anyone is considering making a piece like this, I would recommend trying to find somewhere you can try on a sample garment first, in the final material. Someone like Sartoria Melina in Naples, for instance, usually works with one type of nubuck and has samples of most designs to try (at least in Naples). 

This is no guarantee - I still managed to order a surprisingly bright shade of orange nubuck from them. But it does substantially reduce the risks. 

The handwork on Fred’s jacket is beautiful, particularly because I know how hard it is to work in suede. Many, many thanks to Zoe for working through the pain.

One of the nice things about putting the collar up is that it shows all that handwork underneath: the swirl of machine stitching keeping the canvas in place, and then hand stitching of the collar to the body (in order to create more curve, and hug the neck). 

One thing I might change is to move the belt upwards, as currently it doesn’t cover the seams on the front and back, where the different panels of suede attach. 

The internal tie that fastens the two sides, helping the belt, has also proved a little flimsy. But both things are easy to change and I know Fred will be more than willing to do so. 

I really like this jacket. Often that doesn’t come across in a review, once you’ve listed all the little things you’re going to change, or would do so if you commissioned it again. 

But I do. I love how unique it is, yet how the dark-brown suede means it’s almost as versatile as a bomber in the same colour. 

I just feel compelled to warn readers thinking of undertaking a similar project, because mine haven’t always worked out that well. It would be a lot, lot safer to buy a ready-made suede jacket, or perhaps an MTO or MTM version. Even just to have a RTW one altered.

At £2500 for a suede jacket like this, going to a bespoke tailor for something experimental is personal, wonderful, enjoyable, but not cheap. 

Most of Fred’s work is making much more conventional tailoring. Some lovely examples can be seen on our initial article on his work, hereHis bespoke tailoring starts at £3500 for a suit, and £2400 for a jacket (both excluding VAT). 

For the images, I took advantage of some studio time photographer James Holborow had, which is always fun. James is now back in the UK, after a couple of years in New Zealand, and his website is here

The other clothes shown are a black Dartmoor knit, flannels by Whitcomb & Shaftesbury and Belgravia loafers by Edward Green. 

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Gary Mitchell

This falls into the category of “It would be a strange world if we all liked the same thing” By happenchance I am wearing a similar colour suede safari jacket today which in overall profile is not a million miles from yours which makes me wonder why I dont like it… I think the fourth photo with the jacket closed makes it look to me strange, as if its looking for its style. That being said I do like these suede jackets as they can work (do work) in my workplace perfectly (weather permitting). Looking again its maybe the lack of buttons that I dont like.

Gary Mitchell

Definitely (for me) looks better unbelted but thats only personal taste because I have a few of these loose easy fitting suede jackets but it seems I’m a button-boy with these things.

Joe

I agree with you Gary – sometimes there are just things I don’t like and can’t quite put my finger on why. But that’s what makes a site like this interesting, gathering different viewpoints and challenging my own. Like you, I typically like suede jackets, especially in the many different shades of brown available.
I think, for me, a belted jacket or cardigan, risks looking too much like a bath robe in an unusual material. The weird thing is that there are many times when I like the style, both for an overcoat or a chunky cardigan, and sometimes, when I can’t shake the bathrobe connotation. I don’t know that I can really put my finger on what makes the difference.
I do appreciate that Simon takes risks in what he orders and discusses how it turns out, when it can work and when it can’t and whether it matched what he envisioned. There’s a lot to learn from that even if the style doesn’t suit me.

S

Great stuff. Will you also be commissioning traditional tailoring from Fred? For example a suit or odd jacket? Would be interesting to read a review of that.

thanks,
S

S

Thanks. I’m considering ordering a two piece business suit. Is it your impression that it would be up to Savile Row standards in fit and make?

S

Is your impression that Fred’s process is somewhat different than SR, by using try on garments etc?

Peter Hall

I’ve always thought that this length jacket,in either suede or leather, looks better worn open (second picture) drawing attention to the drape and line of the shoulders.

Neil

Hi Simon,
I like the concept of a relaxed jacket that can cover multiple situations by dint of being open or wrapped. I love the colour, length and overall design.
On a practical level there are a few issues for me that you may or may not have resolved and I would like to know whether they are not an issue with your bespoke design.
Wrap-around closure, tends not to work for me. Unless tightly belted they tend to drift open. Secondly, there is a gap at the chest which needs filling because the closure is secured so low down.
Belts. On my Burberry and Belstaff, the belt seems to be an annoyance. I tend to belt up behind and leave as ornament rather than ever use.
Otherwise they dangle everywhere and in everything. Always getting dirty ends and I do not know where from.
Of course with this jacket it is the only form of fastening the front.
Secondly, a chunky belt seems to dig into my waist/back, especially in a car seat.
Lastly. Suede, is it practical. You mention weight and potential for stretching in your article. Could you comment on warmth, rain protection and for me as a messy eater, stain resistance.
I feel I may be being overly practical for something you are experimenting with on a stylistic basis. Again for me clothes have to perform the basic functions, then be attractive. I know that many people disagree, look at the success Jimmy Choo Shoes.
I find the jacket aesthetically pleasing, have you resolved my concerns in the bespoke process and your time wearing it?
Neil

Neil

Thanks for the thoughtful reply.
I think you are right about my spillage issues being a problem.
Do you find the belt can be an issue? e.g uncomfortable in car seat etc.

BB

I don’t own a car … (thought it was only me!).

Kevin

Gorgeous jacket. Very rakish.

Dachshund

I’d say that was an absolute triumph. I think it looks its best as a casual piece – particularly in the seated photo. The colour and texture are fantastic. Something I would never have considered at all, but having seen it I now feel that I need one.

OP

Regardless of the jacket itself (beautiful), the studio photos, especially the top one, are some of the I’ve seen on PS (that’s saying a lot). Congrats to James and yourself.

ckarnan

“I’d say overall, my success rate is less than 50%”
Well that’s a very clarifying statement. I guess a ‘thank you Simon’ is in order for doing these commissions, writing about them and being open and honest about the results.

Paul

A little unusual but totally beautiful and looks amazing with grey and black.

joão

Simon I love the jacket without the belt! So loose so Arnys!

Robert

Simply fabulous. These are the reviews which bring me back to PS day after day.

David

An interesting adventure but ultimately one that for me, ultimately fails stylistically. It just winds up looking a little odd. OK from some angles but not from others.
Much more interesting for me is the Conelly suede overshirt which for me does the same job whilst looking completely fantastic but I have a couple of issues which prohibit me buying it and may give rise to a PS project.
First off, I’m not too enamoured with the collar and it should have pockets but also it is too long for me both in the body and in the sleeve.
Aside from that, it’s a killer. Perhaps Simon, you could partner with them. Refine the design and do a PS MTM option ?

Donk93953

My father had a similar jacket made for him back in the 1950’s….from elk skin. Incredibly soft to the touch. The styling is remarkably similar. Shoulders are padded a small amount and the skin color is more towards a “biscuit” tan…but the rest is all very much the same.
I still have the jacket and used to wear it on occasion. Time has taken its toll on the skin and rips are present at the shoulder and sleeve seams.
I’ve been in the market for a recreation.
You posting has pointed me to a source.
Thank you.

Andreas

Looks really nice, but I would probably not risk a belted design in suede, as I would expect the area under the belt to go dark and shiny after a while.

Tyrax

Hi Simon: you’ve got some good coverage of two former Meyer & Mortimer undercutters. Curious to get your thoughts on Meyers itself (and head cutter, Paul Munday). I’ll admit the (fraying) linkage to Brummel is appealing.

Winot

Paul Munday has made most of my business suits over the years. His work is excellent and he’s a pleasure to work with

MBB355

Is the black Dartmoor a sign of things to come?

Felix

I don’t know – looks a little like a Zilli jacket from the 90s. I could see Steven Seagal wearing this.

Noel

I very much appreciate these experiments Simon. It helps us readers learn about the process as well as getting ideas for potential garments. The jacket looks lovely in that dark brown suede.

Regarding the black Dartmoor, is this a colour you plan to release in the future or simply a one-off for yourself ?

Noel

Ok, thanks. Well, if you’re ever trying to gauge interest I’d definitively be interested in a black Dartmoor.

Ben

Me too.

john kalell

Hello Simon. A couple of points…not so much as criticism, as simple observation. My eye tells me that there is both too much volume, and too much length with this piece. I think that illusion, and the balance of the garment might have been ameliorated with front pockets.
Additionally , and you will know this from your experience, there are two skills at play here. A cutter, and designer like Fred possesses an eye for quality and detail which is separate in most cases from the eye of a stylist like yourself who sees conceptually. These can often be tricky collaborations, no ?
From what is visible in the photos, the needlework is exquisite. I suspect that aspect makes you feel better about your indulgence with this piece.

Patrick Hanrahan

It reminds me of “Le Smoking”! But a lovely jacket.