Thursday, 17 July 2014

Forward Thinking for Autumn

It may be the height of summer, but the world of bespoke tailoring always runs ahead of itself. With a production time of two to three months for most bespoke garments, if you want something to be ready for Autumn, you have to get it ordered in mid-summer. With my summer wardrobe having received a much needed recent boost to get me through the rest of the season, (with the addition of a couple of pieces in 8oz fresco and a rather special linen and mohair cocktail suit by Chester Barrie) its time to start thinking about marshalling resources for autumn.

The cloth in question is a richly coloured, fun windowpane check in 12oz, fully milled worsted twill by Holland & Sherry.

This autumn is going to be an exceptionally exciting one. I have managed to secure a valuable internship within the industry, which I am looking forward to immensely. This of course heralds with it a number of changes that need to happen to my wardrobe; business dress options need enhancing and the next few purchases will need to be sufficiently versatile and business-like to wear to work. Another suit is however going to be out of the question for some time, given my highly limited finances as a currently unemployed graduate so other options must be explored. With this in mind, stumbling across a cut-length of what is ordinarily a highly exclusive jacketing cloth from the Holland & Sherry 'Peacock Jacketing' bunch was a truly ecstatic moment. The beauty of supplying a cut-length of cloth for bespoke orders is that your the doesn't have to undertake the expense of purchasing any cloth. For this reason, often customers who supply their own cloth can expect to pay entry level prices, this being something I have done repeatedly with my own bespoke commissions, to maximise affordability on a limited budget. This what allowed me to order my chocolate cocktail suit in what is ordinarily a very exclusive super 160s dresswear cloth.

A close-up of the sky blue checks, with a white yarn running through the centre of each stripe to enrich the blue colour.

Followers on Facebook may be aware that I was recently inspired by a photograph of a burned orange and sky blue checked sportscoat. Such a jacket, though potentially outlandish, can be surprisingly versatile. A deep, warm orange works with brown tones, contrasts with greys and harmonises with blues surprisingly well - making for a distinctive but nonetheless wearable staple. For this reason, I am hoping to scrimp and save over the next few months, with a view to having a bespoke sports coat made up come the autumn - a piece which will be used for a variety of different roles. A sportscoat which displays confident use of colour and check can be kept super-simple with a white cut-away collar and navy grenadine tie for the office, or can make for a stand-out cocktail jacket with some fine chocolate sharkskin trousers, a paisley pocket handkerchief and a striped blue shirt. For the same reasons it can also make for a great day-to-evening jacket with grey flannels and a classic shirt. Simply remove your tie and re-style your hanky for a more casual and sophisticated feel when you leave the office.

The photograph which got me thinking...

Also important to consider is the way in which a bold checked sportscoat could work with the remainder of my existing wardrobe. With two pairs of grey flannels on the way currently, (see The Grey Trouser Project), a navy blue three piece business suit and a navy and white double-breasted dogstooth suit (the turn-back cuffs of which will be removed before I start work to make it more appropriate for business), the sportscoat will mix and match nicely with my existing range of mid and heavy-weight trousers. The autumnal tones in the cloth are also very pleasing, with the burned orange of autumn leaves and rich honey brown tones of cedar trees. I firmly believe that the colours of one's wardrobe should reflect the seasons (demonstrating an affinity with the natural world hints at one's sensitivity when it comes to dressing) and a jacket cut in a ground shade of autumnal rusty tones is about as seasonal as it gets.

So there you have it really - consider this a case-study in thinking about constructing and maintaining one's tailored wardrobe through changing times and seasons. I hope that the consideration of a boldly checked sportscoat as a worthy addition to a modest capsule business-casual wardrobe demonstrates how every now and then, investing in something outlandish which has the potential to be every bit as versatile as a plain, classic suit shows that 'investments' don't all have to be navy and grey staples. Once a few basics have been dealt with, experimentation can pay excellent and satisfying dividends. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

London Collections Men, SS15: Ede & Ravenscroft: The Epitome of Relaxed Elegance

Savile Row tailors and gentlemen's outfitters Ede &Ravenscroft showcased an elegant and engaging collection at London Collections: Men, a collection which marks a definite change in direction for the brand. Having for many years been a deeply traditional outfitters, the arrival of new Head of Design Michael McGrath, together with a new plan of action for the brand has resulted in the transformation of the company's clothing and approach, to produce sartorial menswear which presents itself as slightly more progressive and contemporary. This new contemporary edge characterises the unusually relaxed, but ever elegant SS15 collection beautifully.

The navy linen, broad legged Oxford bags with inverted pleats and turn-ups are an archival piece, as are the turn-back cuffs on this linen herringbone blazer.

The collection takes its inspiration from the 'languid sophistication' of the English gentleman's attire during the early decades of the twentieth century and draws upon the colour palette of an English gentleman's spring garden; featuring gentle pastels, faded botanical shades and a base of cool earthy tones, updating the traditional colours of gentlemen's tailoring with a wealth of gentle blues, greens and taupe shades. The result is a collection of updated tailored pieces and more progressive casual clothing which present a contemporary yet authentic British tailored look for the warmer months. Linen suiting, cotton jackets and lightweight wool blends dominate, made-up into classic and softly structured garments.


Note the unusual button-down collar, inspired by Edwardian workwear. Its been designed to be worn without a shirt for a modern update.

Crucially, although markedly more contemporary, the collection has not lost any of its traditional and sartorial appeal and has achieved what is perhaps the perfect balance between tradition and modernity. This has been achieved through the dexterous combination of archival details and heritage touches with an ever so slightly more modern approach to styling and colour. The ensemble below demonstrates the point beautifully. The Oxford bag trousers and double-breasted waistcoat are both designs from the 1920s, taken directly from the company's archives and reinvented in pure linens and soft, pale pastel hues. Note also the functional arm-tab detailing on the shirt -  also taken from the company archives, all of which add a casual note to the tailored ensemble.

The pale pink linen double-breasted waistcoat is to die for. Apparently its coming with a matching blazer as well...

Other examples which demonstrate this balance between modernity and tradition include a fabulous spring three piece cotton suit, cut with a classic notched lapel, gently suppressed waist and simple straight cut jetted pockets. This classicism is then off-set with a double-breasted waistcoat and suit's vibrant French blue colour, as opposed to a classic navy.

These differences are subtle; cuts are very soft and remain sartorial (and remind me a little of Anderson & Sheppard's soft tailoring) but every piece has one accent or another which provides a more contemporary edge. Its a subtle combination, but has resulted in a collection which truly does combine English sartorial elegance with a seemingly carefree relaxedness and more than a touch of panache. My favourite piece was a pale sage green blazer, cut in a beautifully soft milled linen plainweave, with peaked lapels, the points of which were rounded - a decision which helped to soften their impact and somehow harmonise a soft cut with the soft texture and gentle mint colour of the jacket. It presents an understated, but inspired piece of menswear design and characterises the intelligence of the collection.

A fabulous double-breasted blazer with a pleasingly full and gentle shape, cut in a densely woven Italian linen hopsack. 

The deliberate restraint of the collection means that even those rather unconventional pastel coloured pieces still feel understated and easy to wear. Nothing is pushed too far; lapels are the perfect width, jackets are not structured too strongly and stylistic details are sparse, but perfectly placed. The complete absence of jacket ticket pockets from the collection is a good example, as is the decision to cut most jackets with classic horizontal jetted pockets, as opposed to slanting pockets. These help to keep all the jackets fuss-free and simple, allowing the quality of construction and innovative use of pastel colours to shine through. Also fascinating is the way in which the company's three hundred and fifty years worth of archives consistently inform those details which have made their way into the collection. Some sports coats have turn-back cuffs echoing the cuffs on a Royal Livery Uniform for example and new shirt collar shapes echo the collarless shirting worn by the Judiciary, and a modernised take on Edwardian button-down designs.


Note the modern take on an equestrian field coat, with military inspired cuffs on the left.

Next Spring and summer will bring with it an impressive, intelligently designed and highly welcome collection from Ede & Ravenscroft - a collection which combines traditional gentleman's dress with innovative use of colour and styling to produce a very fresh and sharp aesthetic. I for one can't wait for it to arrive.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Grey Trouser Project II: The First Basted Fitting

Grave news. A mixture of two months of a terrible diet during finals, followed by an intense period of cycling and running in an attempt to lose the weight I put on has problematised the trouser situation. This something which Mr John Baker, my tailor at Cad & the Dandy confirmed for me by looking my legs up and down and asking succinctly 'have you been doing any running lately?' Apparently this recent bout of inactivity followed by my chosen form of exercise has increased the size of my thighs by half an inch each, and my seat measurement has grown an inch in size...

The light grey gabardine, twin-pleated pair. The stretching and tightness across the thigh can clearly be seen.

This discovery took place as I squeezed myself into the skeleton baste of the two pairs of bespoke grey woollen trousers that I have on order from Cad & the Dandy. I have very much been looking forward to seeing these two trousers made-up at the basted fitting, because I wasn't sure how they were going to look or feel on - particularly the darker pair, cut in a 13oz charcoal cavalry twill. Fortunately, I am extremely pleased with how both trousers are shaping up. Both cloths have a softer handle than I thought they might, whilst remaining extremely strong and durable with plenty of body. I also feared that the cavalry twill might look a little old fashioned, but actually I am very pleased with how sharp they look. The chunky turn-ups have been basted onto both trousers and look great, and although the size issue with the trousers in the thigh means that the pleats are not draping properly (as they hopefully will be at the next fitting), the choice of twin pleats on the light grey twill and single inverted pleats on the cavalry twill were definitely the right decisions to make. The single inverted pleat keeps the cavalry twill looking relatively contemporary, whilst double pleats on the light grey twill suit the classic quality of the cloth itself.

The light charcoal cavalry twill pair. Again, the stretching around my hip and across my thigh can be clearly made-out.

With regards to fit, we obviously have an unexpectedly long way to go - but this is entirely my fault, due to my change in size meaning that I've outgrown what has up until now been an ideal pattern. Fortunately, both John and Mr Ryan Lovatt (who assisted at the fitting) offered me the attentive service you'd expect, quickly leapt into action and gave both pairs of trousers a very thorough examination. Their expert eyes determined that there are a number of things that need to be done with both pairs. Firstly, the waist of each trouser needs letting out half an inch, just to make sure that they're on the comfortable side of tight, just as I like them. Equally, due to the increase in the size of my rump, the trousers need easing out an inch through the seat. 

Here, the dragging of excess cloth on the rear half of the trouser across my seat can clearly be seen. 

In addition to these relatively hum-drum adjustments, two other rather curious technical alterations need to be made. Firstly, because my thighs have grown a little, the cloth across the thighs is stretched across the front of each leg, distorting the drape of the trousers and preventing the pleats from falling naturally. The solution is to ease another three quarters of an inch of cloth through the front of each leg, forwards from the front half of the outside seam, which will provide more fullness in the thighs and allow the trousers to hang naturally, releasing any kind of constriction. The extra cloth has to be supplied from the front half of the outside leg seam, because the fullness needs adding across the front of the thigh without moving the fall of the pleats out of alignment. If space was added to the back of the thigh, the trousers would lose their shape and their neat line, and no room would be added to the front of the leg where its needed.

Chalking the trouser side-seam where more cloth needs letting out to ease the front of the trouser. 

The final adjustment relates not to my change in size, but my posture. I have what tailors call a 'forward stance', meaning that I naturally stand in an erect position, with my chest and stomach pushed forward and my shoulders back with my spine curved. This means that the back of my trousers have to negotiate a spine which is very strongly curved and sloping, whereas the front of my trousers sit around a belly which is pushed outwards, giving them a slightly longer distance to drape through. The result is that the front of my trousers need to be ever so slightly longer than the back for the leg to hang effortlessly all the way round. Thus, the backs of my trousers needed 'picking-up' in the waistband to prevent the trousers from creating 'drag lines' round the curves of my seat. The act of picking-up the trousers allows for the removal of any excess cloth on the back half of the trouser, pulling up the whole rear of the trouser to improve its drape, and allowing the trouser to sit neatly around the curves of my seat without rippling and dragging.

 Here you can see the alterations that need taking to the seat of the trouser. The pins are picking-up the rear half of the trouser half an inch to allow the cloth to sit cleanly, and the chalk marks demonstrate where more space is needed in the fork of the trouser.

When you realise that a tailor has to negotiate changes in body shapes with every customer all of the time, you start to realise that even a pair of trousers - which are essentially formed from four panels of cloth and a waistband - can be a devil to fit to bespoke standards. Trousers not only have to fit perfectly around all areas of the leg, hips and seat, but have to hang off the waistband perfectly around its entirety. Such things are not always easily achieved, and my trousers attest to the technical difficulty of getting the fit and the hang of the trouser right when dressing a difficult body shape. Once these adjustments are made, I will have a second basted fitting with Cad & the Dandy and hopefully we'll be able to see the difference in shape and fit to better demonstrate the point.

Mr John Baker of Cad & the Dandy, modelling trousers which hopefully fit as perfectly as mine shall once completed...

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

London Collections Men SS15, Chester Barrie's 'Riveria Revisited'

Chester Barrie's LC:M presentation has to be the highlight of my sartorial year thus far. As expected, the company's SS15 collection was simply exquisite. Chester Barrie is a firm I have written about before at length, because it has truly cracked the winning menswear formula; presenting beautifully designed sartorial menswear, with a modern twist and superb levels of craftsmanship.

 This blue wool and mohair blended cocktail suit demonstrates perfectly the beautiful sweeping lines of Chester Barrie's house style. The turn-back cuffs on the coat are also a lovely touch.

Next summer's collection takes inspiration from and blends the two decades of the 1930s and 1970s to produce garments which in one way or another speak of the golden eras of the Riviera experience. The collection was filled with colour and glamour, with a heavy emphasis on decadent evening and cocktail dress. Likewise, occasionwear including a morning coat and a number of very elegant lounge suits are offered to fulfil the gentleman's wardrobe requirements for society events. Alongside its tailored pieces sits the company's ever more innovative casual wear, comprised of soft casual shirting, chinos and beautiful cable knit jumpers in bright shades for spring. The collection's mastermind, buyer and designer Christopher Modoo explained to me that the collection is intended to develop Chester Barrie's reputation as 'Tailors of the Unexpected' - the theme for their AW14 presentation in January.

Note the exclusive mother of pearl buttons, ground and polished to echo the sculpted shape of a horn button. Attention to detail such as this is what sets Chester Barrie apart from other sartorial designers.

Certainly, the application of colour and mixing of casual wear and tailoring in the collection is extremely unexpected, but as one might 'expect' of Chester Barrie, it has been pulled-off perfectly. The cotton madras checked smoking jacket is a particularly impressive piece, paired as it is above with soft, washed tailored shorts and a flamboyant linen scarf. The jacket was inspired by a very traditional tartan smoking jacket, revisited and reinvented as a flamboyant alternative dinner jacket for tropical climates.


Designer Christopher Modoo discussing the merits of the collection's cotton madras smoking jacket, a key piece.

In blending the tailoring of the 30s and the 70s, Chester Barrie's highly structured, elegant 30s influenced silhouette (overseen by Edward Sexton, who acts as Tailoring Consultant for the brand) is matched with outlandish 1970s approach to colour and proportion. The variation of lapel shapes in the collection was a tell-tale sign of this treatment; double-breasted blazers featured very broad lapels, whilst a number of relatively casual blazers with patch pockets were finished with dressy, sophisticated shawl lapels to keep a glamorous edge. On some suits, the company's signature peaked lapels have been re-cut with an even fuller belly, for an even more imposing shape.


This blazer presents a rather intriguing balance between casual and formal, with patched pockets offset against a shawl collar, more readily associated with dresswear.

The show was split across two floors, with the upper floor occupied by a series of rather rakish models dressed up to the nines in Chester Barrie's more contemporary dress, representing the 'Riviera' theme. Here, outfits mixed tailored pieces with casual wear, tropical pattered shirts, superfine linen scarves and a mixture of chinos and tailored shorts. Floral patterns and rich pops of colour punctuated these pieces, producing an aesthetic characterised by bold, modern statements. The two signature blazers pictured are the perfect example; on the one hand is very richly coloured turquoise jacket, with notched lapels and patched pockets making a light, airy summer blazer. On the other, the new 'Campari red' low-cut double breasted mixer jacket in a beautiful fresco cloth is about as strong as a statement can get, yet such is the poise of Chester Barrie's cut, it remains distinctly elegant and sartorial. 

The 'Campari red' blazer demonstrates the House's new low cut double-breasted style.

Despite all these inspired sartorial experiments, the collection remains true to Chester Barrie's roots, offering a number of equally elegant business suits and classical blazers alongside its dressier occasionwear. Three piece suits in smooth, glossy, summer-weight wools with understated tonal checks are set to be a strong feature for next spring and summer. A lot of work has also gone into the cutting of new waistcoat shapes, with a high-break single breasted model with a clean shawl lapel and a new low-cut and rounded shawl lapel double-breasted model. The prevalence of double-breasted waistcoats was a particularly welcome feature, given that such things are seldom offered off-the-peg and the creation of suits in super lightweight cloths makes the addition of a waistcoat not only feasible, but a welcome means to add a little stature to the wealth of summer two-pieces out there.

Yours truly in a rather lovely Chester Barrie blazer and tie, from this season's collection.

Once more, Modoo has masterminded a collection which is visually stunning, beautifully designed and which covers all areas of the gentleman's wardrobe, for both the conservative and flamboyant dresser. Its a collection to admire and which confirms Chester Barrie's reputation as an extraordinary modern tailors: the 'Tailors of the Unexpected'.


Modoo surrounded by models clad in highly glamorous samples of his collection, a job well done eh?

All images courtesy of Chester Barrie.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Spotlight on the Showroom IV: Ede & Ravenscroft Oxford

Ede & Ravenscroft's Oxford shop is one of those rare establishments one finds which simply exudes character. Tucked away between a pair of beautiful aged oak mullioned windows, one enters into a deeply comforting and traditional space filled with ornate oak panelling and exquisite Persian rugs - the architecture of which doesn't appear to have changed for the best part of a hundred years.


That's about the age of the store now too. The shop was first occupied in its current form by what was by all accounts an extremely charming independent country tailors founded during the early years of the twentieth century named 'Hall Brothers'. Hall Bros. was bought by Ede & Ravenscroft in the mid eighties, and Ede & Ravenscroft retained the store's original character, its purpose as a tailoring establishment and many of Hall Bros. staff. As we wander through the oaken doorways which separate the casual and formalwear departments, Assistant Manager Andrew Manning is keen to show me the thoroughly retro photographs in pride of place, depicting Mr. Carter (the shop's previous owner) and his bespoke tailoring in all its glory during the mid 40s. Similar photographs and fashion plates which Andrew charmingly refers to as 'the store's living history' decorate each and all of the shop's nooks and crannies and certainly bring home to the curious customer the rich history of the shop. They also reveal the origins of Ede & Ravenscroft itself; a number of ancient illustrations of the academic, legal and clerical robes which were the original products of Ede & Ravenscroft adorn the walls too. The company was formed in 1689, not as a civilian tailors, but as a specialist robe makers, this being something which the firm still specialises in today. Indeed, so great is the firm's specialist knowledge that Ede & Ravenscroft can claim to have provided ceremonial robes for the coronation of almost every British monarch over the last three hundred years.


Towards the rear of the store in the made-to-measure department, alongside the wealth of swatch books, tape measures and shirting collar samples stand three framed letters sent to the store both from the Principals of Magdalen and Balliol colleges and from none other than the Prince of Wales, all of which are thanking the late Mr. Carter for his services. Hall Bros. is thought to have been the very creator of the infamous 1920s 'Oxford bags', an attribution which Ede & Ravenscroft guard proudly to this day. Readers will see in my forthcoming article on the company's recent London Collections: Men presentation that next year's spring/summer collection will feature a number of rather lovely linen Oxford Bags, the designs of which come directly from the Hall Brothers archives.

Andrew and I return to the front of the store and talk through a few of his favourite pieces of the moment. 'One piece I've particularly enjoyed this season is our new Edinburgh contemporary fit two piece' - Andrew shows me a handsome, lightweight suit cut in a rich, glossy indigo plainweave which I've admired in the shop window many times before. 'The Edinburgh cut is perfect for this season. It still has structure but the chest piece is lighter and the shoulder has a slightly softer roll.' The suit also features single button closure, a slighter closer cut than Ede & Ravenscroft's classic block and more suppression in the waist for a marvellously elegant and effortless summer suit.

It is at this point that Andrew confidentially imparts to me the secret of the company's mastery of understated elegance: 'we try to put only one piece of extravagant design into each garment. On this, because the cloth is very rich in colour, the cut must remain understated. If we started adding ticket pockets or huge peaked lapels, the suit's understated quality would be lost'. This attitude is what makes Ede & Ravenscroft such a wonderful modern gentleman's outfitter - every piece is thought through meticulously and is intended to provide an effortlessly elegant product for the customer - something which can be worn with confidence and the minimum of effort, to produce a very stylish, easy sartorial aesthetic.


The company's new 'Urban Tweeds' are the ideal example of this easy sartorial style. Proudly displayed on mannequins throughout the Oxford shop are a number of lightweight tweed jackets, made up once more in softly structured, contemporary cuts, this time from beautifully soft milled tweeds, woven exclusively for Ede & Ravenscroft by the prestigious Scottish tweed specialists Lovatt, in warm blues and greys. The result is a highly versatile jacket, ideal for wearing in all seasons and environments - hence the concept of its being an 'urban' tweed for use in town as well as country. Perfect for the debonair, modern gentleman.

It is highly exciting to sense the company's pride in its extraordinary history and heritage, but also exciting is the sense that Ede & Ravenscroft is focused on transforming itself into the quintessential modern outfitter, one which is seeking not just to provide traditional clothing, but to mix tradition with the contemporary and with modern menswear design. The Oxford shop epitomises this combination, filled with archival material and oozing a palpable sense of history and heritage, whilst catering to the quintessentially modern, forward thinking gentleman.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

London Collections: Men SS15, Some Opening Thoughts

So, another LC:M has passed on with all the glamour, style and vivacity expected of such a prestigious event. As usual, with the passing of LC:M, I'm going to offer some in-depth insights and commentary on specific sartorial brands and collections over the coming weeks, but for now, some initial impressions are the order of the day. Having attended the presentations for both Ede &Ravenscroft and Chester Barrie, as well as exploring the collections of a number of other sartorial brands presenting this season, the reception of stylish British tailoring seems to have more encouraging than ever, with global fashion icons, industry professionals and powers alike admiring sartorial British style.

A lightweight wool blazer with powerful lapels by Chester Barrie

As you can imagine, Savile Row is at the centre of much of this admiration, and with good reason. Each house exhibiting provided something truly unique this season and it seems clear that Savile Row as an entity is gaining confidence in itself, starting to realise the power of its rich heritage and even richer brand identity. Designers seemed more willing to experiment than during AW/14 back in January, which in itself was a show that demonstrated Savile Row's intentions to produce a notably more innovatory tailored product. The bold use of deep, rich block colour or else super-sharp pastels was prevalent in all the sartorial designs this season. Hardy Amies presented a selection of tailored separates cut in bold primary colours alongside more muted tones of soft blue and cyan. Ede & Ravenscroft have produced a collection which marks a definite change in direction, drawing upon archival designs and cuts (including full-cut Oxford bags, double-breasted waistcoats and broad peaked lapels) updated with a precise colour palette of gentle  pastel hues. Not what you might expect from one of the previously more sober outfitters on the Row. Gieves & Hawkes created a very rich collection revolving predominantly around the sharp, cool blues and greys of a clear spring sky, an extremely bold act one which feels distinctly fashion-forward in character. Chester Barrie have designed a collection based on the golden era of the glamorous French Riviera, presenting a huge variety of extremely elegant cocktail and party dress options, including French blue and cream cocktail suits and bold 'Campari red' and teal fresco mixer blazers.

One of my favourite looks from Ede & Ravenscroft

The quality of cloths chosen and the superior quality of garment construction were both particularly apparent this season. Tailoring for the warmer months has to overcome a number of unique challenges; often summer weight cloths will be highly lightweight and breathable, but fragile. Consequently, many summer cloths can suffer from a poor drape or lack of durability. Choosing heavier cloths, or cloths with denser weaves may produce a more durable garment, but can result in poor breathability and excess weight, making tailored pieces unpractical for wear during hot weather. Such challenges are not so prevalent in creating tailoring for autumn and winter and often frustrate the quality of spring/summer collections, but not this season. Chester Barrie presented a collection which made deft use of featherweight, yet strong, supple wool cloths and mohair and silk blends, whilst Gieves & Hawkes and Richard James offered garments cut in superfine cotton and linen cloths of a very superior quality, which had both body and breathability. Ede & Ravenscroft's collection made particularly fine use of linen cloths which whilst having the softness and airiness expected of pure linen, also presented resistance to creasing and crispness of handle.

Cool blue suiting by Gieves & Hawkes

Everything was cut and finished beautifully too, and the presentation highlights very clearly how Savile Row is starting to turn its unparalleled technical brilliance to producing off-the-peg tailored pieces which are exceptionally flattering on the wearer. Lapel gorges and bellies were cut just-so, silhouettes were immaculate and chests were lovely and full throughout. Even down to the use of hand-finishing and in the choice of especially crafted buttons, the Row's attention to detail did not go unnoticed.

In essence, this LC:M presented the image of an already burgeoning and confident Savile Row growing even more self-assured and self-aware. With all these markedly progressive sartorial experiments, at no point was the essence of Savile Row lost. Collections were pitched perfectly between traditional British tailoring and modern, fashionable elegance. Everything felt reassuringly well crafted, meticulously considered and silhouettes remained strongly sartorial in shape. For a sartorial tailoring obsessive such as myself, Savile Row's various offerings were simply a delight to behold. To my mind at least, it seems as though the unconventional is becoming the convention, modernity is being worked into the classically sartorial and Savile Row is finding a new self-confidence. 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Breathability

It is well and truly hotting-up at the moment, which suggests that its an apposite time to continue my recent spate of articles on various menswear websites about how to get summer tailoring right, why it is so difficult to do this and why it really is worth investing time and effort into suiting-up in the sun.

I really, really do understand the temptation to simply forget tailoring as soon as the season warms up a little, and to throw on cargo shorts and a shirt - tailored clothing can be hideously uncomfortable in the heat of the sun. However, a staunch supporter of tailored style such as myself will always swear that if you're uncomfortable in tailoring (for whatever reason) you're more than likely wearing it wrong. The difficulty with this sometimes, is that often men don't have the time or money to invest in supremely expensive tailoring and a lot of the time the high street's offering (especially in summer) simply compounds the issue of feeling uncomfortably hot in clothing which is made to a budget, rather than with the thought required to ensure that it will actually be wearable in the heat. With this in mind, in simple terms, I'd suggest that there are three things to look for in order to get summer tailoring right - good quality summer tailoring is out there and it is worth investing in. 

Jackets like this Chester Barrie blazer featuring an open-weave, lightweight fresco cloth, a half-lining and a soft, lightweight construction are the perfect means to beat the heat this season.

The first is garment structure - particularly with regard to jackets. Many high street labels make their summer tailoring using precisely the same materials and manufacturing process as they do their winter garments. The result is that all of the structure of winter tailoring is imported into summer clothing which needs to be softer and lighter to survive the heat. Good summer jackets are softly constructed, often with a slightly slimmer or softer shoulder pad and less density of canvassing and structure in the chest. This aids flexibility, lightness and ultimately comfort in the heat. I'm not arguing for completely unstructured jackets (although they do present an interesting alternative) but simply suggest that it is worth remaining acutely aware of the amount of rigidity and weight in the actual construction of any summer jackets you consider. Italian style soft-tailoring is often considered the best option for summer, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you should discount British makers; Aquascutum and Richard James have some fantastic blazers with light structures and natural shoulders in stock this season and Chester Barrie are producing garments which retain a strong shoulder and classically English silhouette, but which nonetheless feel light and airy thanks to the quality of the canvassing used in their jackets.

Cloth is the second consideration, and although it may appear to be an obvious thing to think about, there can be some pit-falls here. Weight is of course important, and summer cloths should be limited to no more than nine ounces in weight (preferably eight or even seven and a half for extreme temperatures) but equally important is the  composition of the cloth itself. Summer cloths, regardless of whether they are made from wool, cotton, mohair or linen all need to be woven with an open structure to allow the cloth to breath. If the cloth can't breath, then neither can your body. Not only will you become increasingly uncomfortable and sweaty, but your clothing will not allow you to cool down and any degree of perspiration incurred will not be wicked from your person. Basket-weave summer weight wools, frescos, plainweave linens and mohairs or appropriate loosely woven blends are the only choices for tailoring designed to counteract the summer heat. It is well worth spending that little bit extra on a couple of pieces cut in purpose-built, highly breathable cloths.

The final thing that is often overlooked is the lining of any jacket or trouser you might choose to wear in summer. The vast majority of modern garments (including many bespoke garments) will feature a synthetic lining of some form, woven from viscose, polyester or possibly something like polyamide. These are all polymers or poly-carbonates, which means essentially that they are a type of plastic. Plastics quite obviously don't breath and allow very little air or moisture to circulate through the garment. This, as you can imagine, is perhaps the single most problematical factor for poorly designed summer tailoring. Always choose a lining made from a natural fibre (cupro is good for summer) if ordering bespoke and I would recommend that you strictly impose the rule to only invest in half-lined jackets and unlined or minimally lined trousers for summer tailoring. The half or 'buggy' lining will leave large portions of your back and shoulder exposed to the natural cloth itself, allowing a significant portion of your torso to breath easy. The same applies to trousers, with no lining in them, your thighs won't heat-up half as much as they might otherwise. Follow these tips, and you'll be cool as a cucumber all summer long.