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First annual "suit off"......

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Doing a review of my current wardrobe, I have recently decided that while I have enough quantity of suits, it is time to start to step up the quality. At the beginning of this year, I decided (and budgeted) for one custom suit by the best tailor I could find. In my travels here and on AA, the two custom tailors that have consistently appeared on the top of most lists are Darren and Raphael. Knowing that the best results are obtained when you have an ongoing relationship with the tailor, making the choice between the two was no small matter for me, as the next ten suits I order will likely be from this one person. After little progress after weighing all of the pros and cons of each, with much prodding from my girlfriend and much juggling in my annual budget, I have made the decision to have BOTH make me a suit concurrently, and then make an intelligent decision on who to stick with after all factors are considered (eg, fit, quality, price, service, etc.). I just had my first meeting with Darren last Saturday, and will have my first meeting with Raphael this Saturday. To be fair to both parties, I will make my first report next week after I have met with both. I will then provide updates on an ongoing basis. After I receive both suits, I will tell everyone who I have decided upon and why. I hope that at least some here would find this helpful, if not at least entertaining.
post #2 of 17
This sounds very interesting - I (among others no doubt) would be very interested in the results. Panzer
post #3 of 17
Which cloth did you decide on with Darren? You may have to wait quite awhile before you make your choice on tailors. I would not expect to get the finished product from Darren in less than a year. In the meanwhile, you will have time to enjoy and judge the suit from Raphael. I would be very much interested in hearing about your experience with Raphael.
post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 
Now that I have had my first meeting with both Darren and Raphael, I am now prepared to submit the first installment of my "suit off". Darren - My appointment with Darren was for Saturday, March 5th - the same day as the Sartorial Forum. There has been a little written here about Darren's lack of response or availability, but contrary to this Darren called me three days prior to confirm our meeting. He mentioned that he could take my measurements and have our consultation at the SF. I was fine with that. Upon first meeting Darren, I found that he was an extremely friendly chap with a refreshing sense of humor. He took a few minutes to sit down with me to discuss what I was looking for, what I did for a living, and answer any questions that I had. One thing that did bother me a little was that there were several interruptions from people moving in an out of the room. I realize that this is probably a necessary evil when one is seeing a visiting tailor who is in town for only a few days, but I do feel that I should mention it. Greatly offsetting my frustration was stopping to watch Darren actually cut a paper patter and listen to him explain the details of lapel shape on one of his suits. Experiencing this left no doubts in my mind about Darren's expertise or passion for his craft. I was clearly watching an artist, not a salesman or a businessman. One thing I should also mention is that I asked him to critique the suit that I had on, which is my only custom number from Bhambi. He said that it was altogether pretty good, and that while his would be better and more comfortable, it wouldn't necessarily be a million times improvement over what I had on. Something interesting to note is that within the first ten seconds looking at my suit, he pointed to the one area on the suit that bothered me and said, "Well, maybe we could do a little better here." It is a really small excess of fabric that is on the front of the right shoulder. I think it is way too small to bring back to Bhambis for, but since I'm such a sticker it is something that I have always noticed. Darren's keen eye picked this minor defect up in less than ten seconds. Impressive really. When I finally got him alone again, we decided upon a dark gray fabric with white pin/cable stripes. Given the amount of sitting that I do, he recommended a 13 oz Lesser fabric over the 9 oz one I was comparing it to. I asked for a three button with an extra set of trousers - one w belt loops, one with side buckles. As Darren took my measurements and his equally as pleasant wife wrote them down, he would frequently back up to get a different perspective on my stature. From the way he looked at me and how he moved about, I really couldn't help feeling like a block of marble that some Renaissance artist was about to take hammer and chisel to. (This is a good thing.) Finishing up our session, Darren said that the first fitting would be again sometime in June, the second in October, and the last perhaps in January. Some may be put off by this long time frame, but I think this is a reality that one must accept when dealing with a tailor that lives 2000+ miles away. Raphael - My meeting with Raphael was this past Saturday. Shortly after entering his shop, we also had a brief meeting about what I was looking for and in which manner I will use his suit. As with Darren, I found Raphael to be a very nice man, but that's where I think the similarities in their personalities end. For example, while Darren could at times poke fun at himself, I found Raphael to have what I would call a regal confidence in his demeanor. Although I did not get the chance to see him work, he did show me some of the finished garments that he had in his shop. Putting a light blue jacket on a mannequin, I can honestly say I have never seen 9 oz fabric lay like that. It was truly amazing. As I enjoyed a little more light talk about his life moving from Italy to South America to America and his employment under Alan Flusser, I got the distinct impression from him that he was disenchanted with the current status (and future) of tailoring. He alluded to that fact that custom tailoring now is not about custom tailors, but rather custom salesmen parading as tailors. (The exact word he used for them was "charlatans"). I won't mention the names he placed in this category, but it was informative. (Note - Darren was NOT one of the people that he mentioned.) I also wore my Bhambi suit to this fitting and asked him to critique it. Not surprisingly, his evaluation was more scathing than Darren's. His conclusion was - "It's not bad, but it has no style to it. On the other hand, you probably paid much less for it than you will for what I will do for you." Say what you want, but I found his brutal honesty refreshing. One thing to note is that he did not point out the one defect like Darren did, but this is not to say that he didn't notice it. As different as their personalities are so is the difference in the setting I was fitted in. While there were people buzzing around the SF while I was being fitted, Raphael's shop was completely empty save a woman in the back sewing button holes on a jacket. It was quite a relaxing place to chose fabric and talk to clearly one of the world's best about his craft. In any event, this time I also chose a Lesser pinstripe fabric, but this time in blue. (I think it is a good thing that I need both a dark gray and navy pinstripe for comparative purposes). During the actual measuring I finally found some similarities between the two. They both seemed to chop wood in the same manner, so to speak. Both saw the ½ inch difference in height of my right shoulder. Both also took about the same amount of time to finish once the actual work started. Upon completion, their differences once surfaced again once we spoke of timing and price. Raphael said the entire process would take 6-8 weeks. On the flip side, his price with the ubiquitous extra set of trousers was over 50% higher than what Darren quoted me, taking into account the current exchange and sales tax rates. Ok, well thanks to all for indulging me. I really have no idea who I will pick, but as medwards alluded to above, this probably won't be a decision about who is better, but rather who is better for me. Probably not unlike choosing between a Porsche and a Mercedes - both among the best of their breeds, but for very different people. (Now there's a comparison I would love to do.....)
post #5 of 17
Thanks for the update. - keep'em coming. Panzer
post #6 of 17
Agreed. Thank you very much, I look forward to your next installment with great anticipation.
post #7 of 17
very nice, looking forward to hearing your other reactions.
post #8 of 17
Quote:
This sounds very interesting - I (among others no doubt) would be very interested in the results. Panzer
Panzeraxe, "That's bone, and the font is something called silian rail" Jon.
post #9 of 17
Don't know if you caught the tuxedo with the Italian silk lapels Raphael's in the process of making for some fortunate chap, which is quite amazing. He sourced the silk for the lapels while on vacation in Italy. If you missed it, next time you're there, be sure to get a heaping helping of eye candy. Grayson
post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Don't know if you caught the tuxedo with the Italian silk lapels
I didnt, but he put up two jackets of his on a mannequin for me. Both were stunning, esp the 9 oz as it is more difficult to get to lay right.
post #11 of 17
As challenging as it is to get finer cloth to lay properly, it's equally difficult, perhaps even more so, to work with heavy cloth and "tame it" so that it does what you want it to do. I recently received some 19 oz. sport coats from Raphael that look and fit as though they're 9 oz, from the perfect roll of the lapels (even harder to achieve on a three-button front), to the graceful, subtle curvature of the sleeves, to the precise replication of my back. Truly a work of art. Grayson
post #12 of 17
Grayson, What are the easiest cloths to work with? Is it the 12 to 14 oz. cloths? I love the look of a true 2 1/2 button (where the lapel rolls deeply over the top button, but still does not roll so deeply that the top buttonhole completely shows). This seems like an impossible task with anything less than a 12 oz. cloth (or even heavier), unless a stiffer canvas is used in the lapels. The "2 1/2" buttons I've seen in lighter weight cloths just don't look the same. On that note, will a bespoke tailor use a stiffer canvas in the lapel than is used for the chest if the client desires a more pronounced roll?
post #13 of 17
Quote:
What are the easiest cloths to work with?  Is it the 12 to 14 oz. cloths?  I love the look of a true 2 1/2 button (where the lapel rolls deeply over the top button, but still does not roll so deeply that the top buttonhole completely shows).  This seems like an impossible task with anything less than a 12 oz. cloth (or even heavier), unless a stiffer canvas is used in the lapels.  The "2 1/2" buttons I've seen in lighter weight cloths just don't look the same.   On that note, will a bespoke tailor use a stiffer canvas in the lapel than is used for the chest if the client desires a more pronounced roll?
By your description, I'm envisioning a 3-button lapel rolling to 2 buttons.  If my "vision" is faulty, pls. correct me.  Coincidentally, I was confronted at the outset with the very issue I think you have raised, with a series of sport coats made of cloth of varying weights and textures, from one in a mid-range 10-11 oz to a heavier Harris Tweed all the way up to 19 oz John Hardy cloth.  The heavier the cloth, the fuller and more prominent the roll on the lapel will naturally be, given the fullness of the cloth.  But, a word of caution that a lapel roll that is too prominent might be unsightly.  For this reason, I opted for the 19 oz. jackets to have a *2-button* front, as I thought the roll would be less prominent, some might say less cumbersome...Turns out, I was right.  The Harris tweed jacket has a 3-button front and the roll in the lapel was fine----However, the  Harris tweed I selected is more pliable than the 19 oz John Hardy cloth, which is nearly ballistic in its strength and inflexibility.  More to your point, I just had a sport coat made that is my first 3-button rolling to a 2-button design, and we chose the cloth specifically because of its softness and inherent ability to achieve a gentle roll in the lapel.  The cloth is from a new range from Holland & Sherry that I believe is 10-11 oz, although I'll need to check.  I'm also having a couple jackets made in 16 oz. John Hardy cloth (2-button), so I'm sampling the full spectrum of cloth weights.  In my lay experience  (pardon the expression), a true 3-button lapel or a 3-button rolling to a two can be achieved gracefully up to 12-14 oz cloth, and I'd say 14 oz is pushing the limits.  I have a few true 3-button jackets where the heaviest weight is 12 oz, so that is pretty much my limit for anything more than a 2-button front.  Before making any commitments, ask your tailor if he/she can show you any garments in-the-making of various weights, so you can judge how pliable the cloth is.  Ask the tailor for guidance on whether the heavier cloth will produce a graceful lapel with 3-buttons.   Regarding using a heavier or stiffer canvas to achieve a fuller roll, this should not be necessary as a skilled tailor achieves the quality of the roll through the stitching process inside the lapel.  So, you needn't sacrifice comfort with a heavier canvas in order to obtain the kind of roll you desire.  Hope this helps. Grayson
post #14 of 17
Thanks, Marc. So I guess when I see some of the lighter weight RTW suits that have sort of limp lapels (comparitively speaking to other full canvas suits), I can chalk some of that up to the fabric, but a lot of it up to lack of attention to detail in the stitching and pressing.
post #15 of 17
Quote:
On that note, will a bespoke tailor use a stiffer canvas in the lapel than is used for the chest if the client desires a more pronounced roll?
I'm betting that most tailors would try to steer you away from this, as it can result in a very "cardboardy" lapel.  The canvas sort of overwhelms the facings, if that makes sense.  Anyway, I have seen and felt it, and I did not like the result. I have some very heavy tweeds in 3-button roll through whose lapel rolls are flawless.  They were made with very soft canvas.  A lot what makes for a good roll is getting the thread tension right in the pad-stitching.  That's one reason why it actually matters if a fully cavnased lapel was padded by hand or by machine.  The machines do it in a more or less uniform way.
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