This summer’s Crompendium of panelists represents a counterpoint to this claim that there are no young tailors ready to replace the older generation. Simon’s event, hosted as usual by the Stefano Bemer atelier and sponsored by Holland and Sherry, gathered six tailors, all at the precipice of their prime years - Gianfrancesco Musella of Musella Dembach in Milan, Satoki Kawai of Sartoria Crescent, also in Milan, Davide Taub (pronounced Da-veed, or so I gather from Simon’s introduction) of Gieves and Hawkes London, Eithen Sweet of Thom Sweeney, also in London, Chad Park of B&Tailor in Seoul, and Arnold Wong of WW Chan in Hong Kong. This cast represents the future of bespoke tailoring - strewn across the globe, with a large diversity of backgrounds, but with an increasingly homogenous product.
Only two of these six entered the trade by what received wisdom dictates as the “traditional” path - through their father’s business. Gianfrancesco Musella and Chad Park come from tailoring families, and continue to work in their family businesses. Davide Taub’s father and grandfather were tailors, but his route to being a tailor was more circuitous - he first studied architecture, then switched to tailoring and gradually worked his way up to the top of Gieves and Hawkes bespoke.
The other three have no tailoring lineage whatsoever - Arnold Chang started working at WW Chan as an accountant before finally finding his truly calling in the production department of the company, under the tutelage of Patrick Chu. Satoki Kawai decided as a 17 year old in Japan that he wanted to be a bespoke tailor. He first tried to find employment on Savile Row and, failing, fell back on Milan, where he trained under Caraceni before starting his own shop. Finally, Eithen Sweet passed through the Newham College of tailoring, which has trained many future Savile Row tailors, before working at Maurice Sedwell and now Thom Sweeney.
In many fields, the younger generation of workers takes on the Oedipal task of usurping the older generation, usually by means of innovation (I suppose in this telling, the role of Jocasta would be played by the client). But not these tailors. Even Davide Taub, the young tailor whose designs seem least beholden to tradition, said that “we got into this field to continue something, not to change it.” Gianfrancesco Musella, when asked what he hoped to accomplish with his work, said that he would most like to display and preserve the tailoring tradition of which his family is a part.
Perhaps bespoke tailoring is just a repository for all the Luddites interested in clothing production. But while Taub emphasized that he had no interest in breaking the rules of tradition for its own sake, he, and many of the others, don’t seem to feel obligated to follow tradition blindly either. Each tailor brought an example of their work to be shown during the symposium. Taub’s updated peacoat-style design bears testament to his willingness to experiment, with its zippered pocket, aquamarine fabric, and sharp cut.
But the most striking thing about the assembled coats was that the borders of the various tailoring traditions seem to have blurred. Whereas the six coats of the senior tailors at last year’s symposium could be associated with their makers immediately, the coats by the young tailors would be harder to place. And not only because these tailors have not yet achieved the renown of the older generation. For instance, Eithen Sweet’s double breasted dinner jacket features a spalla camicia with waterfall shoulders. It’s a design choice that befits the softness of the fabric and cut, but not one typical of Savile Row tailoring.
Perhaps this is the homogenizing influence of the Internet. Tailors of previous generations might have but sparse opportunities to see the handiwork of their brethren oceans away. But today they can access pictures at any moment, likely have plenty of clients in common, and meet in person at events such as this one.
In silhouette, there seems to be an international consensus formed around “full chest, soft construction.” Every coat could be and is described in this way. Maybe if one of the younger members of the de Luca family from Paris had joined the symposium, there would be some opposition to this consensus.
Among the group present, the coats that deviated the most in tailoring were not on the mannequins, but on the tailors. wearing. Davide Taub wore a waspish coat with crowned shoulders that recalled Cruikshank’s dandy drawings. Gianfrancesco Musella wore a coat of unique contours. Whereas the fullness on the other coast is sent to the sides, creating a rounded chest, in a Musella coat it is folded into a diagonal that points towards the shoulder. The overall effect is therefore more of a V than a U.
Seeing these six tailors in front of their work gives hope to bespoke clients worried that their supply may be soon cut off. You don’t have to be a 65-year old who has been sewing since the age of eight to make a good bespoke jacket. Here is a group of much younger men, many of whom started their training much later than eight, who will be making bespoke for many decades yet.
Suit by Arnold Chang of W.W. Chan
Coat by Satoki Kawai of Sartoria Crescent. Note that the front is done without a dart so as not to distort the check pattern
From Chad Park of BnTailor
Gianfrancesco Musella of Musella Dembach
Double-breasted dinner jacket by Eithen Sweet of Thom Sweeney.
Modern pea coat by Davide Taub of Gieves and Hawkes.
Everyone sitting together.