Raphael, prince of tailors

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Kai, May 5, 2004.

  1. Kai

    Kai Senior member

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    Some time ago, I ordered a bespoke suit from Raphael in NYC. Â I travel to New York occasionally on business, and based on Marc Grayson's recommendation, I thought a bespoke suit from Raphael might be a nice treat. Â I have to say that I was a bit skeptical, as I am a big fan of WW Chan for bespoke suits, and couldn't see how Raphael could be much better. Â Â First Visit: I visited Raphael in his unassuming office off of Madison Avenue, picked out some fabric, and got measured for the suit. Â The fabric I chose was a dark blue wool/cashmere blend with a light blue pinstripe. Â I picked a three piece suit with a pair of high-waisted split back pants designed for suspenders. Â The vest has a small lapel. Â Second Visit: A couple of months later, I came in for my first fitting of the basted suit. Â It was already starting to take shape, and I could tell it was going to look nice. Â The vest was very small, the pants needed a bit of adjustment in the front, but overall it was coming together well. Raphael thought he could finish the suit without the need for another fitting. Â A little help from my local tailor: Some weeks later, Raphael called. Â He was ready to finish the sleeves, but he didn't want to cut the button holes until he was certain that the fit was correct. Â He send me the jacket Fed Ex, and I took it to my local tailor, who measured and marked the sleeves. Â I then sent the jacket back to Raphael Fed Ex (at his expense) for him to finish. Â Not quite there yet: About a month later, I receive the finished suit. Â The pants fit well, the vest was quite a bit too small, and the jacket fit well, but one of the sleeves had a strange puckering of the fabric. Â I called Raphael, and he was distressed that the suit didn't fit. Â He told me not to let anyone but him make any alterations to it, and said that he would make it fit perfectly on my next trip to New York. Â Third Visit: Â As it turned out, it wasn't long before my next NYC trip, so I got to visit him relatively soon. Â I tried the suit on in his shop. Â The pants, which I thought fit perfectly, were not quite perfect to his eye, which seems inhumanly keen and discerning of 1/16 inch discrepancies. Â The vest and jacket he also sized up and figured out what to do. Â I left the suit with him, and he had the alterations done within 24 hours. Â Fourth Visit: Â When I returned for the last time, it was all done. Â The jacket and pants met with his approval, but he still didn't like the fit of the vest, so he kept it with him to do another minor tweak to the fit, then Fed Exed it to me two days later. Â The finished suit: Â Finally, I have the full suit, and I can say without reservation that it is perfect. Â It is perfect because Raphael's standard is perfection, as opposed to "good enough." Â He is able to notice fit and construction issues that I would overlook, and his standards are higher than mine (and I have pretty high standards.) Â For example, although I thought that the vest looked good on my last visit, he insisted on taking it back and altering one of the seams by 3/16 of an inch so as to improve the way that the lapel of the vest lays on my chest. Â After his alteration, it does in fact look better than before. Â This is by far the nicest suit I have ever seen or worn. Â The drape and fit is exactly right. Â It fits my body perfectly, but is constructed so that I have full freedom of movement. Â It is a true work of art. Â The pants in particular are made like no other pants I've seen. Â Even my made to measure Oxxford suit pants (my previous pants benchmark) are not so nicely constructed. Â Marc was right. Â Raphael is truly at the pinnacle of tailors. Â Construction and fit is better than anything else I've worn, including my MTM Oxxford, bespoke WW Chan, and RTW Kiton. Â The fit, look, and feel of the Raphael suit is simply in a different class. Â Â So, the question: Â Is Raphael worth the money? Â After all, I can buy 3 extremely nice bespoke suits from WW Chan (about $1000 each) for the price of one of Raphael's suits (about $3000 and up each). Â Well, I guess it is to me. Â Unlike 10 or 12 years ago when I was just building my wardrobe and was buying quite a few suits every year, I am now mostly just replacing and upgrading the suits in my wardrobe. Â I'm looking for quality above all else right now, and Raphael delivers. Â For my next suit, however, I'm going to go a bit slower, and allow Raphael to do two full fittings before finishing the suit. Â Because of my erratic travel schedule, this may add months to the timeline, but I think that one of the lessons learned from my first experience is that no matter how talented your tailor, you really can't skimp on the fittings if you want a true bespoke suit (particularly if you tailor insists on perfection.) P.S. I will post pictures in the next few days.
     


  2. j

    j (stands for Jerk) Admin

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    RGH. I thought those underlined paragraph titles were going to be linked to pictures... [​IMG] Great story anyway, sounds like a great suit and experience. Someday...
     


  3. masterfred

    masterfred Well-Known Member

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    Kai, thanks for the post. Yes, just as with your WW Chan suit, you should really post pics. We've been reading marc's enthusiastic recommendations; we'd like to see Raphael's work.
     


  4. matadorpoeta

    matadorpoeta Senior member

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    pics, pics, pics, pics, pics please.

    your suit sounds like the work of an artist.
     


  5. friendlyone

    friendlyone Well-Known Member

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    Kai,

    This may be difficult, but can you explain the ways in which the Raphael suit is an improvement over your WW Chan's?
     


  6. Alias

    Alias Senior member

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    When I manage to find a hidden stash of Nazi gold, I'll start getting my suits from Raphael. I'm a very picky person myself, and I have this feeling that he can make me something I can be truly satisfied with.

    Where's my metal detector...
     


  7. Kai

    Kai Senior member

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    The jackets of the two suits are most similar. Both have a lot of hand work, and both fit very well. The lapels on both are beautiful and both jackets are overall very nice. With the Raphael jacket there are some small details that set it apart. The back of the shoulder fits just a bit better, with a tad more room to move because of the cut and attachment of the arm holes. As to appearance, the Raphael suit looks a bit more "three dimensional" if that makes sense. The cut seems to contour more, seems to flow more with the shape of my body. Hard to explain, and not super noticable, but the difference is there. Both jackets are top shelf, however.

    The pants are where you can really see the difference. The Chan pants have very little hand work at all. In construction, they are similar to a pair of pants that would come with a RTW Hickey Freeman suit. While the Chan jacket is a top shelf item, the Chan pants are only good, not great.
    The Raphael pants are made to the same level as the jacket. The Raphael pants have rows of careful hand stitches along the waistline. If you look at the pants, in most cases, where the Chan pants have two seams that meet, they just meet. The Raphael pants will have a small hand stitched reinforcing "loop" in joined areas where the seams are stressed. The Raphael pants are simply better constructed. More hand stitching, the pattern is better shaped to my body, and numerous small details. The Raphael pants are a slightly better fit. I have a big butt and big thighs, and the Raphael pants fit better when I am sitting than the Chan pants. They accomplish this without looking oversized and baggy, however.

    Remember, we are talking about comparing two very high quality garments. If Raphael is an A plus, then the Chan is an A minus. With better pants, the Chan would be an A. It's mostly minor details that make the differences.
     


  8. matadorpoeta

    matadorpoeta Senior member

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    thanks for the post kai. out of curiosity, and setting construction completely aside, can you comment on the degree to which you had contriol over the syle of the suit? did he ask your input for every detail? did you get to play designer?
     


  9. Alias

    Alias Senior member

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    Extra shirt fabric sometimes creates bulges through the jacket, by the way they blouse around the waist. How does Raphael deal with this?
     


  10. TimelessRider

    TimelessRider Senior member

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    I'm guessing that your shirt should be bespoken as well so that there is NO extra fabric. [​IMG]
     


  11. Kai

    Kai Senior member

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    Alias:

    I wore my Chan custom shirts for all the fittings.  The Chan shirts are all I really ever wear with suits anymore, and they don't really have a lot of extra blousy fabric, so he really didn't have to deal with this issue.

    Matador:  

    I chose the style of pants (wanted high-waisted, split back pants.)  We talked about cuffs, pleats, and also how I wanted the pants to fit.  I also chose the style of vest (I wanted a vest with lapels, he suggested the number of buttons and height, based on the jacket style)  I also discussed with him his "house style" of the jacket, which seemed good for me (English cut with a suppressed waistline.)  After a discussion with him on the interaction between the suit the vest, and my body, we decided on 3 buttons, single breasted for the jacket.  Other options discussed were double breasted, 2 button single breasted, and also the option of a single breasted with peak lapels.  He likely could have done whatever I wanted.  Arriving at the final choice was a somewhat collaborative process, but I was definitely guiding him as to what I had in mind.  In many instances, I would give a general direction, and he would fill in the details.
     


  12. bern

    bern Active Member

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    alias,

    I do have this problem with one of my shirts, which is made of very thick twill cotton. The thicker fabric provides really nice looking french cuffs and collar, but unfortunately, the fabric is so thick that it creates some bulges in the waistline with waist-reduced jackets.. But with my other shirts, this does not happen.

    One thing thus that I find alters the waist of my jackets are my wallet and dictionary that I store in my front pockets. I need to carry a smaller wallet, or it distorts the jacket line.

    bern
     


  13. clarinetplayer

    clarinetplayer Senior member

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    I think that your decision to go with a 3 button SB suit is a good one.  I now have two DB suits with vests with lapels, and every time I wear them, I receive wonderful comments.  My next suit will be a 3 button SB with vest with lapels.  What a classy, neat look this combination presents. I hope that you will soon share a photo of your latest aquisition.
     




  14. Thracozaag

    Thracozaag Senior member

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    Those pants are a work of art.
     


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