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Modernising Bespoke

A suit is no longer the core of a man’s wardrobe. The world has been reshaped into a more casual place, albeit one where exclusivity, quality and perfection of fit is still something a certain man demands. The customer who may veer towards true bespoke tailoring, where a pattern is cut afresh from their precise measurements, wants a bespoke approach to their everyday wardrobe. And worlds have collided – Henry Poole on Savile Row, one of the most storied bespoke-focused houses on The Row has been working on collaborations with Adidas and Canada Goose, while maverick bespoke tailor Timothy Everest, who trained under Tommy Nutter, has shifted his focus into what he calls “bespoke casual”. “It’s a natural progression,” he says, of his jackets, chinos and shirts available with numerous tweaks to detail and fit. “These are easy to wear pieces, but with a tailor’s eye. Many of my customers have become more casual but still want to be elegant.”


Many of the stalwarts around Savile Row have adapted their strict, true bespoke principals to the contemporary customer. “We are in a special position,” says Davide Taub, head cutter at Gieves & Hawkes. “We get to meet our customers face to face, we aren’t just imagining what someone will buy into – we get to observe someone’s idiosyncracies and style. We create work inspired by them. Menswear didn’t get preserved in aspic in the 1960s.” This has led to offbeat but beautiful bespoke interpretations of what you might call classic sportswear, including an ‘Alpine Jacket’ similar in style to what you may find at Moncler or Brunello Cucinelli, but made from a bespoke pattern and to remarkable specifications. “It is quilted,” explains Taub, “but not in a synthetic fabric, it’s in 100% wool, bonded with a film underneath to be waterproof, and then quilted. It’s a garment for life.” 


The suit does, of course, still has its place in this brave new casual world. But it too is changing. “People want ever lighter, more wearable cloths and less structure,” says Sean Dixon, founder of Richard James, who points out that quality remains fundamental: “Cutting bespoke lightly structured suits is a highly skilled business. Some seventy man hours of work goes into making a bespoke Savile Row suit and that isn’t going to change.”


While many men are comfortable with a traditional tailor, many younger customers want to embrace the idea of a suit but on their terms. Modernist tailoring house Pokit is an appointment only London-based operation, run by creative director Bayode Oduwole. There is a set template of their suits, inspired more by late 20th century workwear than 19th century luxury, and each is available semi-bespoke, using a basted or skeleton fitting. “We make a more relaxed fashion-led suit,” says Oduwole.  “Our design and style philosophy appeals to our mainly creative clientele. Modern bespoke is increasingly about style, not merely a value proposition that justifies the labour and craft.”

Casely-Hayford, founded by the late Joe Casely-Hayford and his son Charlie, offers a made to measure and semi-bespoke tailoring, as well as a new concept – their more casual designs are available made to measure. It’s here that the market blurs, and suggests where fashion is going. “Our clients have historically come to us because we offer a new take on the bespoke process,” explains Charlie. “As the menswear landscape has evolved, the demands of the modern creative has shifted away from suits. We opened our Chiltern Street store in reaction to this demand and expanded into other casual areas like made to measure shirt jackets, suede jackets, bombers, jeans, drawstrings trousers. We think of it as slow fashion.”


For some clients loyal to Savile Row, true bespoke will always be the only way to go. And those landmark tailoring houses continue to keep up with the aforementioned next wave men’s outfitters. “We can offer the client an endless variety of bespoke choices,” says Eithen Sweet, head of bespoke at Thom Sweeney. “Bomber jackets, over shirts and denim jackets have become some of our staple bespoke products. We think that bespoke tailoring should hold its place no matter how much the crowd changes around it.”

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