Friday, July 31, 2009

Bespoke Madrid: Sastreria Jaime Gallo

Prior to visiting Madrid, I emailed the author of the El Aristocrata blog and he kindly recommended a number of tailors to visit. The three tailors he recommended were Larrainzar, Gallo or Calvo de Mora. I ended up visiting Sastreria Jaime Gallo (Calle Ayala 27) in the Salamanca area of Madrid.

When I walked into the shop around midday, I said hola and promptly asked for an English speaker. I ended up talking with a fellow named Fernando. We had a very informative chat and he was friendly enough despite Gallo's impressive reputation. In other words, I got the sense they do not live exclusively off their history and reputation alone, which is a good thing.

Jaime Gallo shop exterior

First some basic information. Operating since 1936, the store is open 10am to 2pm and 5 to 8pm. We talked about their fabrics, style and tailoring operations. In terms of fabrics, Gallo uses H&S, Gorino (a Spanish manufacturer), Dormeuil, Scabal, W. Bill as well as various shirtings. For new customers, a new suit may take six weeks and at least three fittings. Like the French tailors I visited in Paris last year, Gallo does not travel abroad.

Fernando described the style as leaning toward British (which I took to mean an English sensibility for fit and fabric) with a little dash of Italian aesthetics thrown in. Regarding the silhouette, he described Gallo's typical look in a couple of different ways. First, he emphasized that the "front is the most important." By this, he meant they focus particularly on the visual area formed by the chest and the lapels, namely, the balance between the two. The back should be "square and smooth". The "house" shoulder appears to be fairly straight but relatively soft with minimal padding.

Elsewhere on the mannequins, I saw slightly open front quarters and a traditional button stance around the lower ribs. The result is an appropriately conservative style and cut for the majority of Gallo's clientele. Everything, Fernando explained, is sewn by hand except the center back seam of the jacket (and presumably other straight seams).

The front half of the store consists of three tables, two of which were occupied by cutters during my visit. In the back was a large table where Fernando and I chatted. The head cutter, probably in his 70s or so, was also at this table cutting a grey chalkstripe jacket.

Jaime Gallo shop

We then walked to the rear of the shop where Fernando showed me two back rooms. One of them contained seven or eight sewers, all sewing and working by hand when we walked in. I also saw two or three sewing machines.

The anteroom in the back housed a couple of examples of the madrileno version of the Teba jacket. Similar to what I saw in Bel y Cia in Barcelona, there are two fabric types - summer and winter. At Gallo, you can order cloths in Scottish linen/cotton blends (Best) or tweeds by W. Bill. Fernando pulled out a winter Teba from the closet and showed where the customer had requested curved front quarters (marked in chalk). Traditionally, the Teba fronts are squared off he noted.

After my visit to Gallo, I also walked to Moises Cordova on Velazquez 96, walked in and had a brief exchange with the older gentleman manning the shop. He did not speak English, hence my visit to this tailor was abbreviated.

Incidentally, if you are near the Prado museum and looking for a bite to eat, check out Estado puro (las tapas de Paco Roncero), which is just around the corner from the Palace Hotel and serves excellent tapas. Try the Cantabrian anchovies with tomato and basil on bread and "Ali oli" (potatos in garlic and oil sauce).

Additional links
- London Lounge thread on Jaime Gallo

Updated March 2010

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sartorial Madrid: Teba jacket, Museo de Traje

I had a chance to stop by Madrid, Spain recently and enjoyed my stay in this stylish city, especially certain districts like the Salamanca area where the photo below was taken.

Madrileno wearing a Teba jacket

What I like about this gentleman is the candidness and lack of affect in wearing his tan Teba jacket. The Teba is just a matter of fact in his day-to-day life. The men's clothing forumites will no doubt have much to criticize with his choice of trouser color and/or a relatively low trouser rise. Ah well, he looks comfortable in my book.

Museo de Traje Madrid

For the "advanced" dresser, I also recommend a visit to the Museo de Traje (or Museum of Costume) which houses a strong historical collection of men's and women's clothing. Although the women's collection is more extensive, the museum offers a nice array of men's tailcoats and their evolution in the 18th and 19th century, as well as Spain's rich history of regional dress.

Also in the Salamanca district I walked into a men's store called Denis (Hermosilla 11), a kind of Spanish take on Anglo-American trad. The store's business card reads "Camiseria, Novedades, Articulos de Caballero". What I saw in the shop were: Alden shoes, Fox umbrellas, Fay vests, Christy's hats, private label shirts and private label espadrilles in canvas, green, brick red and blue (75 euros).

Next up is a description of my visit to the tailor Jaime Gallo.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hong Kong custom shoes: Kow Hoo and Mayer Shoe

During my stay in Hong Kong, I visited Kow Hoo Shoe in the Prince Building next to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. There were a few stand out shoes in the window display that wraps around this small bespoke shop. In particular, I was struck by a pair of tan suede brogues (five eyelets, chisel toe), a dark oak wholecut with a Goyser welt and a double strap monkstrap with an antiqued toe. The shape and design of the monkstrap looked very similar to the John Lobb Chapel model. The first order will take about eight months, subsequent orders about two months to complete.

Unfortunately, the store manager at Kow Hoo was not amenable to taking photos. So a potentially nice photo-op missed.

During one of my visits to A-Man Hing Cheong, I also visited Mayer Shoe, which is next door, to see their sample shoes and leather goods. In addition to bespoke shoes, they do custom leather accessories.

Macau tailors (aka alfaiataria)

During my recent trip to Hong Kong, I also took a day trip to the gambling fantasy land of Macau. However, unlike most of the visitors, I wasn't so interested in the casinos. Instead, I walked around the historic area of the Largo do Senado (see picture below) and stumbled across the shops of a couple of tailors on Rua de Sao Paolo.

Largo do Senado / Senate Square

In the photo below, the tailor Man Nga is on the left (with the white and brown sign) and Meng Cheong Alfaiataria is the white storefront on the extreme right in the photo below. At Man Nga I was quoted prices from MOP$3,800 to 5,300 (or about 500 to 700 USD). At both shops I saw half a dozen or so baste fitting jackets (body only, no sleeves). In the second shop I entered (Meng Cheong) the tailor had a pattern for trousers chalked out on the fabric lying on his worktable. He also said it takes about 10 days to make a suit. Both tailors spoke limited English. I was a bit surprised to see both Western and local fabric books: Guabello, Bower Roebuck and local/regional textile mills whose names I did not recognize.

Macau tailor storefronts

Since the basted jackets I looked at had a bit of shoulder padding, the tailors here probably favor a built up chest and shoulder line. Probably not advisable to barge in and demand cut-rate copies of Neapolitan shoulder jackets. However, oddly enough, the narrow streets of the old quarter in Macau did remind me of Naples a bit.

Macau side street in old quarter