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What fabrics are worth considering for my first ever bespoke suit?

Discussion in 'Menswear Advice' started by lullemans72, Jul 29, 2017.

  1. lullemans72

    lullemans72 Senior Member

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    I'm planning on ordering my very first bespoke suit in a few months. I'm so excited to finally get a feel for what it's like to own a suit that's entirely tailored to my proportions, but I'm still not sure about what fabrics I should go for. I want to make my first suit one that I can wear for the regular work week, so color and design wise it's going to be a simple, solid navy suit, and it will be worn mostly in the fall/winter/spring seasons.

    Last time I visited the tailor a few months back, they showed me various available fabrics coming from local producers in Japan, as well as Italy and the UK. Some of the fabrics were the usual 100% wool (120s),and 80/20, 50/50 wool/polyester blend. Now, since this will be my first real tailor made suit, I want to go for something a little more premium, something that's going to last and look good. So I thought a wool/polyester blend just wouldn't make the cut for that. I also prefer to avoid 100% wool suits as I already own a suit like that, and it creases like crazy. I usually only hang the suit and pants on a hanger and only rarely use a steamer to try and get some of the creases out near the seat/crotch area of the pants. For that reason, the other suits I own are of a wool/polyester blend only.

    Anyway, I've been considering some of the other fabrics I noticed they had, like an 80/20 wool/mohair blend. I'd in fact never heard about mohair up until that point, but from what I gather, it seems to be a pretty luxurious fabric and works very well when blended with wool. I was thinking of going for that, but am wondering if there are any other blends I might want to consider, such as wool/cashmere, or wool/cotton?
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2017

  2. CloudLi

    CloudLi Senior Member

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  3. ThomGault

    ThomGault Senior Member

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    You've got a few different themes here. If you want "premium", you're looking at (generally) softer, finer materials. If you want something that lasts, you're describing something hardier and durable. The former is generally different from the latter.
    I'd also posit that if your wool suits are 'creasing like crazy,' they're probably not very good fabric. I have wool garments that still maintain their proper creases, and don't take on new creases, for 10-15+ wears.
    Personally, I like something in the range of supper 100's or super 110's for durability that still feels pleasant. Higher super numbers feel nicer but can erode faster (but of course it depends on how often the garment is worn and dry cleaned.) Fabrics which are softer than wool are likely to be even more delicate.
     

  4. lullemans72

    lullemans72 Senior Member

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    Ah, that's a good point. Duly noted. However, aren't premium materials supposed to last longer, even if they're finer?
    I guess I really would like to have the best of both worlds if at all possible. If I really had to choose though, I don't think I would want to pay a lot of extra money for a bespoke suit that fits me well, only to have it break apart after a few years because the material was too fine...

    I think this kind of answers my question above. So it's important to consider the super numbers when considering wool suits. I'm not an expert on this, but I remember reading somewhere that any wool fabric above super 80 but no higher than 120 is ideal, and anything above that is more reserved for suits for special occasions. That's clearly not what I'm going for here since I want to be wearing this suit 1-2x a week for work.

    As for fabrics themselves, CloudLi mentioned escorial wool above. Are there any other suggestions you may have?

    As for my wool suit, I'm sure everyone's interpretation of "creasing like crazy" will slightly differ, so here's a photo of my suit pants so you can see for yourself below. I only paid about 200 dollars at the time when I bought the suit some years back, so I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't that high quality.

    20170730_163657.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2017

  5. Condottiero

    Condottiero Member

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    I'd go 100% wool. One of the main advantages of a good quality wool fabric is that it is very wrinkle resistant, and very durable. If it's for your regular work week I really don't see the need of cashmere, mohair, camel etc. even in small percentages.
     

  6. lullemans72

    lullemans72 Senior Member

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    Right, so finding good quality wool is key here. Apart from the weight of fabric (as was mentioned to me above), are there any other points I need to take into consideration and ask the tailor about to know if it's really good quality wool?
     

  7. ThomGault

    ThomGault Senior Member

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    Generally, fabric mills have reputations by which you can gauge their product. I'm happy with offerings from Holland and Sherry; they are widely available and have some fabrics which aren't expensive but still meet my needs. I'm sure others can recommend more mills which they like.
     

  8. Stuart Midgley

    Stuart Midgley Member

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    Very exciting lullemans72! I had my first ever bespoke suit made four months ago (a tuxedo) and I was so pleased that I've ordered two business suits from the same tailor, so I've been mulling over the same fabric questions you have, and trying to educate myself on cloth. I've gone for one navy and one charcoal suit for the same reasons as your choice of navy - useful colours for almost every occasion.

    My learnings are that:

    - Wool is the basic standard for quality suit cloth ('suitings' as people in the trade call it)
    - Blends with mohair and cashmere are sometimes useful depending on what properties you want
    - Yarn construction (how the raw wool fibres are spun together) and the weave (the many different ways yarn can be woven into cloth) is massively important in how the final cloth behaves
    - The respectable cloth merchants/mills all offer wide ranges to choose from. Check out their websites and prepare to spend some hours figuring out what it what before you order your suit. You only get one chance to get it right (as I think you've realised)!

    Note carefully that 'Quality' means different things to different people. A lot of the mass market industry defines quality as a soft, high-super-number cloth. A lot of bespoke suit afficionados however regard such cloth as difficult to shape and likely to wear out quickly, and super numbers as a marketing gimmick. Such people often prefer a low super number cloth, often of (relatively) heavier weight, that will drape well and last for years ('wear like iron' as they say). They would say a soft cloth that lacks shape is poor quality, whatever its cost and rarity. You don't have to agree with this - but be aware of the argument.

    Further points are:

    - Heavier cloth is generally warmer and lighter cloth cooler
    - BUT an open weave that lets air through versus a closed weave that doesn't affects insulating effect as well
    - You may thus find a heavier open-weave is cooler than a lighter close-weave cloth. Or not.
    - Mohair is said to be cooler.
    - Mohair has a sheen that some love and others don't. The higher the mohair percentage the more noticeable the sheen. A famous 60's-70's fabric made of high percentages of mohair was 'Tonik' by Dormeuil - you may hear the term still. It became the standard cloth of the Mods.
    - Cashmere is said to be warmer.
    - Very open weaves are often generically called 'frescoes' after the open-weave 'Fresco' cloth pioneered by Minnis. Minnis own the trademark to 'Fresco' so other manufacturers have to come up with their own unique names for similar cloth. 'Crispaire' is the Holland & Sherry equivalent for example - but lots of people here will call all such cloths 'frescoes'.
    - 8oz is light-weight 'tropical worsted', 9-11oz is '3-season' or middle-of-the-road cloth, 13oz is winter/cold climate cloth, and 15oz-18oz is almost unheard of today, although it was quite common before WWII - before central heating and modern building insulation.

    I note you are in Japan, so I'm assuming you would be looking for warmer cloth than I need here in Australia and thus my research into specific cloths probably isn't going to be of interest to you. The process I used may help you however. I spent some hours getting to grips with the range of one merchant on their website (H&S in my case, as that's what my tailor stocks most), made a list of the 5 or 6 collections I thought could be what I wanted, and then went in to see my tailor and asked to be left alone with the six swatch books for a while. I spent a full hour looking at them under different lights, decided how they felt under my hand, thought about if I liked their weight, and then made a choice.

    I personally chose to use 9/10oz Crispaire cloth from Holland & Sherry for my charcoal suit and their 'Classic Mohair' blend (25% mohair/75% wool) in 9.5oz for my navy suit. I chose these because they both have an open weave and are fairly cool fabrics (as I live in a hot place) but are moderately heavy, drape well, and are harder cloths known to wear well and resist creasing. I also found the charcoal Crispaire to have a nice texture that I liked for a day-wear business suit and the Classic Mohair to have a slight sheen under both natural and incandescent light that struck me as very nice for slightly more formal occasions.

    I'm very happy with those choices for my needs and now it's up to my tailor to work his magic! My tailor is also very pleased because he knows I've chosen my fabric carefully and thoughfully and he can now focus entirely on the construction of the garment, not having to worry that I might put it on at the end and then complain that the cloth isn't right, not having known what I really wanted.

    Final thoughts - don't choose a quality cloth and then let your tailor use a cheap polyester lining that is hot and does not breathe. Viscose is considered better that polyester and 'Bemberg' (another brand name) or 'cupro' (the generic name for Bemberg, deriving from the technical name 'cuproammonium rayon') is considered best of all. Bemberg/cupro breathes, slides on nicely and lasts a long time. It's also not that much more expensive - if you're getting bespoke, get it done right!

    Good luck!
     

  9. Stuart Midgley

    Stuart Midgley Member

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    Oh, and some major merchants are Huddersfield Fine Worsteds (including Minnis under their umbrella), Harrisons of Edinburgh (who have four or five other brands under their umbrella as well, including Porter & Harding and H Lesser & Sons), Holland & Sherry, Dormeuil and Dugdale. There are other of course, these only a selection.

    A good post on English mills and merchants is here: https://www.permanentstyle.com/2013/04/huddersfields-mills-and-merchants-explained.html
     

  10. lullemans72

    lullemans72 Senior Member

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    Looks like I'm going to have to study up on all the different mills out there. Thanks for providing me with a starting point. Speaking of which, the tailor I'm in contact with in Japan mentioned an Italian mill called Canonico. Is this is reputable brand? When I search for them in English, I stumble upon "Vitale Barberis Canonico", but I'm not sure if they're the same brand.

    Stuart, thank you SO much for that detailed reply!! It's an incredible help. I'm honestly going to have to read it several times over to make sure all this information sinks in;) I'm glad to be getting advice from someone like yourself who has just gone through the process already. The points you mentioned about heavier or lighter fabrics with open or closed weaves was especially noteworthy.

    You also mentioned the mill called Holland and Sherry, so this is one I'm definitely going to be studying up on.

    As for the climate in Japan, I'm actually looking for a suit fabric for the fall/winter/spring season. To give you a bit more back story, I already visited the tailor once back in May and told them I wanted to order the suit in July. But at the time they told me that the whole manufacturing process including all the fittings and back and forth delivery (their plant is located in SE Asia which is why they can offer bespoke suits at lower prices) could take up to 2-3 months. So if I were to order a suit using the summer fabrics they had on offer in July, I would hardly get much wear out of it if I only received the suit in October. As such, they advised that I wait til August until manufacturers start sending in their fall collections.

    At any rate, if a 100% wool suit of higher quality wrinkles less and can provide me with the satisfaction I want, then I'll go with just that. I mainly mentioned mohair and other blends in the beginning because I wanted to try something different from the usual cheaper wool/poly blend.
     

  11. Maljunulo

    Maljunulo Senior Member

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    I do not have bespoke, but I am well pleased with my suit made from VBC fabric.

    VBC have been in business, and in the same family (I think) since 1663, and they sell to other fabric houses.
     

  12. maxalex

    maxalex Senior Member

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    I would go with wool in your situation. You can easily test the fabric's propensity to wrinkle by twisting it tightly, holding for a few seconds, then letting go. (Or just scrunch up if it's a swatch.)

    Moreover your tailor, if he is skilled and experienced, can help you choose a fabric. My tailor in Rome feels the British fabrics are the best for suiting, better than Italian. (Italians however make the best shirting.)

    I would also recommend getting two pairs of pants for maximum longevity of the suit. It adds only marginally to the total cost (relatively speaking) and will ensure you can still wear it for many years. You can get one pair pleated, one not, or one cuffed and one not.
     

  13. Condottiero

    Condottiero Member

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    The weight of the fabric should be, as you've stated above, around 9-11 oz. (270 to 300 gr.). As these are your work week suits I would select a tougher fabric. The Canonico (yes it is Vitale Barberis Canonico) makes good quality fabrics.

    In that weight, and lighter, categories Italian fabrics are second to none. You could choose a nice "Grisaglia", "Saglia" (twill), or "Gabardine" and will not regret it.

    English and Italian fabrics are both great. I think comparing the two would be like comparing Italian and French wine. Maybe the Italian fabrics have more of an edge on the medium to lighter weight. YMMV.
     

  14. gettoasty

    gettoasty Stylish Dinosaur

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    Those creases just look like you're wearing your pants too tight. May have less to do with fabric...

    And are you hanging your pants correctly, with the the crease pressed along the front?

    I have pants in 100% wool from Land's End that have never creased like that below the crotch and at the thigh.

    Since you're going bespoke I gather a good tailor will account for that detail and fit you properly, regardless of whether you're going for a tradtional or more contemporary silhouette.

    Fabric choice i would think in this case is secondary if your real concern is getting the correct fit. Good luck
     

  15. Stuart Midgley

    Stuart Midgley Member

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    Pleased to be of service. ;)

    Yes, it's an interesting one. There seems to be some debate as to whether a traditionally woven 'tropical worsted' at 8oz is more or less cool than a fresco cloth at 10oz. I've never found a post by anyone who has had both and could give a direct comparison, although a lot of people seem to like the frescoes (Crispaire in particular gets lots of good reviews in recent years). Certainly tailors seem to always prefer heavier cloth to work with, regardless of weave - I believe it makes it easier for them to get a good shape and drape. Keep your tailor happy! ;)

    They're one of the big English merchants and they offer a wide range of quality cloth at a decent price and they market themselves well, so they're a standard offering in most tailors stores around the world. I could certainly have gone looking at all the others but I just figured that the H&S range was a perfectly decent place for me to start for a couple of 'basic' business suits, given my tailor regularly deals with them.

    Yes, Vitale Barberis Canonico is often shortened to 'Canonico' in conversation and they are absolutely one of the top houses. I should have put them in my list!

    You should be able to get most sorts of cloth at any time of year. H&S (as an example again) have every winter and summer cloth they've released in the last five years available at all times. Major houses don't pull their winter cloths from sale in summer and vice-versa - after all it's always winter in one hemisphere and summer in the other!

    From what you say above it sounds to me like your tailor is running a larger operation where they buy a select number of fabrics in large quantities ahead of each season and then try to sell mainly that cloth to their customers - hence possibly their desire for you to buy winter suits at certain times of the year (when they have their bulk orders of winter cloth come in). That's fine - it's one viable way of runnning a tailoring business and the fabric may well be quality stuff that they've chosen carefully and with thought as to what would serve their customers well. Be sure in your own mind though that this is the case, because a less scrupulous tailor might buy whatever they can get cheap and then recommend it to every customer who comes through the door, regardless of individual need. Only you can judge which is the case with your tailor.

    As an aside, the more traditional full-bespoke tailor will generally have smallish quantities of hundreds upon hundreds of cloths of all types in stock, and be happy to order single-suit quantities of anything they didn't already have at your request. That's part of why Savile Row-type tailors can produce such unique clothing. It's also one part of why they cost so much - that range and level of stockholding is one of the things that adds to the price of traditional full-bespoke.

    As a final thought, as well as the larger tailor you've already spoken to you could have a scout around some of the old-fashioned tailors in your area who make their clothes entirely locally. Look past the expensive 'name' tailors and investigate some of the more modest local ones. Some of them have every bit as much skill as the big names but are quite happy in their modest (sometimes even very basic) shops. You might be surprised what you can get - something approaching full bespoke for not much more than Made To Measure prices. In the UK they are sometimes called 'Jeff' tailors (I think) - people who may well have trained on Savile Row (or your local equivalent) and then decided they would rather have their own shop in the suburbs than be an employee of one of the big name tailors. With lower overheads and a more middle-class customer base their prices are often very good, and they may jump at the chance to make you a high-quality garment for a price that is very reasonable compared to the big names.

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2017

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