Monday, July 31, 2006

The philosophy of the 'first fitting' and Kilgour's approach

Recently I started an AskAndy thread on the likelihood of getting things right at the very first fitting of a bespoke suit or jacket. Apparently near perfection does happen occasionally. But the more important discovery is that there are at least two different philosophies on the fitting process. The Savile Row method generally hews to "front-loading" the process in terms of getting as much of the jacket components assembled, pieced together and finished as possible. This is in contrast to independent tailors in New York City for example who tend to stage the fitting process into different phases - the first fitting to achieve the right balance, the second fitting to achieve overall fit and so on.

I find that this distinction holds true as evidenced by my recent Kilgour forward fitting in Los Angeles. Last month I walked up the stairs of the Chateau Marmont, a very relaxed setting by the way, and met with R., my cutter, and W., a fellow cutter. After a few pleasantries (the fellows mentioning running into the actor Jude Law, a Kilgour customer, at the hotel), I tried on the jacket and thought to myself, what a revelation! The skeleton basted jacket looked and felt superb - more than I had expected. R.'s pattern emphasized and shaped the chest a touch. The shoulders fit snugly right over the ends, the waist nipped and the jacket line flared slightly from the hips. All in all, a very flattering balance between the shoulders, chest and waist. R. measured the length from the front of the jacket to the ground to confirm the proper front and back balance. To my eyes, the overall length looked superb, as did the sleeve pitch. R. loosened the back neck a bit on both sides after judging and feeling the tension on the fabric. To make this determination, he removed the inlay on the lapel to feel around the neck area.

The vest or waistcoat was next in line for inspection. The side length remained the same but R. added a touch (perhaps 3/8 of an inch) to the front such that the angled ends drop down a touch more dramatically. He also observed that the middle front section of the vest stood out a bit, which he will take in and correspondingly shift button positions down somewhat.

The last part was fitting the trousers, which also fit superbly well for a first fitting. R. took in a touch around the side of each hip and lengthened the knee area, which was pulling just a bit when I was sitting down.

For future orders, R. recommended going with a straight finish (no fitting). He said it is actually a bit easier to fit a fellow with a trim build like myself since, compared to a more expansive figure, there is logically less surface area subject to distortions that pull and push the fabric. I was tempted to look at more fabrics but as R. mentioned it is probably best to go "softly, softly" for the first order. Sound advice most assuredly.

The normal procedure for overseas customers is of course finishing the suit with the marked adjustments and shipping it. However, as it turned out, I was in London last week for a business trip and stopped by 8 Savile Row for any final adjustments. After being kindly offered a cup of tea, I tried on the suit and was not disappointed. All the changes R. had noted in my forward fitting look to have been incorporated in the finished suit. There is no turning back to RTW or MTM after this!

I'll have to do a separate write up on the numerous shops in London I stopped by or walked in. My suspicions prior to my trip were correct - London is truly the mecca of men's clothing (at least until I visit or move to Naples, Italy).

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