Monday, 17 February 2014

When a Tailor Says No...

I attended a wedding last weekend, and at the reception was introduced (amongst many delightful people) to a gentleman with whom I predictably began to talk tailoring. We were talking about what makes brands (particularly menswear brands) feel truly special to us, and one of the many interesting points made by the other party, is that he likes to be dressed (and I gather have suits made) by some friends of his at Hackett, because the staff there are confident enough to say 'no' to his requests when they don't think he's right.

Image courtesy of Cad & the Dandy

This is something we agree is extremely special, and it leads me to a shopping recommendation - when you first visit a tailor or a menswear shop, do not be afraid to pose questions and make suggestions specifically in order to test how the staff react. Every salesman aims to accommodate his customer and ultimately to sell their product, but should a salesman advise against certain things - this often is an indicator of real expertise and integrity - a sure sign that you'll receive the best service by staff who really understand what works for their customers.

This is hugely important with menswear, because, as the gentleman I was chatting too put it 'it gives you the confidence to walk out in style, knowing what you're wearing is right' and I don't believe that you can put a price on that. With the best will in the world, even the most obsessive customers (myself included) can come up with a wealth of ideas and inspirations for how we would like to dress, but barely any customer can claim to be an expert. Finding a service which can offer true expertise, and the confidence to say 'no' to a customer when something isn't right, rather than just make an easy sale, is therefore a real boon.

The basted fitting of my latest suit, review coming soon...

For the gentleman I was chatting with, the latest 'no' was a refusal by his tailor at Hackett to slim down his trousers more so than he already had. The tailor did not wish to spoil the line of the trousers by making them too skinny, and the trousers had already been slimmed down (and rightly so - take a look at my latest Mensflair column for a view on this) by him already. I myself find that my tailors politely say 'no' and direct me to alternative ideas on a frequent basis, and it has helped me to learn about what works and what doesn't.

The first time I walked in there, I ordered a three piece, and requested that the waistcoat have full-darts - the answer came back that I didn't need them, as full-darts are a means to enable waistcoat to sit on fuller figures, and so half darts it was. Similarly, the trouser pleats I asked for would look better as twin pleats, rather than single. On my latest suit (a review is coming soon to here and I requested 5" lapels - thankfully I was beaten down to 4.5". It seems then, that luxury menswear is one of those few remaining industries, where you really can't put a price on expert advice, and it is a real privilege to find an outfitter who is prepared to say 'no' in order to offer a service with true integrity and get things right.


  1. I really hope I can find a professional who's opinion I trust, while still being flexible enough to produce suits different to his 'house style' and current fashion trends if it's what I'm after

  2. Also I need to think of some 'out there' ideas to propose to a potential tailor to see if they object. Any ideas?

    1. Dear Dom,

      I quite agree, finding a tailor with a house style that suits you is an important consideration, but tailors know their business, and often its more difficult to find a house style you don't like than one you do. It seems from the ongoing discussion on Mensflair that you're making progress in finding a suitable tailor which is good to know.

      With regards to questions for tailors, I think that you'll find that questions come quite naturally once you start shopping around - if you want trousers to have certain pleat or pocket shapes for example, often they'll recommend the best
      combination. A good question to ask relates to lapel gorge, where they place it, and what they think would best suit your figure. If they sound confident in their response, that's probably a sign that you're in good hands, because getting the lapel gorge right for the customer's body/what the customer wants can be tricky.

      I hope that helps,


  3. I disagree ... as a fashion designer/tailor I always like to go against the grain of convention ... I have found learning from 3 master tailors the old traditional hand work of tailoring is a great skill asset for me but these tailors are stuck in an anachronistic way . Learning from them I never question why I should be cutting and making up with their own methods ; each Tailor has their own system of cutting and making a suit .. what I have found being supervised By my teacher/ tailors when I'm making suits for my own clients that the tailors have convinced the clients to have a certain suit stylistically cut and made the way they see fit not the customers way .. I have just finished a suit for a customer under supervision of a great master Italian tailor ..the customer wanted a kick at bottom of trouser a slight flare and less baggy at knee.. I cut pattern to accommodate this but tailor said my pattern was too tight at knee and too flared at bottom he recut patten making knee 20 and hem 20 ....when I made trousers and had fitting customer did not like cut of trouser and so I resewed trouser to my original pattern not my master teachers notion and now I have a happy customer. This has happened with jackets as well .....some tailors are stuck in their own systems . .I will always give my customer what he/she wants and being a fashion designer I like to be creative with suits ...but I do pay homage to my teachers who are real artisans and cut great fitted suits ... I am always learning each day new techniques on suit making from these grandmasters of the cloth


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