Some time ago, I ordered a bespoke suit from Raphael in NYC. Â I travel to New York occasionally on business, and based on Marc Grayson's recommendation, I thought a bespoke suit from Raphael might be a nice treat. Â I have to say that I was a bit skeptical, as I am a big fan of WW Chan for bespoke suits, and couldn't see how Raphael could be much better. Â Â First Visit: I visited Raphael in his unassuming office off of Madison Avenue, picked out some fabric, and got measured for the suit. Â The fabric I chose was a dark blue wool/cashmere blend with a light blue pinstripe. Â I picked a three piece suit with a pair of high-waisted split back pants designed for suspenders. Â The vest has a small lapel. Â Second Visit: A couple of months later, I came in for my first fitting of the basted suit. Â It was already starting to take shape, and I could tell it was going to look nice. Â The vest was very small, the pants needed a bit of adjustment in the front, but overall it was coming together well. Raphael thought he could finish the suit without the need for another fitting. Â A little help from my local tailor: Some weeks later, Raphael called. Â He was ready to finish the sleeves, but he didn't want to cut the button holes until he was certain that the fit was correct. Â He send me the jacket Fed Ex, and I took it to my local tailor, who measured and marked the sleeves. Â I then sent the jacket back to Raphael Fed Ex (at his expense) for him to finish. Â Not quite there yet: About a month later, I receive the finished suit. Â The pants fit well, the vest was quite a bit too small, and the jacket fit well, but one of the sleeves had a strange puckering of the fabric. Â I called Raphael, and he was distressed that the suit didn't fit. Â He told me not to let anyone but him make any alterations to it, and said that he would make it fit perfectly on my next trip to New York. Â Third Visit: Â As it turned out, it wasn't long before my next NYC trip, so I got to visit him relatively soon. Â I tried the suit on in his shop. Â The pants, which I thought fit perfectly, were not quite perfect to his eye, which seems inhumanly keen and discerning of 1/16 inch discrepancies. Â The vest and jacket he also sized up and figured out what to do. Â I left the suit with him, and he had the alterations done within 24 hours. Â Fourth Visit: Â When I returned for the last time, it was all done. Â The jacket and pants met with his approval, but he still didn't like the fit of the vest, so he kept it with him to do another minor tweak to the fit, then Fed Exed it to me two days later. Â The finished suit: Â Finally, I have the full suit, and I can say without reservation that it is perfect. Â It is perfect because Raphael's standard is perfection, as opposed to "good enough." Â He is able to notice fit and construction issues that I would overlook, and his standards are higher than mine (and I have pretty high standards.) Â For example, although I thought that the vest looked good on my last visit, he insisted on taking it back and altering one of the seams by 3/16 of an inch so as to improve the way that the lapel of the vest lays on my chest. Â After his alteration, it does in fact look better than before. Â This is by far the nicest suit I have ever seen or worn. Â The drape and fit is exactly right. Â It fits my body perfectly, but is constructed so that I have full freedom of movement. Â It is a true work of art. Â The pants in particular are made like no other pants I've seen. Â Even my made to measure Oxxford suit pants (my previous pants benchmark) are not so nicely constructed. Â Marc was right. Â Raphael is truly at the pinnacle of tailors. Â Construction and fit is better than anything else I've worn, including my MTM Oxxford, bespoke WW Chan, and RTW Kiton. Â The fit, look, and feel of the Raphael suit is simply in a different class. Â Â So, the question: Â Is Raphael worth the money? Â After all, I can buy 3 extremely nice bespoke suits from WW Chan (about $1000 each) for the price of one of Raphael's suits (about $3000 and up each). Â Well, I guess it is to me. Â Unlike 10 or 12 years ago when I was just building my wardrobe and was buying quite a few suits every year, I am now mostly just replacing and upgrading the suits in my wardrobe. Â I'm looking for quality above all else right now, and Raphael delivers. Â For my next suit, however, I'm going to go a bit slower, and allow Raphael to do two full fittings before finishing the suit. Â Because of my erratic travel schedule, this may add months to the timeline, but I think that one of the lessons learned from my first experience is that no matter how talented your tailor, you really can't skimp on the fittings if you want a true bespoke suit (particularly if you tailor insists on perfection.) P.S. I will post pictures in the next few days.
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5/5/04 at 2:44am