Saturday, 30 January 2010

Bespoke Suiting

I spoke on the blower this morning to Clarke and Dawe, the men's clothiers, about made-to-measure suits; including the cloth and, mainly the price. Seemingly the rough figure is currently £595, presumably for a two-piece suit.

Then I rang David Young, a bespoke tailor - possibly the only bespoke tailor on the island of Ireland. Mr Young is quietly spoken, unassuming, and sounds a good, all-round egg to me. We chatted at length about types of cloth; cloth weight; the merits of two or three piece suits; Holland & Sherry; and the number of fittings (normally one).

Mr Young has fitting sessions in Dublin for clients there; though he willingly offered to come to Belfast. His fee is currently €1,000 for a two-piece suit; and €1,400 for a suit and waist-coat. That equates to about £868 for a bespoke suit using Savile Row cloths, like Holland & Sherry.

I read a testimonial from one satisfied customer:-

"I was in Ireland a couple of months ago and happened into Mr. Young's shop on Francis Street in Galway. Mr. Young, a kind and unassuming gentleman, informed that he was born and raised in Dublin, but moved to London as a young man where he trained under Peter Moore on Savile Row in the 70s. Years later, he returned to Ireland and set up shop in Galway - his wife's hometown. He seemed surprised at my interest in bespoke clothing. Apparently, there is not big market for bespoke tailoring in Ireland, notwithstanding the economic boom there over the past decade or so. Most of people in his shop were rummaging through racks of ready-made suits and sweaters. His clientele is a small, but loyal group, comprised of lawyers and bankers in the Galway area. He seemed to have no idea there is wide interest outside of Ireland for bespoke tailoring.

He showed me some of his work in progress, which consisted of hand-cut cloth; hand-sewn canvases; soft, lightly-padded shoulders; and hand-sewn buttonholes with beautiful horn buttons. The style appeared to be classic Savile Row, mildly structured with high armholes and nipped waist. He told me that all the work was performed by him personally on the premises, from the cutting of the cloth to the finishing of the garment.

I was shocked to say the least when he told me his price for a hand-made bespoke garment - 1,000 Euro for a suit; 700 Euro for a jacket. That is about half of what I paid to one of the least expensive Savile Row tailors, and about a fourth of what one can expect to pay in most tailoring houses in London.

Based on our long conversation, I commissioned him to make me a jacket out of Donegal tweed. He was reluctant to do it without a fitting (I was returning home in a couple of days) but agreed to do it after I assured him he could make any adjustments on my next visit to Ireland. At 700 Euro, I figured I didn't have much to lose. After I finally selected a cloth from the book, Mr. Young's cloth merchant in London told him he ran out of it. Apparently Magee - the company that holds the monopoly on most of the handwoven tweed market in Donegal - won't sell cloth directly to tailors. Magee, however, does sell cloth to individual customers at a few of its approved retailers, so Mr. Young ordered the cloth through one such retailer in town. In fact he and I walked across town to the shop to confirm it could get the cloth for us.

Back at Mr. Young's shop, he took detailed measurements and told me the jacket would be finished and mailed to me in a couple of weeks. Based on my experiences with London tailors and shirtmakers, I didn't believe it would be finished in two weeks - especially since it would take him a week to get the cloth. But sure enough a couple of weeks later it arrived at my home in Washington.

What is most remarkable to me about the jacket is the fit. It is by far my best fitting jacket, and Mr. Young did it without a fitting. No other tailor has made me such a well-fitting jacket - even after multiple fittings. It's very light for a tweed jacket, and it's beautifully finished. After paying extra for the specially ordered fabric and postage, the final cost was 850 Euros, which was still about half what I last paid for a jacket with shoulders that make me look like a linebacker made by a traveling London tailor.

So if you're ever in Ireland, stop by his shop. He is a very interesting fellow, and he may even teach you how to speak some Irish.

Also, Mr. Young said he would travel here if three or four people in a given place were interested. Again, he seemed surprised to hear there was a demand for bespoke around the globe. I sparked his curiosity when I told him that many of the tailoring houses in London make trips to the U.S. and elsewhere throughout the year. He's kind of insulated there on the west coast of Ireland. I think he would be absolutely shocked by the discussions on this forum. However, while he and I communicated through email a couple of times through his daughter, I don't think he is very computer savvy."

Mr young initially put me off waist-coats, saying that they were not as fashionable these days; nevertheless, a waist-coat can be somewhat distinctive, on the other hand.

If Mr Young were coming up to Belfast, would any readers be interested in having a bespoke suit made? That's my idea, incidentally, not his. It is just a thought. He's going to contact me in about three weeks' time.

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