Posting this here since some people said it was OK to use this as a sort of general bespoke tailoring chat thread. FT article on a tax clampdown that's supposed to affect traveling tailors.
Full article behind the spoiler tag.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Huntsman, a Savile Row tailor renowned for its luxury bespoke suits, has made trips across the Atlantic for decades to size up the power brokers of Wall Street. But following a US customs crackdown, this tradition – like the company’s revenues – is facing a snip.
Tougher oversight by US tax authorities, who are using technology to track what enters the country and ensure that appropriate duties get paid – is making expensive suits even pricier.
“Some people have stopped ordering completely,” said Patrick Murphy, head cutter at Huntsman. “If we tell them it’s now a £9,000 suit and £2,000 is going to the government, they just don’t want to pay that.”
Some tailors have kept deliveries to wealthy US bankers, lawyers and consultants at arms length, using couriers who got the items in with little or no duty and few questions asked. Suits were often shipped in sealed trunks inside large containers full of other goods.
“Customs have realised that the tailors have been getting away with murder for years,” said Leonard Logsdail, a Savile Row-trained tailor in New York.
“My understanding is that the import duties process was digitalised, and has become more efficient in terms of the way product is processed.” said Anda Rowland, vice-chairman of Anderson & Sheppard, a suitmaker that garners 40 per cent of its business from the US.
According to Huntsman’s Mr Murphy, bespoke pieces that were taxed at a 4 per cent rate now face charges of more than 20 per cent.
One well-dressed banker and patron of Savile Row added: “Whatever method those guys were using before, many were getting suits in with next to no duty.”
US Customs and Border Protection said that all goods valued over $2,500 “would be assessed at a rate of duty ranging from 7.5 per cent to 27.3 per cent, depending on the fabric make-up of the garment.”
Since agents stepped up scrutiny in late 2012, the tailors have redoubled efforts to comply.
“We all went into each others’ shops and asked what are we going to do? The full impact of this is only just starting to be felt,” said Mr Murphy. He added couriers were now demanding information such as social security numbers from clients after personal service – without sharing personal details.
“The people we deal with just don’t want to do that.”
Many American Savile Row aficionados are now buying their suits in London, getting UK tax refunds at Heathrow then declaring the suits upon arrival in the US.
Cheaper rivals have started reaping rewards from the duty crackdown . Steven Hitchcock of The Savile Row Tailor, serves US clients at the lower end of the tax threshold price point.
“I definitely think some Wall Street guys have started holding back – boycotting would be too strong – but we’ve definitely seen a rise in customers coming to my business where prices are slightly lower,” he said.
Italian menswear specialists are also offering cheaper off-the-rack wares at upmarket department store events to attract Wall Street’s most successful moneymakers, adding further pressure on the niche British tailoring trade.
“It doesn’t matter how wealthy you are – you’re going to think twice when spending $10,000 on a suit,” Mr Hitchcock said.