Saturday, December 17, 2005
Below is an excerpt of my post:
Perusing the bespoke section on the Grenson website, I came across the notion that the last is the customer's "personal property". This raises some intriguing questions and possibilities in my mind.
So I ask both rhetorically and practically - who really owns the individual patterns associated with bespoke garments and footwear? If it is indeed the customer, is this common practice across most bespoke artisans? Further, how practicable (and common) is it to ask for a copy of your pattern/last? And I ask all these questions not simply out of sheer idleness.
Here's one practical reason. Say I would like to work with a bespoke tailor in making some suits and jackets for me. Suppose further that said tailor is (a) an independent craftsman not affiliated with a larger tailoring house and (b) approaching very close to retirement. Even if I find his house style eminently suitable for me, there seems to be a risk I take in going with such tailor. Namely, there is very little assurance in getting similar garments in the future once he retires and ceases operations.
How can I mitigate such risks? The one possibility I see is asking for a copy of your pattern/last shortly before the tailor retires. The question then becomes how feasible is it for another tailor to produce garments off of another tailor's pattern.
A number of thoughtful answers were provided including responses from Mr. Tony Gaziano, the principal lastmaker at Edward Green, and Mr. Alex Kabbaz, the New York bespoke shirtmaker. Essentially, there is no single encompassing answer to the question of ownership. As with many things in life, the answer is "it depends". Mr. Gaziano said he would have no problem providing a copy of the last or upper pattern to a client whereas others suggested that the pattern or last is either property of the designer or is understood to be held in a kind of perpetual escrow by the tailor or cordwainer until cessation of operations. At that point, the pattern or last may be sold or given back to the client.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
According to a 2003 Welt am Sonntag article, Malowan is described as being located on the Opernring and founded in 1823 by Maria Malowan, a shirtmaker whose detailed work was highly prized by 'higher society'. In 1968 the business was succeeded by Alfred Markowski, who understood himself to be a bulwark against "brand frenzy". Markowski thinks Malowan's classical men's style has been successful recently in finding younger and younger followers. Some even come to Malowan to get a glencheck suit to boost their careers. [Berühmt für seine perfekten Maßanzüge ist auch "Malowan" am Opernring. Gegründet wurde es 1823 von der Hemdennäherin Maria Malowan, deren detailverliebte Arbeit von der feinen Gesellschaft sehr geschätzt wurde. 1968 übernahm Alfred Markowski das Unternehmen, das sich als Bollwerk "wider den Markenwahnsinn" versteht. Mit Erfolg, wie Markowski meint, die klassische Herrenmode seines Hauses finde in letzter Zeit immer mehr jüngere Anhänger. Mancher Aufsteiger hole sich hier einen Glencheck-Anzug, um seine Karriere zu befördern.]
Founded in 1935 by Viktor Netousek and succeeded by his son Thomas in 1991. In the decades following its founding, Netousek employed up to 12 workers, many of them apprentices moving up to master tailors. The house style appears to be the comfortably fitting, natural shoulder style adopted by its more famous counterpart Knize (link to Netousek storefront, jackets and window display). They also carry ready-to-wear accessories such as John Smedley sweaters and Sebago shoes. An interesting selection of American traditional and British sensibilities.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
- Knize is pronounced "Knische" (apparently arising from the pronunciation of the family name Kníže in Czech).
- Thomas Bernhard, the controversial Austrian novelist, apparently made the house of Knize a recurring mise en scène in his books.
- Billy Wilder, the Hollywood emigre director, was a devoted, lifelong customer of Knize. On his last visit to the store before his death he didn't want to leave, trying on this and that, all to get a final whiff of the place.
I found two photos of Wilder wearing what appears to be the same houndstooth wool sportcoat circa the late 1950s - the soft loose fit and the slight hint of front drape seem to point to Knize.
- Knize tailored some of the costumes in the 1960 film A Breath of Scandal starring Sophia Loren and Maurice Chevalier.
Unlike perhaps any other tailoring house in the other world, Knize brings together a striking architectural design, a renowned bespoke tailoring tradition and a long history of couture accomplishments (e.g. Knize fragrances). Any visitor will sense this immediately upon the entering the store. "The entryway is a bit of a narrow squeeze for walk-in customers but nobly furnished with cherry wood and polished mirrored glass.
The showroom is on the first floor and is an "atmospheric alpine trek between representative openness and elegant privacy" as described by the architectural critic Friedrich Achleitner. [Das Entree für die Laufkundschaft ist ein schmaler Schlurf, wie die Wiener sagen, wenngleich edel ausgestattet mit Kirschholz und geschliffenem Spiegelglas. Der Schauraum liegt im ersten Stock und ist eine "atmosphärische Gratwanderung zwischen repräsentativer Öffentlichkeit und nobler Privatheit", wie Architekturkritiker Friedrich Achleitner schrieb.]
A customer's testimonial
"When I put on a Knize suit, I grow a second skin," says Georg Waldstein, the 60-year old publisher of the Austrian business magazine Profit. "That goes so far as forgetting what I'm wearing during the day. The trousers sit just so, the jacket doesn't make any unsightly creases. I've been a bespoke customer of Knize for 20 years. Before I wore ready-to-wear but now I simply can't imagine doing that." ["Wenn mich Knize einkleidet, bekomme ich eine zweite Haut", sagt Georg Waldstein, 60, Herausgeber des österreichischen Wirtschaftsmagazins "Gewinn". "Das geht so weit, dass ich tagsüber vergesse, was ich anhabe. Die Hose sitzt, das Jackett schlägt keine hässlichen Falten. Seit 20 Jahren bin ich Maßkunde beim Knize, vorher trug ich Konfektionsware. Das kann ich mir heute nicht mehr vorstellen."]
The "return" of Knize to Prague
I also came across the website of Adam Steiner, a men's haberdashery in Prague. The founders or backers of this store appear to have some connection with the founding of the Prague branch of Knize back in 1935. This is outlined with some nice historical pictures on his website. Unfortunately, that is all I'm able to decipher since my knowledge of Czech is somewhat limited (apart from bits of survival Czech I picked up such as "pivo", "ne vim", "rozumim").
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
This is especially true of the venerable atelier of Knize & Comp in Vienna. Established in 1858 by a Czech family, Knize currently is situated at Graben 13 in the original premises designed by the influential Viennese architect Adolf Loos. As a modern architect and designer, Loos famously equated architectural ornament with crime (not surprisingly he was philosophically opposed to Art Nouveau or Jugendstil). The store design is notable for its black Swedish granite edifice and the use of soft cherry and oak woods in the interior (link to interior and exterior pictures). Loos also designed the Knize stores in Berlin (1924) and Paris (1927).
Knize today carries high quality men and women's ready-to-wear (Konfektionsware) but it is most well-known for its bespoke suits (Maßanzüge). In Style and the Man, Alan Flusser praises the "three-button, side-vented, soft-shouldered house style" of the Knize suit jacket (or Anzug) with its "rounded-off shape".
Flusser notes that Knize is similar to Anderson & Sheppard and Caraceni in its emphasis on a soft shoulder. Notice the very slight waist suppression in the photo of the gray pinstripe three-piece, three-button suit.
As Rudolf Niedersüß, Knize's owner, elaborated in a recent interview in Bank Privat Magazin, the Knize cut (Schnitt) is more comfortable and doesn't conform as closely to the body as perhaps some of the Savile Row silhouettes do ("nicht so knapp sitzen wie bei den Briten" und "vielmehr bequemer"). As a practical matter, this enables the Viennese gentleman to store more things in his jacket pockets.
Another observer remarks that the Knize shoulder falls more naturally with the top part flaring down a bit (referring to the concavity of the shoulder and sleevehead I believe), the waist sits a little higher and the trouser legs are longer ("Die Schultern fallen natürlicher, das Oberteil ist nach unten hin ein wenig ausgestellt. Beim Maßfrack sitzt die Taille etwas höher, und die Hosenbeine sind extra lang."). Another unusual feature is a double-row waistcoat or vest as opposed to the more conventional single row.
Knize is also known for its men's and women's toiletries, specifically the Knize Ten fragrance released in 1924. If you're planning to visit Vienna or Central Europe, there is a very informative AskAndy post on recommended restaurants and shops (including a Viennese glovemaker and a former Imperial court jeweller). You might also find that this NY Times Style Magazine interactive map of Vienna may whet your appetite to plan a trip to Mitteleuropa. Lastly, Fodor's has a nice destination guide listing fine shops, restaurants and sights.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Here's the link to the StyleForum thread I created on this issue. There are a few ways to deal with this. Basically, you'll need to thread another needle through the offending loop and "pull" it through to the underside of the fabric. Good luck!
Monday, November 07, 2005
If I were a customer, I would draw out a few lessons learned:
(1) Do not order bespoke garments until you are knowledgeable about the fit and features of said garments. When you are ready to order, put your wishlist into writing and review each item with your tailor. Keep a copy for yourself. Here the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. Do not "leave everything" in the hands of the tailor unless you have developed an extensive history with him.
(2) Measure and guard your expectations. Less is "more". Avoid the utopian misfortune of expecting perfection each and every step of this human, all too human process. To wit,
(3) Be alert and vigilant during the entire process of fitting. At a minimum, check the garment at different angles while standing in front a three-way mirror. This is what manton, an AskAndy member experienced in bespoke, does at his first fittings. First, he checks the balance from side-to-side and front-to-back, then rotates his shoulders several times and lets the coat settle where it may. He also walks around the room, sits down, stands up, and checks the coat again. Another prudent measure is to inspect the sewing/stitching from inside prior to the attachment of the lining and check whether the fabric patterns match at the seams.
(4) Order only one initial garment. As you wait for your initial order, accumulate knowledge about your tailor, his workshop and his way of doing things. Develop confidence in the strengths of your tailor and be knowledgeable about his weaknesses before placing multiple orders.
Conversely, if I were an independent tailor, I take away these lessons:
(1) Satisfy your existing customers and ensure they remain satisfied. It is much more costly to take on new customers than it is to satisfy existing ones. Furthermore, losing customers is terribly costly both directly and indirectly since dissatisfied customers are more likely to raise a hue and cry than satisfied ones. For them, the pen (or keyboard) is also mightier than the sword.
(2) Be alert and vigilant with the entire process of production. You must set into place a process to ensure consistent workmanship of garments in your supply chain. It is human nature to discern the imbalance and asymmetry of physical things, especially if one is wearing them.
(3) Resist the considerable temptation to take multiple orders with a new customer. You and the new customer will be making your first acquaintance and, more critically, an initial order. With this first order, you must satisfy the whims and desires of the customer so that he may be inclined to order again (see first lesson). How is this achieved? Suffice to say, it is easier to create one impressive garment than it is to create many such garments. Likewise, one is less likely to make mistakes with one garment than with many. Hence, focus your energies on making one good garment initially. Less is more.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Here are my recommendations for visitors and denizens alike. For custom shirts, Anto's Shirtmakers is acknowledged as the best in town. I haven't tried them yet but they're on my wish list. Brooks Bros has a decent shirt program at a lower price point. For outfitting a basic wardrobe, you can't go wrong with Carroll & Co, Brooks Bros and Ralph Lauren - all within a few blocks of each other in Beverly Hills.
In addition, there are some recent and informative postings in the discussion forum world on the state of menswear shops in LA today:
A recent stroll down Rodeo Drive
Finding English shoes in LA
Finding English and Italian shoes in LA
Monday, October 03, 2005
essay by one Rachel Cooke is an enlightened, modern paean to the principled reality of a well-dressed man. No, she is not praising that tepid imitation known as the "metrosexual" but something considerably more substantial and original. Simply put, it is a man who dresses well because he wishes to appear in a way that reflects favorably upon him, his friends and family.
Well, if I do have one quibble, it is that the fellow in her story wears Prada shoes. Now the Italians certainly make fine benchgrade shoes, especially the lesser known makers prized by shoe aficionados such as Santoni, Lattanzi, StefanoBi, Mantellassi or Gravati.
However, her fellow is presumably an Englishman. Edward Green, George Cleverley, John Lobb St. James, John Lobb Paris or any number of fine ready-to-wear English shoes (Crockett & Jones, Grenson, Tricker's). Perhaps that is a development reserved for another chapter in her story.
Monday, September 26, 2005
There are different schools of thought here. You could buy a case made of neoprene, nylon or cloth which fully covers the device but you have to make sure whether there are holes cut for the recharging ports or headphones. Full body cases often add bulk as well. The alternative is to use thin plastic films that adhere to the iPod and protect strategic areas such as the LCD screen and metal back. An example is TrendyGeek's PodShield which I ended up using and have been very happy with. Another variation is full body plastic film such as InvisibleShield (link to review).
Apparently the new iPod nano has been getting complaints about its sensitivity to scratches and LCD screen cracking. Whether it's a design/manufacturing flaw or not, it's a good idea to get some kind of protection. I'd recommend the plastic film approach if you're concerned about adding bulk or weight to your iPod.
On a related note, I wouldn't be surprised if there are some musically minded gents who have had jackets made with custom-made interior pockets for their iPods.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Finally, for a little variation, this is an interesting double dimpled knot technique.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Why do Marinella ties merit such esteem? Impeccable woven and printed silks with traditional construction methods. The ties may strike some as conservatively designed. Conservative for some, but for others they represent a classic and timeless style.
So where can one purchase Marinella ties?
Hint: Naples, Italy. Another hint: Also available in the New York City at Bergdorf Goodman.
For more info, visit the Marinella website.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
If you've worn their English shoes before and know your size, this is a great deal. I'm tempted myself!
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
As it stands, one of the pillars of modern's mens style suffers from a particularly anemic wiki entry. If you are a tailor, customer or supplier to this venerable collection of tailoring houses, do your web duty and refine the entry. After all, "England expects that every man will do his duty."
Monday, July 04, 2005
For jackets and suits, one really has to pay a visit to Savile Row and get fitted for a handmade, bespoke garment. Although many of the larger houses make visits to the US, I would prefer to get measured up, select fabrics and get a feel for a tailoring house at the premises itself. The key question for any first-time customer is which tailor? The Row is home to several very well-known houses including Anderson & Sheppard (no website still!), Henry Poole, Huntsman & Sons, Kilgour and Gieves & Hawkes.
An alternative is to investigate Savile Row-trained and apprenticed tailors who are now working independently (or smaller tailoring houses such as Dege & Skinner). Tailors such as Thomas Mahon are generally more affordable and may be a better choice for a first experiment in bespoke tailoring.
Unless you have fairly deep pockets (presumably handmade - lol), my advice is to do your research thoroughly. Pay a visit to the establishment or individual tailor and talk to existing customers. There is a host of other considerations for anyone embarking on a first bespoke suit or jacket, probably a topic I will cover in a later entry.
But at a minimum check out the discussion boards. For instance, here is a AskAndy thread on Gieves & Hawkes.
Friday, July 01, 2005
Clearly, this would make the basis of a decent travel itinerary around the world. One surprising thing I noticed is the number of British restaurants that made the list. Perhaps the result of a culinary Renaissance of sorts in Merry Old England.
Either way, it's a good excuse to visit and sample sartorial London. I certainly wouldn't mind a weeklong itinerary constructed entirely around classic English haberdashery. For starters, I'd make sure to visit and pick up:
Saturday, June 18, 2005
An interesting interview but Lydon could have conducted a better flowing and more engaging conversation with Mr. Mahon. He spent perhaps too much time with call-ins rather than tapping into the background, experiences and stories of his guest. That's a bit ironic since the reason for his interview is Mahon's use of blogging to converse and engage with potential customers. Nonetheless it is a worthwhile interview to get a better sense of Mahon's approach to tailoring.
This may seem counterintuitive but it works. Try to visualize a light or sky blue shirt against a navy blue chalkstripe for example. And then try on the ensemble to see for yourself.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
It turns out Victor moved out to California from the East Coast to work with Jack. Things didn't work out and Victor went to work elsewhere. That in itself was mildly interesting but even more remarkable is the relationship he has with the only other well-known bespoke tailor in LA - Giacomo Trabalza. Victor mentioned that he knew a tailor working out on La Cienega and I immediately thought of Trabalza. As it turns out, Mr. Trabalza is Victor's uncle.
The world of high end Los Angeles tailors and haberdashers is fairly small and they all know each other - Victor also knows Jack Sepetjian of Anto's Shirtmakers, the well-known shirtmakers profiled in Flusser's Style and the Man. And Trabalza and Taylor certainly know each other.
Monday, June 06, 2005
Nonetheless, I still harbor a slight reluctance to tying very thick and wide knots. You need some extra gumption to pull that off (a la Robert Rufino).
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
My own thinking suggests an underlying causal relation between institutional changes and changes in one's "appearance". Oddly enough, something as apparently "individual" as appearance and comportment is a highly social or intersubjective activity. Hence, I suspect that institutional changes have had a significant impact on the relaxation of apparel and dress.
At the highest level, I think one can describe the decline in sartorial standards as a decline in formal or "high" culture and the rise of popular culture. The reason for this decline I discuss in my posting in the discussion thread:
... I would suspect that the decline in sartorial "standards" in modern societies has something to do with the precipitous decline of prescribed authority (namely, cultural, political and social institutions) as standard bearers of value in society. In other words, the decline in institutionalized values (enforced for example by class or social group) means greater individual autonomy and discretion, leading to a decline in adhering to standardized forms of dress.
This is essentially an application of Robert Putnam's celebrated hypothesis (at least in academia) on the decline of "social capital" (http://www.bowlingalone.com/). Put simply, the decline of social institutions in America means that we have fewer and fewer reasons to dress up or appropriately. I would suspect that sartorial standards still exist where there are institutions that informally and/or formally enforce them.
As a case study, it would be interesting to track, for example, the increasing informalization of Presidential inaugural dress standards (from morning coat and top hat to business suits).
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Here's an excerpt from my original post:
...detractors and killjoys dismiss Chicago as the "Second City" but others, including myself, regard it as the quintessential American city for its geographical setting (situated between the Great Lakes and the prairie) and the pivotal role it has played in industry (e.g. retail, meatpacking, transportation), culture (jazz & blues), architecture and ideas (think Chicago School of economics).
Here's a brief list of where Chicago comes out on top in my book, an obviously subjective list for the most part:
(1) Best RTW/MTM suit made in America - Oxxford Clothes, based in the West Loop of Chicago
(2) Best restaurant in America - Charlie Trotter's
(3) Best symphony in America - Chicago Symphony (with strenuous objections from Boston, NY Phil, Philadelphia, Cleveland Orch duly noted)
(4) Most intellectual student body and campus in America - University of Chicago
(5) Best hot dog in America - Chicago style (w/sliced pickle, onions, peppers)
Item number 4 on my list ruffled quite a few feathers. Suffice it to say that in higher education one ought to distinguish between perceived brand and intellectual productivity. As this opinion piece on the most famous university in America amusingly illustrates, substance is often overshadowed by brand.
The same principle applies to clothing - beware of brand, but be aware of substance (e.g. quality). Caveat emptor.
Monday, May 23, 2005
Great things start from interests, ideas, places, professions, books, music, even clothes - anything - that you are genuinely interested in developing, exploring and sharing.
For the blogger who wants to make an impact, know why you are blogging. Think of it as a "mission statement" for your blog. The content will follow.
Point of View
Give your conversations a distinct personality and face. Think of the magazines Giant Robot or Wallpaper, the grassroots Democrat Howard Dean or the Mayor-elect of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa - each projects a distinctive voice that plants a memorable impression in the viewer, voter or reader.
Parlay - "To increase or otherwise transform into something of much greater value" (Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary). Fashion something unique, timely or entertaining that gives you extra pull and currency for your audience.
Remember that every blog has the potential to become a chat, a personal conversation with someone who might be a great contact for you or your business.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
When I sat down in my seat I noticed an older man sitting two seats to my right in the row in front of me. He looked rather familiar and as I overheard bits and pieces of his conversation I suddenly realized that he was Frank Gehry, the architect who designed Walt Disney Hall. I'm not one to eavesdrop on other conversations but I couldn't resist catching the little stories he was telling to the other couple in his party - such as being brought to tears on first hearing the wonderful acoustics in Disney Hall and the rather long struggle to bring the building to fruition.
When we broke into intermission, the woman next to me leaned over to Mr. Gehry and said something - presumably a compliment of some sorts. I leaned over as well and congratulated him creating such a beautiful concert hall. Like the Shostakovich quartets, Disney Hall is marvelously "lyrical" but in an unconventional sense.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
The first gap is generational because the tailoring tradition has remained largely with the older generation as jobs and skills have migrated to "softer" more cognitive skills. Tailors are getting older and their replacements are virtually nowhere to be found.
The second issue - the importing of foreign skilled labor - is a logical byproduct of the generational gap. The US has long relied on importing tailors from Italy, Greece, Turkey and Southeast Asia. However, as these countries continue to develop economically and experience higher living standards, the incentive to live in the US has declined and the supply of foreign workers appears to have dwindled. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, John Daniel, a cut-make-trim factory based in Tennessee, has gone as far as actively recruiting Turkish tailors and assisting in their emigration to the US.
This seems to be the only real solution for higher end, tailored clothing manufacturers in the US. Tailoring is an artisanal process based on tacit knowledge and practitioner-based experience acquired over time. The best tailors today seem to have worked with the best tailors of a previous generation. And so on. Once this "path dependency" is broken, the industry itself may founder.
On a related note, I came across this interesting discussion thread on tailors in Southeast Asia. AskAndy member Matt discovered a Vietnamese tailor Chuong, a 30-something fellow who directly chalks on the fabric - a technique called "rock of eye" requiring great skill and confidence as a tailor.
This interesting find is suggestive. The key to overcoming the human resources tailoring gap in the US and other advanced economies may be found in identifying a fresh source of semi-skilled and motivated apprentices in Asia, Turkey and elsewhere. This shouldn't be confused with outsourcing, rather it is to ensure skilled tailoring is a domestically sustainable artisanal industry.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
On the other hand, most blogs seem to be just little more than updated personal home pages, as this Business Week article wryly notes. That article contains a wonderful image of blogs as "heat maps" of millions of different conversations about something. That something could be X's latest greatest product, Y's lunch with a Famous Person (she did what?) or Z's unfriendly customer service.
Blogging is a new form of interactive media that pushes and pulls a highly personalized blend of content through individualized, interactive channels to an audience. To me, this is the key disruptive idea - each conversation becomes its own channel. It's about creating your own inexpensive, multichannel customer experience.
By sharing some aspect of your professional or personal life, combined deftly and honestly with a commercial intent, you can reap free buzz, PR and awareness. At their best, blogs create fresh opportunities for you to get a first (or second) look by potential customers, partners, sponsors, investors, pundits and influencers (and, of course, competitors and enemies).
The great thing about blogging is that it lowers the cost of one-to-one marketing to almost zero, which can be a godsend for certain low-profile, low exposure, hard to understand markets such as bespoke tailoring.
It's important to understand that there is a conversational aspect to blogging, which puts you in direct contact with the "blogosphere" of ardent, opinionated individuals. If you need to remember just one thing about blogs, always remember that your blog is like a conversation or chat with someone. Be honest and you'll avoid the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune.
Before taking the plunge, it's worthwhile to do a little planning. Check tips 5 and 6 in a recent Business Week article "Six tips for corporate bloggers". I'll post my own tips in the near future.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
A great story and lesson for life - one could do a lot worse than strive for excellence.
Friday, April 22, 2005
This interest in Italian stores brings to mind the larger influences of both England and Italy on menswear. In the modern era, menswear has been dominated by the Italians and English. They dominate the textile mills (i.e. Loro Piana, Holland & Sherry), suit/jacket styles, tailoring traditions and retail brands. I hope to post in the future on the Italian and English influence.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Now, this sales lift is probably not sustainable over time but it does illustrate the power of technology-assisted marketing to reach and convert new customers for your product or service. Synergies between $3,000 bespoke suits and RSS feeds - who would have thought?
Yet the logic is powerful - blogs are proven to generate what is known as "buzz". Here's how it works. Blogs immediately extend your available network of influencers (e.g. those who generate buzz). These newly added influencers interact and communicate with their own social networks, clients, peers, colleagues and captive audiences. If the buzz is compelling, it's passed onto their friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Bingo - you've just increased your potential customer base by tapping into the buzz generated by blogs.
The concept should sound familiar. When buzz converts a certain percentage of listeners, that is called old-fashioned "word of mouth". Blog-assisted buzz is just word of mouth plus technology.
Monday, April 18, 2005
Here's my advice in full form:
I've done some internet/technology consulting and I find a common myth about websites is that you just slap something together and you'll be fine. I actually think it would be a useful exercise to keep in mind some things when establishing a web presence:
(1) Understand whom you want to target
Not all customers are equal in terms of value to your business and presumably you would prefer to serve certain kinds of customers over others.
To that end, you can ask yourself if you'd rather target specific kinds of customers such as:
- Upgraders (from RTW or MTM)
- Experienced (customers switching from other tailors)
- Overseas (American/Canadian, continental/European, Asian, etc.)
(2) Develop key marketing messages "tailored" to customer intents on your website (pun intended)
Below are some sample messages by customer segment:
- Novice = Patience, knowledge and experience to help you develop the right attire for you and your lifestyle
- Experienced = No compromise on detail or quality
- American = Best value in bespoke, flexible visiting schedule
- Asian = Unstinting service and quality, local language version
(3) Develop content and features to support key messages
For example, the novice user might be interested in an tailoring tutorial while more experienced users may want to see your fabric selection. Or, if you want to make more of a splash and shake things up a little, consider doing something different. I believe Thomas Mahon was the first bespoke tailor on Savile Row to offer up his own weblog (or blog). Quite avant-garde.
But perhaps even more avant-garde, the latest tech trend is "podcasting" which is basically audio-on-demand or audio broadcasts that users can download. You could be the first bespoke tailor on the Row to podcast! Perhaps you could record a "day in the life of" a Savile Row tailor as you interact with a customer or visit a textile mill to order fabrics. The latter could be fascinating and quite informative. In addition, since it is all audio recorded, you wouldn't have to worry about the extra work needed to edit text.
(4) Finally, remember to drive traffic to your site
- Research and consider buying Google keywords relevant to your business and brand (e.g. Savile Row, bespoke, affordable)
- Have suppliers, partners and associates link to your site - One idea is linking to a textile mill that you're a customer of (e.g. Holland & Sherry customer page). The reasoning is simple. There are probably quite a few eyeballs going to H&S website, which are relevant to you. You can quite likely divert some of that traffic to your own site.
- Develop a comprehensive list of metatags relevant to your website and insert in your homepage (e.g. Savile Row, bespoke)
- Build good old fashioned word of mouth, PR and advertorials (apparel articles highlighting your work)
Incidentally, the blogger in question is apparently one of Thomas Mahon's friends/colleagues who convinced him to do the English Cut blog. A brilliant piece of marketing advice I think.
The article highlights the defining issue of Savile Row from a business perspective - namely, the classic business question of "make v. buy". In other words, do you keep as much of the tailoring/cutting/sewing and production in-house or do you disaggregate/outsource to achieve efficiencies that keeps pricing competitive? The older houses are struggling to keep things in-house in an environment of increasing real-estate prices. This is a classic economic squeeze - with sales flat and costs rising, the number of management options suddenly decrease. For most industries, cutting costs is easier than increasing sales. However, in a high-touch, high-involvement customer experience like bespoke tailoring, increasing sales turnover is even more difficult.
It's a real challenge but I certainly hope the traditional method survives and indeed thrives. If "old" Savile Row survives, it will do so in part because of the loyal support of its customers above and beyond the payment for bespoke apparel. Perhaps the appropriate word is less "customer" and more like a partner or a patron. According to the article, Anderson & Sheppard has survived only because of the "support" of wealthy clients (including Prince Charles).
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Prior to my visit to his shop today, I only had a handful of references to Jack Taylor's.
- Flusser's entry in Style and the Man describes
's cut as "British-inspired, with narrow shoulders, shaped torso, slant pockets, and deep vents". Taylor
- A recent article on Mr. Taylor in the Los Angeles Times Magazine.
It was a wonderfully mild and sunny day today when I dropped by Jack Taylor's. The shop is on Canon Drive just north of Wilshire Blvd and near Spago's. When I walked in the store, Mr. Taylor greeted me from his desk at the back of the long and rectangular retail space. For a man of 87 years, he has remarkable energy and enthusiasm for the business of tailored clothing.
What did we discuss? Why suits of course. He made no secret of his preference for single button, peaked lapel jackets. But he also said that he would naturally accommodate the customer's wishes. At my request, he brought out a suit jacket and trousers in progress. Interestingly enough, regarding the trousers, he mentioned that he recommends horizontally slanted pockets - something about hanging better for the wearer. He also had some fairly critical comments about MTM garments (which came up because I was wearing one!) but I didn't mind at all.
During our conversation, a customer of his walked in to check on some jackets in progress. He was wearing a superb-looking Taylor sports coat - double vented (fairly deep), slightly roped sleevehead and noticeable waist suppression.
When Mr. Taylor left to attend to the customer, I spoke briefly with one of the tailors who is an assistant to the head tailor. He's a Vietnamese gentleman who said he's been there for 15 years. The head tailor is a Hong Kong-trained tailor who's been working for Jack Taylor for 20 years. He does the pattern cutting. There's also another tailor who's been there for 45 years.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Sartorially, I noticed that the soloist Leonidas Kavakos and Valery Gergiev were similarly attired. They both wore an all-black ensemble with a jacket that looked like a simplified frock coat. It's a rather formal and severe look - perhaps too rectangular and orthagonal for most men's body types I would say.
In contrast, I remember that Yuri Temirkanov, the conductor of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, dressed in traditional white tie and tails when he performed last fall in Disney Hall. Disney Hall, by the way, is an absolutely stunning piece of architecture with wonderfully resonant acoustics.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
- Anthony Gasbarri
- Jack Taylor
- Giacomo Trabalza
The other two - Taylor and Trabalza - are rather advanced in age (octagenarians I believe) and tailoring institutions in their own right. I hope they continue to ply their trade and hope that they have a team in place that can continue their tailoring traditions.
Friday, April 01, 2005
Mike took a few measurements along the chest and sleeve and recommended the Radcliffe model for my body type (narrower shoulder and lapel). It looks like Oxxford is making an effort to update their classic full silhouette to reach a perhaps younger clientele. Before my abbreviated fitting with Mike, the representative from Holland & Sherry spent a few minutes going through their latest fabric swatch books - including some beautiful lighter worsteds in their Crystal Springs line.
He also took note of my loafers and thought they were made by the English shoemaker Edward Green, a Northampton-based firm that quite a few shoe aficionados consider to make the finest ready-to-wear men's shoes in the world. Actually they were a pair of English Grenson shoes that I got on sale from Bennie's Shoes. Though not an Edward Green, the Grenson Masterpiece is an elegant shoe with a channelled sole.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
The appointment involved getting measured by Mr. Greenfield, selecting a fabric and specifying certain features of the sports jacket I was about to order. Mr. Greenfield makes biannual trips in November and March to various flagship Brooks Bros stores around the country to greet and measure customers. Greenfield's cut-make-trim factory handles the made-to-measure business for Brooks Bros. Accompanying the Greenfield entourage were representatives of Loro Piana, a well-known Italian mill.
Today I had my first fitting of the sports jacket I had ordered back in November. Due to a mistake by the factory, the jacket was mistakenly cut with straight rather than slant pockets as I had requested (resulting in what is known as a "pig" or spoiled garment). Normally, it would take 8 weeks but it took nearly five months to recut the jacket. Nonetheless, the jacket turned out beautifully – the fabric, feel and fit. The only quibbles I have are the gorge (a tad bit low) and the lack of pattern matching around the sleeves. But these require the adjustments of a full bespoke process.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Made by Martin Greenfield, the Golden Fleece is Brooks Brothers's highest quality MTM suit and starts at $1,250 for Super 100 fabrics (book A), $1,250 for Super 120s (book B), $1,650 for Super 130s (book E) and can go as high as $2,850 (Super 160s Loro Piana fabric).
The brochure I received says the Golden Fleece suits have "full canvas camel hair chest pieces, linen under collars, genuine horn buttons, hand sewn buttonholes, and over 18 hours of workmanship". Turnaround is about 8 weeks.
The Makers line, from what I gathered, uses a half-canvassed front and hence cheaper and quicker to make (5 week turnaround). Smaller selection of fabrics as well. Not sure what the pricing is but obviously lower than Golden Fleece.
I didn't inquire into the specifics of the Select line but assume that there is even less handtailoring and lower quality construction (and an even lower price point). The brochure says choose from "100 fabrics and specify your size, model and options with a turnaround time of only 4 weeks."
Thursday, March 17, 2005
First, you can try your chances by finding a designer brand that cuts their suits, jackets, shirts trousers to a slimmer fitting overall. This is a rather hit and miss proposition as I have found over the years. But here are some ready-to-wear brands that currently offer or have offered slimmer clothing:
- Ralph Lauren Purple Label (Mr. Lauren himself wears a 37 short)
- Jil Sander
- Helmut Lang
- Calvin Klein
- Hudson's Guide to Men's Clothing for Short and Small Guys
- Frugal Corner: Clothing Guide for Short Men
- Styleforum thread on short & slim shopping guide
- Short Shrifted - Blog on clothing for shorter men
Updated Feb 2010
Monday, March 07, 2005
So for all you fans of Paper Denim & Cloth, Nudie, Diesel, etc., here's a list of the top 10 blue jeans (and updated list) by some of the more knowledgeable Style Forum members.
Monday, February 14, 2005
- Joe Centofanti, Philadelphia
- Chris Despos, Chicago
- William Fioravanti, New York
- Christian Garcia, Coral Gables, Fla.
- Anthony Gasbarri, Los Angeles [passed away August 2003]
- Leonard Logsdail, New York
- Manuel Martinez, Baton Rouge, La.
- Tony Maurizio, New York
- Frank Shattuck, New York
- Giacomo Trabalza, Los Angeles
Thursday, February 10, 2005
RTW apparel are characterized by the fixed nature of their construction and features. RTW suits for example are mass, machine produced in factories, typically with "fused" interlinings in the lapel and coat front. Garment sizes are made for the "average" person. The advantage of RTW suits is affordability as very little human tailoring is involved. The downside is that fused suits often feel stiff and may not last as long as fully canvassed ones.
MTM or made-to-measure is one step up in terms of construction (usually canvassed or half-canvassed) and feature selection. The customer typically selects a fabric (often from a selection numbering in the hundreds), is measured by a specialist sales associate or tailor and selects certain features (such as slanted jacket pockets and lapel width). MTM is often used by a retailer to provide "custom" tailoring. The measurements are used to alter a stock pattern (e.g. a 40R) and the garment is actually made by a "cut-make-trim" factory such as Martin Greenfield Clothiers in Brooklyn, New York, Adrian Jules in Rochester, New York or John H. Daniel in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Bespoke tailoring offers the most customized experience and indeed some aficionados believe it is the sine qua non of a gentleman's sartorial existence. The heart of bespoke tailoring lies in fully individualized pattern making and cutting. Even so, sewing and construction of specific parts of a garment may be outsourced to a specialist tailor (e.g. buttonhole sewing). For certain hard-to-fit individuals, bespoke may be the only satisfactory solution. For certain individuals who are highly exacting in their requirements, bespoke may also be the only satisfactory way to dress.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Consequently, I will not expound exclusively on topics of apparel (i.e. the virtues of "bespoke" tailoring, the history of Savile Row tailors or the virtues of Neapolitan sartorial style). I am neither an expert on these matters nor is that the heart of the matter. What I propose is quite opposite. In order to dress well, one should start not with the material elements of dress but with a careful examination of yourself and the situation you find yourself in.
The well-dressed man, like the skillful author, does not reveal everything about himself (or his characters) at once. Rather he offers meaningful insights into his world to those who are able to reciprocate.
In order to create your own story, you need to understand the key elements of any sartorial narrative. Here they are:
- Ready-to-wear (RTW)
- Made-to-measure (MTM)
- Daytime business, semi-formal & formal
- Evening formal
- Suits and jackets
- Shirt and tie