Although this write-up is somewhat dilatory, I guess it is better late than never! Here are my final thoughts on my first bespoke “experience.” Of course, if anyone has any questions about taking the plunge, feel free to ask!
As long as I have been a clothes horse, I have shopped online. There is something addicting about the process: waiting for the drop … scrolling through the pictures … wavering over the course of several days … selecting what you want … inputting your credit card information … clicking “submit” … waiting for the shipment confirmation … refreshing the tracking information … waiting for delivery … and finally, opening the box. The instant gratification – combined with delayed gratification – is nothing short of addicting. In that regard, I guess it is only fitting that one of my largest clothing-related purchases ended with the process I know so well. I received the suit on Friday, September 18, 2015, and have now had two weeks to gather and clarify my thoughts. Here we go!
Before we start, let me clarify one point. Back in December of 2014, my expectations were high, but they really were not that high. Time and time again, on Styleforum and other mediums, I have read countless stories by many a poser warning people to lower their standards with respect to their first bespoke commission. Numerous times I have read that with the first suit, there will be imperfections. The back will not be completely clean, the shoulders may not be perfect, etc. So I kept my standards in check. To be completely honest, when I walked in to see Chris that day, I did not really intend to order a suit from him. I was not in a place where I was wearing a suit every day, so it was not a purchase I necessarily needed. But the love Chris has for what he does is infectious, and I walked out of his atelier that day with my first bespoke order. Fast forward a few months. Again, my expectations were not that high. Then I tried the suit on. Then, after a few changes, I tried the suit on again. My expectations were growing. For me, the “end” of bespoke is having a tailor make a garment that reflects the version of you that you want to see. And I can understand how that may take some trial and error. But Chris takes great pains to accomplish that end. Accordingly, by the end of the process, I really do not think that my expectations could be higher. Fortunately, and perhaps unsurprisingly, he has met every one of my ever-growing expectations, and then some.
The suit itself is immaculate. The inside and outside stitching is very clean. The buttonholes are even cleaner. The style of buttonhole is referred to by Chris as “asola lucida” – it is rather similar to a Milanese buttonhole. Regardless of the nomenclature, it is very, very lovely. On the whole, the finishing is nothing short of perfect. I have yet to find any faults. I have examined a decent amount of Neapolitan garments, which have a certain charming messiness, and there is none of that here (although I certainly see why that rumpledness is attractive – I actually really enjoy it!).
Which brings us to the silhouette. It is my personal opinion that Chris makes one of the finest – and in my opinion THE finest – business suit of any tailor. No detail is an afterthought. I find that my suit has a very elegant silhouette. It is soft, but it has enough structure to maintain its shape; it is shapely, but it is not so suppressed that it is effeminate; the shoulders are strong, but there is little to no padding. Chris does not really have a house style that is easily identifiable. Sure, there are some defining characteristics, i.e., the slight belly to the lapels, the nipped waist, and forward-canting shoulders, the closely cut jacket, etc. But take a gander at Patrick R’s suit, and compare it to mine, and it is apparent that they are two very different jackets. Chris focuses on making a suit that the customer sees himself in. I was wearing a Eidos jacket with wide lapels and open quarters when I first saw Chris, reflected on what I did and did not like about the jacket, and it is very clear that he took my likes and dislikes into account in making a suit for me. His second focus is really making sure that the suit is executed with as much technical perfection as possible (he takes great pains to ensure that patterns match, that the fit is perfect—see infra).
Depending on how you look at it, this is a bit of a double-edged sword. A Despos suit is not as easily identifiable as a Liverano suit, or a Rubinacci suit, or a Cifonelli suit, or even a Steed suit. Because Chris adapts his “house style” to such a great extent to his customer, it does, in a sense, diminish his “brand.” On the other hand, the house style of some tailors simply does not suit (pun intended) some clients. Steed looks great on Vox. But I have seen quite a few Steed suits that look extremely underwhelming on others, especially those who are particularly hip-py. On the other hand, I have yet to see a single suit by Chris that did not fit extremely, extremely well, no matter the client’s physique, form, etc. To summarize, although whatever “house style” Chris may have is slightly diminished by the fact that he is willing to deviate therefrom, Chris will make you a garment that fits extremely well, and reflects the look that you wish to see. Personally, I think that is one of the greatest aspects of being one of his clients.
Accordingly, I would recommend Chris to a person who is not seeking a specific house style, but instead is looking for something that fits perfectly and that reflects his own stylistic choices. Crucially, this does not mean that you need to come in and specify exactly how you want to look. Instead, Chris asks the right questions, and through trial and error and several fittings, the suit will reach a point where both Chris and the client is happy with how the suit looks. I never felt, even once, that Chris was imposing his will upon me, or that he was ever bending to my requests. Instead, we talked things over, and arrived at a conclusion that we were both happy with. The bespoke process is very personal. It is like a marriage between tailor and customer, where a suit-baby is conceived and brought to term. I think communication is essential, and Chris is an excellent communicator.
My only critique – and I guess it is difficult to call it a critique, but here goes – I think that Chris’ work is best shown in a suit. Although his sportcoats are beautiful, I think the silhouette is at its best when it is in the form of a suit. It is just more regal.
In no particular order…
His operations are state side. Over and over again, I hear about how “x” tailor is cancelling his/her trips to San Francisco, how “y” tailor visited two years ago and has yet to finish any garments, how “z” tailor only does two fittings to avoid having to wait two years to deliver a suit. Sure, it is glamorous to travel to London to visit a several-hundred year old tailoring shop on Savile Row, or travelling to Naples and treakking through the city’s side streets to locate a single plaque denoting the entrance. But you know what? It is reassuring knowing that my tailor is in Chicago and/or Dallas, and that I am a quick flight away if I ever need anything.
He speaks English, fluently. I can communicate with my tailor well. I do not need an interpreter. I can communicate things that I am uncomfortable about, and he can get a glimpse of what I am feeling. I think it is impossible to downplay the importance of communication. Simply stated, if you cannot communicate with your tailor, the garment cannot and will not be perfect. The first suit will have mistakes – mistakes that will be remedied in subsequent garments (~11?) – but it is very difficult to communicate when there is a language barrier.
He takes great pride in his work. A small langniappe. At the final fitting, the pants were too big. A function of weight loss on my part. Chris thought they could be tailored down. They could not, so he completely re-cut the pants. I probably would never have known if the pockets were too close together. But Chris did, so he went the extra mile. I cannot see him letting you leave with a suit that did not meet his expectations – which I assure you, are far, far higher than mine.
He is a nice guy and his customer service is excellent. My first suit was nothing short of an experience. He took me to lunch on two occasions, at really great restaurants. I poked around the shop, trying on garments, snapping pictures, and having a nice time. He always responded quickly to my emails or texts (although I can certainly be demanding). Chris is a pleasure to be around, he is very knowledgeable, and I really had an excellent time through the whole process.
The cost is more than fair. Chris is not inexpensive. But when I think about the fact that I had three fittings, that he picked me up from the airport, took me to lunch twice, grabbed coffee and breakfast, chatted with me, and spent an enormous amount of time on my suit – the whole experience feels like a bargain. I never once have had even an iota of buyer’s remorse.
Round Two? Would I Recommend to a Friend?
Absolutely. Chris is a pleasure to deal with. A very kind, gracious person, who makes you feel very comfortable through the process. After my experience, I will most certainly commission more garments from him. I am hoping for a one per year sort of time table. However, if I were made of money, one of the first things I would do (after drinking myself silly) is travel to Chicago, and request that he make me a whole wardrobe of suits, in the wonderful, gorgeous fabric at his disposal.
Moving forward, I will continue to use Chris for my suits. I have no desire to try a different tailor, and my desire for more bespoke has certainly not been sated. Sportcoats, I am still on the fence about. I do not wear sportcoats with much frequency, and I am undecided right now if I want to go bespoke, or stick to RTW. Personally, I kind of like the variance with sportcoats, and I feel like what I put on usually reflects my mood.
I hope you enjoyed my write up!
So where now? Well, for now I am sitting tight. But I have a feeling that this adventure is just getting started!