A bespoke suit that makes you feel exceptional each time you wear it is a wardrobe staple. The top tailors from the world’s fashion capitals. By Francesca Fearon
Click here to see a gallery of stunning suits designs by Gieves & Hawkes, Zegna, Canali, Kilgour, Ralph Lauren, Brioni, Tom Ford and Richard James.
Gieves & Hawkes
Founded in 1785, this is one of Britain’s oldest traditional men’s outfitters, once commissioned to make uniforms for Lord Nelson and the Royal Navy. Positioned at No 1 Savile Row, it could be called the cornerstone of the tailoring world. A bespoke suit (from £3,850) can take 10-12 weeks to complete, with three fittings. A made-to-measure suit, choosing from seven suit blocks, takes up to 10 weeks and is partly made in Italy. The process starts with a discussion about the lifestyle and needs of the customer and the way he likes to wear a suit, be it fitted or looser. The cutter will take the measurements and follow the bespoke suit through the various processes from cutting to finishing, by which time the suit has passed through the hands of 20 craftsmen handling individual processes. It takes patience, but an impeccable suit like this will last for years.
It is the superfine wools, wool-silk blends, cashmere and mohair cloths (produced in a mill in the Italian Alps) that are the driving force and distinct advantage of Ermenegildo Zegna’s master tailoring. The cloths, which they have been weaving for just over 100 years, are rated amongst the best in the world – Zegna has been supplying Savile Row for two decades. There are around 450 fabrics, patterns and colours to choose from when ordering a suit from Zegna. It prides itself on swiftly turning round a luxury quality suit in four weeks with only two fittings with their Su Misura custom-tailored service (from £3,280). Clients choose from a template and are measured by specialist staff in flagship boutiques, then artisans in Italy individually cut and make the suit. The couture suit is largely handmade, down to the label that bears the customer’s name.
Founded in 1934 by brothers Giovanni and Giacomo Canali and still family-run, Canali has grown from a small artisan workshop in Lombardy to an international business with production centres all over Italy, and is regarded as one of Italy’s finest suitmakers. A Canali suit is made with precision and great attention to detail, preserving the original values of craftsmanship and quality. There are more than 200 cloths to choose from in the made-to-measure service, the best of which are the superfine 220s and 230s
and a ludicrously luxurious vicuna. Turn- around is about four weeks (POA). On the catwalk their suits are much sharper with slightly shortened, slimmer-cut trousers and turn-ups. However, that is only an indication of the new mood in menswear. When it comes to made to measure, it is up to the customer.
A favourite of the perennially elegant Cary Grant, this Savile Row outfitters is known for distinct pinstripes, grey sharkskin, pronounced tweeds and black tailoring. Its lean, post-1950s silhouette pre-dates Helmut Lang or Hedi Slimane by more than 40 years. After a recent foray into the designer world, Kilgour, which has been around since 1882, has gone back to its roots to focus on impeccable bespoke tailoring. Each suit takes around 80 man hours and eight weeks to complete. Each client is assigned their own expert cutter who remains with them from start to finish to ensure a meticulous personalised service. A Kilgour bespoke suit is instantly recognisable in cut and style, with a full chest and specifically shaped shoulder and lapel on the jacket. The bespoke offerings start at £3,750.
From scraping a living as an itinerant tie salesman to becoming America’s most powerful fashion brand, Ralph Lauren lives the American dream, cannily using fantasy archetypes to promote his styles, from Wall Street slicker to tweeded landed gent or denimed cowboy. With great taste he recreates the gentleman’s club atmosphere in his flagship stores – such is the ambience that the only thing missing is the cigar smoke. Here you’ll find a made-to-measure tailoring service available. Both the premium Purple Label and now Black Label are tailored to fit in an exclusive range of fabrics (clients chose from a swatch book), with all the finishing completed in Italy. The eight-week service (from £2,820) is by appointment, with a specialist assisting with suiting, shirts made to order and accessories from engraved cufflinks to trunks.
Whether parachuting from the Eiffel Tower, crashing and rolling his Aston Martin or sipping a martini, the unflappable James Bond always manages to look cool. This could have something to do with the dapper spy’s taste for Brioni tailoring: Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig join Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan and Al Pacino in choosing to wear these beautiful handmade Italian suits. Such is the attention to detail that there are 220 processes to make one jacket. Each of Brioni’s stores has its own master tailor who can measure up a client for a glove-fitting suit by just looking at his posture and gait. Styles, fabrics, details and accessories are discussed, with full bespoke suits starting at £4,000. There is also a 24-carat-gold fine pinstripe for £12,000, and a super-luxurious vicuna and silk suit for £40,000.
This designer created a slick, oversexed aesthetic that transformed Gucci into one of fashion’s biggest powerhouses during the 1990s. In 2004 he walked away from it to make movies, only to make a comeback three years later with his own-brand menswear collection, which debuted in Manhattan and now has 22 stores including outlets in Harrods and Selfridges. “I want the really good service and quality
of product of traditional brands that at the same time makes your butt look good,” he quipped at the launch. There is one key style of suiting that can be made to measure in Italy. It offers a wide choice of cloths and buttons; costs for a piece in a Super 100 wool start at £1,950 for a two- piece and £2,650 for a three-piece. There are also some very elegant made-to-order velvet jackets reminiscent of the aesthetic in Ford’s Oscar-nominated film A Single Man.
He has been in Savile Row for two decades but among its centuries-old establishments Richard James is still considered a new blade. His lilac tweeds and orange jackets raised a few eyebrows in the early days, but nevertheless appealed to his more flamboyant clientele – Elton John and Bryan Ferry were fans. James opened a second store dedicated to bespoke in 2007 and there is a now a refined, sober look to his tailoring, which is worn by Prince William and Ralph Fiennes. British tweeds and classic Prince of Wales
checks feature among the finest worsted wools that can be tailored to a client’s specific requirements on site. James’ distinct look is a two-buttoned single-breasted suit with a longer, more waisted jacket and deep side vents. A bespoke suit is from £3,000.
This feature is taken from the November/December 2011 edition of SuperYacht World. Click here to buy the issue for your iPad.