Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by banksmiranda, Nov 12, 2003.
I have an interesting approach re recommendations and writing things about stores, brands, etc. If I don't have something nice to say I just don't say it. I write in degrees of the positive...For example, the criterion for inclusion in my first book was was whether or not they had something in the store I would buy if I had unlimited funds. If a store mistreated me, or another customer that I observed, I just left them out.
I have my favorite stores and brands, but defer on making lists so that whoever I might name number 2 doesn't feel slighted. I've also noticed that it may change from season to season, depending on how a particular store bought for that season. As a friend recently pointed out to me, when you make comparisons, someone always suffers. It's part of my belief system and life's philosophy, but I don't want to hijack the thread.
So my approach so far has been to go with my gut. If it doesn't feel proper to me, I don't do it.
Steve B---I don't wish to trigger a potential lawsuit, so let's just say I know someone who is one of the finest tailors in the world who refuses to make free suits for the writer in question, and, consequently, this tailor will not receive editorial coverage by the writer. When the writer states that Fioravanti is one of the greatest *tailors* in the world, and Firavanti isn't even a tailor, this tells me the writer is not only unethical but uninformed.
Banksmiranda--When I learned that my tailor's *apprentice* is making suits for Jon Green, or more precisely, suits that Jon Green sells to his clients at grossly inflated prices, I lost respect for Boyer and other writers who have written glowingly about Jon Green. How would YOU feel if you paid an ungodly sum of money for a suit and you learned it was made by an apprentice tailor?
Surprisingly enough there were very few bad experiences. Less than 10 in 300 specialty stores, and over 1300 stores total. Everyone was great, but some of the experiences with the custom people were the nicest of all...And I SAW at least 6 people sewing at Fioravanti's place the day I went there. He may not still sew himself, but the guy's in his 70s- give him a break. And Trabalza's 82....
I heard the same story, but I'm wondering if it's just that- a story. It's easy to write negative things about people in the spotlight. It may happen to me if I continue to pursue this and do well at it. I've heard lots of things about Alan Flusser for instance, 2/3 of which were probably negative, but 1/3 of which were positive enough that I'll reserve judgment until (and unless) I get a chance to really meet the man. And I guess I have to ask what purpose it's serving to bash the aforementioned writer? What of benefit does it bring to the other Forum readers? Isn't he accomplishing something for an industry we all love and respect? And wouldn't we all like to see more men take notice of their appearance? How do we know this isn't just sour grapes from your tailor because he hasn't received the same recognition?
Isn't the best course as always to educate oneself and form one's own opinion, particularly if you're even going to spend even $1000 on a suit, well below what most tailors of the class we're talking about here get for their wares? This may not sound like much to many on this Forum, but is A LOT to the average lunch pail guy. And how long would it feed a family in Iraq??
I dunno, Banks, if they show me the paper patterns with the customer's name on them, and I see at least one person sewing away, I call it a tailor shop. But I'm writing for the average guy, not the Robb Report. And I included people in the book who I thought would be a good destination for that guy SOME DAY, even if they couldn't afford them now. And if someone told me he made the garments on the premises, I believed him. I'm sort of Polyannish that way...
I know I wouldn't spend more than $500 on a suit. $1000 could get me a sweet, sweet electric guitar. And unlike clothes, guitars get better with age.
A few thoughts:
By that definition almost every Savile Row firm is devoid of tailors.. It is the norm to outsource work - why do you think that Huntsman makes such a big deal about all their work being done in-house? Because they are one of the very few who do not outsource. Should we automatically assume then that all the other firms are worthless? I don't think so.. Any firm that deals in any kind of volume is going to have to divide the workload. There is no other way to do it. They could employ a number of tailors that all make suits individually. But that would be inefficient and would make for an inconsistent product. It seems that even Marc's tailor, Raphael (who sounds quite wonderful - I hope to meet him someday) doesn't do ALL the work himself, as Marc has said he has an apprentice. I would agree that it would be best if the cutter measures you, and that the cutter has training in all aspects of the trade. But even if that is the not the case, I don't think the result is necessarily an inferior suit, at least not in every case. There are shades of grey between ready-to-wear and a bespoke suit that is made from start to finish by a single master-tailor. And I'm sure many of us would be quite happy to find ourselves somewhere in between - to own suits that are made to our measurements by a team of specialists. About Boyer: Even if it could be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he does take free suits or discounted suits from people he writes about - what of it?? Take the article that sparked this thread. There are ten tailors listed. Do you propose that he should buy, with his own money, suits from each tailor in order to write the article?? That could easily run him $40,000 - $50,000. In that case the article would be a work of charity, and he would be a philanthropist, not a professional. Â I think an examination of various periodicals that revolve around the review of products will reveal that most all those publications do not actually pay for the products they review - especially when the products are expensive. Do car magazines go out and buy one of each model of car so that they can test it? Of course not, it would not be a viable business if they did. Even if Boyer were getting free suits on a regular basis from those he reviews, it wouldn't bother me. It would just affirm his praise of the tailor - after all, if he thought their suits sucked, why would he want more of them, even for free?? Â Â Now, if a periodical or writer offered, up front, a positive review in exchange for free product, that would be a different matter entirely. Also, in the case of an honest reviewer, the tailor (or car manufacturer etc.) should not consider a positive review as a foregone conclusion. I think Steve's approach is best - if you didn't like the experience then just leave them out. I would be hesitant to label a tailor or store as no-good solely based on my own one-time experience. There is an interesting quote in Richard Walker's book Savile Row, An illustrated history that bears on the subject: "In practice, there are almost as many variations from the norm as there are suits made. In a real sense, each Savile Row suit is a unique creation. Those who uphold the one-tailor one-garment system speak of personal pride and of the client appreciating this sense of individual work, but there are pitfalls, particularly when fine craftsmen are in short supply, Former Â Tailor and Cutter editor John Taylor has used the same tailor for thirty years, yet he still grumbles about the occcasional disaster." If Mr. Taylor's tailor could screw up every once-in-a-while, even though he had been making for him for thirty years, how much easier would it be for a tailor to get it wrong on the first try? Bespoke clothing is a highly individualized experience. Just because I had a bad experience I wouldn't assume that everyone else has experienced the same. If I went to one of the tailors mentioned in Boyer's article and was not satisfied with the experience, I do not think I would be entitled to pin the blame on Boyer. Just because my experience wasn't good doesn't necessarily mean Boyer's wasn't. I would, however, be inclined to refuse the suit. About Steve: I agreed with BanksMiranda when he said:
To do that Steve would have to be sneaky and suspicious. I know Steve to a certain extent and I think he is far too friendly and honest to carry off an undercover investigation of every specialty store in the US. Nor am I convinced that such an endeavor would be of benefit. And I laud Steve's "Polyannish" attitide. Being suspicious of everyone and everything may save you money but it is certainly no way to live. Also, those of you who have read Steve's book may have noticed that he categorized the various custom-clothing shops found in his directory simply as "independents." He's given the reader their address and his general impression - it's up to the individual customer to visit and evaluate them further. In conclusion I must say I'm glad we are having this discussion. Nobody will deny that there are sharks out there in the menswear industry. There is only one thing to do if you don't want to get ripped off. Educate yourself. And I think we are doing that.
Don't leave out the bad stores. Warning people about bad experiences is just as valuable as giving recommmendations. I showed your book to a decidedly unstylish friend, and his main criticism was that there were no negative evaluations at all.
Fashion journalism, especially in the popular media, often gets slammed for not being critical enough, catty comments notwithstanding. Even in the "What's Hot, What's Not" lists, current collections are hardly ever mentioned in the latter. Much of this is because magazines are so reliant on advertising dollars. It's hard to slam the latest Tom Ford collection when Gucci is buying four page spreads.
As for who is a tailor vs. who is a tailor's assistant vs. who is a designer vs. who is a creative director, who cares? If you are unhappy with a "custom made" suit - the fit, the handiwork, the material, whatever, you have cause to complain. Otherwise, what do you care if the suit is farmed out to Michael Jackson who makes Bubbles do all the work.
The whole "custom, by hand" affectation has really started to grate. Except for assertions to the contrary from parties who stand to profit by doing so either financially (tailors et al) or in prestige (fat cats et al) there is no really convincing evidence that handing sewing, with some exceptions, contributes significantly to a garment at all.
You are entitled to your opinions, and of course affectation and snobbery are annoying. That being said, you've got to be kidding when you say that hand sewing doesn't contribute to a garment at all, at least where suits and jackets are concerned (for shirts, you have a point, though hand-shanked buttons on shirts do make a difference). If you've ever tried on an Oxxford, Kiton, Brioni, Attolini, St. Andrews, or Luciano Barbera Collezione Sartoriale jacket (never mind a high-end bespoke garment), you can't honestly say that the hand-work doesn't make a difference, can you? The way these garments fit, feel, and look is far superior to any machine-made garment I've tried, and I've tried on lots. One can also argue that they will last much longer and therefore are a better value in the long run (though of course this depends on how much you pay). Similarly, the fine stitching and beveled waist of a hand-made shoe allows them to have an elegance that a machine-made shoe cannot touch. You may not find it worth the difference in price, or you may not be able to afford to pay the price. Either way, that's okay, and I for one certainly would not look down on you for not purchasing hand-made clothes. But to say there is no demonstrable difference is ridiculous. [If you want to assert that we should give the money we pay for these clothes to the starving in Asia or Africa, that's a very different and legitimate argument, but also one that could be applied to any purchase beyond the barest necessities of life.]
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