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My visit to Steed Tailors

unbelragazzo

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You don't know terror until you find yourself in the right-hand seat of a car, which is somehow where you sit to drive the thing, going clockwise in a circle around some tuft of greenery, hoping that as you curve around the bend you'll see the sign for the 'A1' highway in time to veer onto it without colliding into any of the automobiles around you. Somehow I managed to survive two hours of this nonsense and arrived safely in Carlisle, just south of the Scottish border, to meet Matthew and Edwin DeBoise of Steed Tailors for lunch and tailor talk.

Edwin has plenty of stories to tell. He worked for Edward Sexton, the tailor behind the Tommy Nutter linebacker look (Edwin told me they used to use two pads, one on top of the other, in each jacket shoulder). Then, like Dylan going electric, he changed styles completely, and spent many years as a cutter at Anderson and Sheppard, the Savile Row house most associated with the softly constructed drape cut.

In 1995 Edwin and fellow A&S cutter Thomas Mahon moved north to Cumbria and founded Steed. Mahon has since split off to run his own firm, leaving Edwin and his son Matthew in charge of Steed. Their two-story shop on Junction Street is small, but their reputation among notable iGents large. All the pattern creation and cutting happens here. The pieces then get sent to ex-A&S tailors in London, who followed Edwin to Steed, to get made up, then return to Cumbria for finishing.

The old canard about A&S is that their customers either “swear by them, or swear at them.” Swear by them because of their unique silhouette, or swear at them because of their sometimes disappointing attention to detail or faithfulness to a customer's order. Steed cuts an A&S-style jacket, but their in-house finishing and responsiveness and client interaction is of their own design.

Steed customers get an online account they can use to track the progress of their orders, including the occasional photo of the garment in progress, and view all the details of the order such as cloth, details, numbers of buttons, numbers of breasts, and all the rest. This cuts down on the miscommunications that can sometimes occur between tailor and client. Matthew is on Steed's Twitter account often as well, if you want to discuss tailoring, football (English or American – Matthew plays cornerback), or boxing – Steed makes for Darren Barker, an Englishman who recently won the IBF world middleweight title belt in an inspiring performance against Daniel Geale. Finishings such as buttonholes are done at Steed, and are nicer than most of what I have seen from A&S.

The Steed jacket follows the contours of the classic English drape cut – the neck and armholes are cut high and tight, with ample fabric hanging from these cinch points to drape over the chest and arms, tapering to a nipped waist and wrapping straight and neat around the hips, rather than kicking out. It's a curvy silhouette, with a lot of shape in many dimensions. It's the kind of jacket you don't see often, but you never forget. The shoulder line is natural, with little padding. Steed makes their own pads out of cotton wadding, so that each can be shaped to the client's shoulder. Almost every firm on the Row uses ready-made pads.

After spending the day with Edwin and Matthew, I headed south to spend the night in the Lake District, as beautiful an area as there is in all of England. I decided to treat myself to a stay at Sharrow Bay, which included dinner at their Michelin-starred restaurant. Dinner served at 8, coat and tie required. As I looked out at the sun setting over the lake, a gentleman walked by me in a gorgeous windowpane sportcoat – a swelled chest, natural shoulders, the fabric pulled in at the waist to trace an athletic outline. I thought about asking him where he had the coat made, but why bother when I already knew the answer?


The Steed shop on Junction Street.


Edwin drawing a pattern onto cloth.


A Steed jacket seen from the back - note the fullness around the armhole.


Hanging customer patterns.


Handmade buttonholes.




Steed-made shoulder pads.


Steed jackets.


Comparing a Sexton pattern (top) to a Steed pattern (bottom). The Sexton pattern goes higher in the shoulder to accommodate a larger pad. The Steed pattern extends the shoulder more and offers a more ample chest before tapering to the same waist.


Edwin and Matthew.








The Lake District.
 

clee1982

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I like the Lake District, A LOT, wish I knew Steed was there at the time, would definitely drop by.
 

forex

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Great write up, both Edwin and Matthew are great chaps and pleasure to deal with. Looking forward to get my stash made up in the next few years by them.
 

JubeiSpiegel

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What is the starting price for a steed 2 piece suit nowadays?
 

aravenel

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Thank you, very interesting. Some gorgeous work.

I seem to recall somewhere that they got into the MTM game as well--did you talk about this at all with them? I believe Mahon was working on something similar, too.
 
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aravenel

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Well I guess that's a big vote of confidence...

My issue with this type of high-end MTM is that the prices are usually getting into low-end bespoke territory by the time you get into better fabrics, and at that point, one may as well just go to NSM or Ercole. Still... It's tempting to try for sure.
 

Ianiceman

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Not sure i understand having a shop on Savile Row but the actual owners are in Carlisle - sending garments back and forth must surely increase price and time to completion
 

aravenel

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Unbel, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's just a quality of life thing for them. I know Mahon moved up that way a few years back and wrote a good bit about it on his blog.
 

unbelragazzo

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It's where Mahon is from. Cost and time is minimal compared to rent difference. They have an address in London but I don't think it's a workshop or anything.

Also if you visit there, it's not hard to understand why someone might want to live there.
 
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forex

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Well I guess that's a big vote of confidence...

My issue with this type of high-end MTM is that the prices are usually getting into low-end bespoke territory by the time you get into better fabrics, and at that point, one may as well just go to NSM or Ercole. Still... It's tempting to try for sure.

I don't think cost of MTM from Steed is anywhere close to bespoke prices (even lower end bespoke if there is such a thing at all). The one advantage of using Steed's MTM is that Edwin measures you himself and sends in measurements so there is less chance to mess things up because you are being measured by a proper tailor as opposed to some salesman.
 

Bounder

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You don't know terror until you find yourself in the right-hand seat of a car, which is somehow where you sit to drive the thing, going clockwise in a circle around some tuft of greenery, hoping that as you curve around the bend you'll see the sign for the 'A1' highway in time to veer onto it without colliding into any of the automobiles around you.

You're doing it wrong. Get on the inside lane and go into a "holding pattern". Drive around the roundabout as many times as you need to while you check the map, try to read -- or find -- street signs, order pizza, etc..
 

aravenel

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I don't think cost of MTM from Steed is anywhere close to bespoke prices (even lower end bespoke if there is such a thing at all). The one advantage of using Steed's MTM is that Edwin measures you himself and sends in measurements so there is less chance to mess things up because you are being measured by a proper tailor as opposed to some salesman.

To be fair, I just looked up their MTM prices, and they are a bit less than I expected. I'm actually tempted to try it out.

No question that there is big benefit to being measured by one of those guys.
 

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