Tailoring That Tells A Story

Everybody has a sartorial jumping off point. My own was being shipped-off to South East Asia by Target Corporation and introduced, as all self-respecting ex-pats are, to my maid, my housekeeper and my tailor?!

Of course, I knew what the first two brought to the party, but what of this tailor chap; I didn’t wear suits.. My employer had other ideas.

It may not have been the most orthodox of introductions to tailoring, but that journey led to Brown in Town and we soon enter our 4th year. And having scratched our heads all the while, I think we have finally answered the age old question of what it is that we do; Tailoring That Tells A Story.

Now, this may not appear to be much of a revelation, nor come as a surprise to any of our Customers, particularly those whom we have dressed for their weddings. But, sometimes, the most obvious answers to the most testing questions, can be right under our noses – which, given my rather distinguished conk, can seem rather far away at times.

But 2016 also saw some firsts for Brown in Town, among them our first real foray into women’s tailoring, with no fewer than three ‘Trouser Suits’, as they have become known affectionately, for civil weddings. I dare say that in 2017 we may actually launch our female tailoring officially. Watch this space..

But we have also produced some of our best, if not challenging, work to date. Our first first,  was creating customised linings, whereby the customer designs their own jacket lining. We created no fewer than five personalised linings all told, for some discerning patrons for whom our huge selection of house linings and fancies and those from Lear Brown & Dunsford are plainly (pun intended) not enough. These would include; Iron Maiden’s Eddy (for a barrister, no less), Dandelions (designed by our good friends at Mondo Magna), Wallace & Gromit (for whom I am sworn to secrecy) and Batman – which is actually still in the workshop and is required for Bruce’s wedding next week (when I said I needed the artwork in a hurry Bruce, I did not mean two weeks later..!).

And fancy linings are not the only thing which take a little extra time to create, for it may have taken us a year, but we are finally getting Strawberry (the Brown in Town van, christened by our daughter!), liveried. When I say liveried, do not expect to see our name emblazoned on the side, but do expect to see our wardrobe on wheels painted a colour inspired by our Brown in Town  carrier bags..!

It took a lifetime to find my chosen vocation and whilst it may not take us that long to make one of our suits, it was my story that lead me here in the first place and it is the story of those who commission us to make their suits that is sewn into everything which we make..

As they say, all good things come to those who wait..

It’s a Pitti, But Someone Has To Do It

The end of any year is oft’ a heady time, as we endeavour to tie up loose ends and clear the decks ahead of Christmas.

Often referred to as the silly season, it encourages pandemonium as people scrabble to meet deadlines – or false deadlines as a friend recently described them – and draw a line under one’s achievements and challenges, milestones and anniversaries and births and deaths – and, sadly, I encountered more than my fair share of the latter in 2015.

But with each new year comes fresh challenge and, if we are lucky, a feeling of renewed vigour; think of New Year resolutions which we are motivated to commit to, inspired by our shortcomings, or our desire to improve upon something which we feel we could do better.

My own personal resolution is ‘to be in the moment‘, something which I heard Kim Ingleby speak about at the TedX Talks event at Bristol’s Colston Hall last year and which is a state of mind I have long since strived for.

My professional resolution has been to seek the assistance of a PA; something which I have been encouraged to do by one’s peers who have reaped the reward of having their time freed up to enable them to drive their businesses and focus on those things which they are most suited to; their strongest suits, if you’d pardon the pun.

In my case it will afford me the opportunity to focus not only on the future of Brown in Town, but enable me to be more creative in our campaigns – which, whilst I enjoy every element of their creation, take me no small amount of time and energy I can assure you – whilst continuing to meet with our customers to discuss their sartorial requirements and facilitate their ideas for fantastic suits or shirts, jackets, slacks and overcoats etc.

But, more poignantly, I will be able to keep in touch with our patrons. Some have been with me for many years and I am rarely able to join them at the bar and wax lyrical about the order of things, or, indeed the style of the day, because in two short years, Brown in Town has become that busy. Incredible, but true.

So, having found the answer to our prayers in the form of our Claire – Brown in Town’s saving grace and Queen of organisation – I am ready to seize the moment, which has begun with a trip to Florence to witness the sartorial powerhouse which is the Pitti Uomo faire.

Were inspiration of a sartorial kind ever needed, then the movers and shakers at the bi-annual Pitti Faire certainly provide it and provide it in spades. From Italy’s master tailors, to Savile Row, everyone and anyone who is passionate about their craft is represented.

I am also looking forward to catching up with artisans whose handcrafted products we stock in our own atelier, for example Fox Umbrellas and also my shoemaker of choice Cheaney & Sons. I also hope to meet one’s tailoring peers from across the water, such as Pironne Massimo and also closer to home, Savile Row’s belle of the ball, Richard James.

But the Holy Grail of the trip is none other than the indispensable pocket square. Some of the best pocket squares in the world are made in Italy using the finest silks, batistes, cottons and linens and since the demise of our local pocket square supplier, we are on the hunt for a worthy successor. I am keen to stock elegant squares featuring timeless designs and patterns, such as polka dot, paisley, floral and simple bordered designs; simple and timeless.

And while there are new projects which Saffron Darby and I are keen to embark upon this New Year, they are going to have to wait just a few more days.. It’s a Pitti, but someone has to do it!

All the best, look forward to seeing you in 2016.

Going, Going, Gone.. The End of Summer.

It has been too long that I have put the metaphorical pen to paper and I cannot tell you what an enormous thrill it is at being able to steal away a couple of hours to sit and write.. and possibly smoke a cigar whilst I am at it.

And it is not for want nor desire that I have not taken the time to write, it is simply that there has not been the time between appointments; at the height of summer I counted that our typical 2 – 4 commissions a week had become 7 or more! We have also been on the road; at one point I counted that we were away 8 weeks on the trot.. possibly too much for any family, or at least any parents of young children; the children, however, were seemingly unscathed, although Rubin Sonny was more than a little fed up at being wrestled into his car seat by the end of the summer.

So what of our adventures; well, as I said, it was the busiest wedding season on record for me personally, which is obviously a wonderful thing, if not a little exhausting. More than likely this had a lot to do with the lack·a·dai·si·cal organisation of our grooms at ordering their wedding attire – some leaving it as late as 4wks before the event! But I am pleased to report that not a single groom was left standing at the altar in his altogether and, as yet, we’ve received nothing but praise and thanks for our work and long may it continue. In fact, at time of going to press we have already received several commissions for wedding suits for nuptials being tied this side of Christmas. Isn’t love a wonderful thing.

Possibly ill-timed was our sojourn to the splendid Casa Rosa in Mallorca at the end of August, this being one of the busiest months on the wedding calendar and just a couple of weeks before the Goodwood Revival for which Brown in Town were responsible for the suits worn by the Bonhams auctioneers. But it was good to ascend the stairs of our subterranean studio and soak up some serotonin and add a little colour to one’s cheeks – not those cheeks, I have Speedos white lines for heaven’s sake! In fact, for my sins, it was poolside that I scribed our last blog about, among other things, the virtues of this year’s jacket of the summer which was made from Holland & Sherry’s super seersucker cloth and is adorned with carry-all patch pockets and is also completely unlined so as to reduce weight and insulation, making it cool to wear but very functional. And as one can do only when you are sunkissed, I indulged in a little Lacoste, investing in a crisp white polo shirt to wear with my tailored blue linen shorts, naturally!

Since our return, we have furnished the last of our grooms with their summer wedding suits and started work on launching our new Custom Collection, which has been a long time in the making and which I will write about in more detail very soon. But in essence we have created a capsule wardrobe for the modern gentleman, who requires more that just a suit in his arsenal to get him through the working week and into the weekend. We have been working on this collection for some time and it was only our inability to launch it that has hindered us from sharing it with the world, but we are elated to have enlisted the services of Daniel Edmund from men’s style blog Milk for Tea to help us to do so – those that follow us on Instagram will have noticed the launch of @brownintownatelier and which Daniel is doing a splendid job of showcasing our atelier. Thank you Sir!

Our other sojourns along the M4 corridor have included the Goodwood Revival where we were surrounded by the finest motor cars in the world and several thousand sartorially clad men and women for the highlight of the Brown in Town calendar, where the great and the good divulge to see motor racing as it used to be – and in my humble opinion at it’s best – to raise a few glasses of bubbly and be in with the opportunity to drive away in a piece of automotive history courtesy of our hosts, Bonhams auctioneers. This was followed by the wedding of the year for the family and for which Brown in Town were honored to have been commissioned to make the suit for the groom – those who follow my Instagram @bristolslocaltailor will be familiar with the unfolding photostory of  ‘The Indestructible Suit’, a three piece thornproof tweed suit which we made for Sam, Rebbie’s groom.

And as if to mark the end of a barmy summer, no sooner had we returned home from the South Downs, but we had to return from whence we came to lay Saffron Darby’s grandfather, Poppa Bru to rest. RIP Poppy, you will be sorely missed.

The end of wedding high season this year was marked by the wedding of Edward and Ellie Busby, whose respective families and friends have kept us busy throughout the summer with no fewer than five suits on the cutting table at any one time. Brown in Town would like to thank the Busby’s for their patronage and moreover their friendship and vitality which always brought good cheer to our studio on Colston St. and also our residency at The Hoxton Hotel in London.

Whilst I was hoping for things to be a little less manic here at Brown in Town HQ, the opposite has been true as we entre the final furlong of 2016 – this blog has been 4 weeks, if not more, in the putting off. As wedding season returns to a gentle flow from the torrent we have navigated, we have simultaneously received a healthy number of commissions for evening attire as we fast approach the silly season.

And as if by magic, Brown in Town has celebrated it’s official anniversary in the past week – like the Queen, we have two; one when the company was inaugurated and the other when we opened the doors of our first shop in Hotel du Vin’s cigar humidor on 1st January 2014. To say that we are thrilled with the reception that Brown in Town has received would be an understatement and it is to our patrons, friends and families that we owe an enormous debt of gratitude for their continued patronage and support these past two wonderful years. Long may they continue.

With the evenings drawing in and my tweeds once again coming into their own as I sit outside our new home at Bangshanky smoking a cigar and putting the finshing touches on this illusive blog, I bid you adieu until next time; which hopefully will not be another 8 weeks as I am itching to introduce the new Brown in Town Custom Collection!

The Order of Things: Bespoke or Bespoken

I am hopeless at arranging holidays. But while I may procrastinate about where and when, I absolutely love being poolside with friends and family. This past year, however, I have taken advice and proactively marked in one’s calendar when I have felt that I really needed to take a break and escape the sartorial dungeon – as one of our patrons refers to Brown in Town’s subterranean studio affectionately!  

With Inbox emptied and having conducted at least the first and in some instances final (there is nothing quite like a hole-in-one; a suit that fits first time) fitting of all the wedding suits whose maiden voyage will take place during our sojourn, I can start to think about our holiday. And once I’m at the airport, I can relax; well, as much as one is able when travelling with two clattering saucepan lids and an excitable Saffron Darby, who has held the fought whilst yours truly has worked possibly too many 12 hours days in the run up to this most ill-timed of vacations; August would be our busiest time of year, being, as it is, wedding high season.. you get the picture.

Now, this may sound like a bit of a busman’s holiday, but one of the pleasures which I glean from a vacation comes from putting together a capsule wardrobe which I can put through it’s paces during the trip. More than ever, the capsule must meet an increasingly stringent set of criteria to ensure it is functional as well fashionable. For starters, it must be compact enough to fit into the solitary piece of cabin luggage we are permitted to carry on today’s flights. This means that each piece shortlisted must, above all things, be functional and versatile enough to work well with at least two of the other pieces.

The maiden voyage of any ensemble, whether it be a wedding suit, a DJ or even new business duds, is, in my book, an immeasurable luxury and pleasure. Given that many of the pieces in this holiday’s capsule are Brown in Town pieces, time must be allowed for the creation and making of those pieces. While this satisfies one’s perversion for delayed gratification, in order to have all the items of one’s wardrobe ready I must start planning well in advance given the 8 weeks it can take to make a jacket or coat (in this particular instance a blue and white seersucker from Holland & Sherry, unlined to keep it lightweight and cool and with patch pockets to make it functional), not to mention the blue poplin and white oxford shirts to accompany it.

And it is with the time taken to create a tailored garment in mind, I thought it may be a good opportunity to continue our conversation about what is entailed in the making of one of our garments, whether suits, separates, shirts or overcoats etc. further to our previous article: “The Order of Things”.

Once a customer has decided upon a cloth and suit design, we arrange an appointment with them to be measured. This appointment can take up to an hour and it is while we are recording somebody’s measurements that we are able to identify which type of tailoring process is required.

Of course, a customer can choose how their suit is made, whether fully bespoke, whereby a suit is made in stages and adjustments made throughout the process in order to refine the fit, or a garment which is made-to-measure, where the suit is made in it’s entirety using the measurements taken from the wearer and inclusive of any applicable figurations, then adjusted retrospectively.

Some body shapes, for example those with scoliosis, where the spine has a twist in it and the buttons on the coat do not align with the buttons on the fly of one’s trousers, require a garment to be made and adjusted at various stages to ensure a good fit, while other body shapes do not.

Now, made-to-measure – that is to say a suit which is made-to-measure – has acquired something of a bad reputation over the years and I believe this is as a result of the tourist tailoring trade in Southeast Asia, whose silver tongued salesmen offer to turn a suit around within 24 – 48 hours, or at the very least during the course of your stay.

As with all things, however, you get what you pay for and if you pay a tailor to make you – and quite possibly many others – an entire suit in such a short space of time there is only so much which can be achieved and often the suit is made using off-the-peg methods i.e. if you have a 40″ chest, it would be presumed that your trousers waist would be 34″ – But we all know that the majority of us are no more able to fit perfectly into an off the peg suit than a tailor is able to make a fully tailored suit to perfection in 24 hours; these things take time.

What Brown in Town offer is a tailoring service based on the expectations or requirements of the individual. That is to say, if, having taken their measurements, we believe we are able to make their suit in one hit, or rather using the made-to-measure process, with possibly one or two rudimentary alterations following the first fitting, then we will do so providing the customer is happy for us to.

However, if it is plain that perhaps more than one adjustment will be required to perfect the fit, we recommend a mid-stage fitting which utilises a coat or jacket incorporating the customers measurements and figurations, made in a cotton toile. This affords us the opportunity to asses the fit before their jacket is made in the chosen cloth.

But if the customer’s shape, or indeed chosen design, will require several fittings with minor adjustments made to the balance, measurements and fit of the garment, then we will suggest that a fully bespoke service is undertaken in order that we can refine the fit at each stage of the make. This method takes longer than a suit which is made-to-measure or made utilising a mid-stage fitting with a toile, up to 16 weeks or thereabouts.

Obviously, if there is a time constraint, for example a wedding, this must be taken into consideration when deciding which type of tailoring service to opt for. In addition, so must one’s budget as there is naturally a cost implication for the various types of tailoring process also; made-to-measure being the least expensive, fully bespoke being the most.

It is the latter service which also affords the customer the option to choose the finer details of their suit design, for example, if you hanker after an exceptionally wide and flouncy lapel a la David Bowie by Tommy Nutter on your double breasted jacket, then sharpen your pencil as this is where you can try your hand at playing couturier.

This is not to say that one cannot experiment with the width of one’s lapel, or the length of one’s coat or the number and material of buttons on one’s jacket if your suit is not made utilising a fully bespoke service, as all of these details and more can be incorporated into any of the aforementioned tailoring processes, but the degree of variation from your chosen tailoring houses block, will vary and may not be as comprehensive.

Once we have your measurements and all of the details pertaining to the design of your suit, shirt, trousers, slacks, jacket, blazer or overcoat, we can then get your order onto the cutting table. And, depending upon which tailoring service you have opted for, you can expect to wait anything from 6 – 8wks for your first fitting and 2 – 4 weeks for the second – and possibly final, if the suit was made-to-measure – or another 4 wks if fully bespoke.

Albeit the phrase bespoke is derived from the olde English word bespoken i.e. to inform your tailor of the cloth which you desire in order that he can order a cut length from the applicable mill or merchant in preparation for making your suit with it, ‘bespoke’ does rather paint a picture of the traditional method of making a suit, does it not.

The next stage of the tailoring process, being one’s first fitting, I think we will leave until another day, as the swimming pool beckons and our children are becoming fractious.
Until then, “buenas tardes” one and all..

The Order Of Things

From time to time, I am asked what is the process involved when having a suit made at Brown in Town. So I thought it might be useful to share exactly how it is we do what we do, beginning with the appointment process and gradually paint a picture of what is entailed when having a suit made – the order of things, if you will.

More often than not, we receive enquiries from those that have been referred by one of our patrons. This is always greatly appreciated because not only does it mean that we have come highly recommended by someone who knows the customer better than we do but, moreover, that one of our patrons has seen fit to recommend our services – way back when, this was the only way that you met your tailor – by being introduced. These days, there is the internet, social media and printed media, of which I am still a huge fan.

We also receive enquiries from people that have been referred to us by those we have never met, for example those who may have seen me about Bangshanky, the salon on Colston St. in Bristol under which my studio is located. This is, of course, incredibly flattering. I am of course aware that a reputation can precede you, but I still find it a little disconcerting.

Invariably, those that have chanced upon us and have not used our services before are either inspired by our house-style i.e. the cut of our jib, or the designs of our suits which they have seen, or, by the ethos of Brown in Town itself – which may or may not be the same thing.

So, how do we go about making someone a suit. Well, depending on any ‘time constraints’, we invite our customers to come and discuss their sartorial requirements with us in the first instance, in order that we can paint a picture of what it is that is required, or desired. Then, and only then, can we make suggestions with regard cut, design, cloth and construction – the four key elements required to make a suit, or any other garment for that matter, be it an overcoat, separates i.e. jackets and slacks, or a shirt.

During the initial consultation, it is likely that we will ascertain what is the preferred cut of one’s jib i.e. the fit of one’s suit, the cloth; it’s colour, it’s pattern, it’s weight, it’s finish and it’s handle, also the suit’s design i.e. two pieces or three pieces, double breasted or single breasted, straight or angled pockets, type of buttons etc. The method of making the suit that is required i.e. whether it will be made-to-measure, semi-bespoke or fully bespoke and also whether the customer wants their coat, or indeed their waistcoat, to be fully canvassed or half canvassed.

Once we are abreast of this information, we are able to provide the customer with a detailed breakdown of costs. Some of our customers will decide on the spot if they would like to go ahead and will commission us then and there. Others, particularly grooms, who might like to seek the counsel of their betrothed, may prefer to discuss the details provided in the comfort of their own home and then let us know in due course if we are to press ahead. At this time, we will make a further appointment to take their measurements.

Of course, if time is of the essence, then we are more than happy to wax sartorial, agree the design, the cloth and the construction and then take measurements during the same appointment. This can take several hours or be all said and done within an hour, if the customer knows exactly what they want, or, they are happy to be guided. They must also be able to stand rooted to the spot whilst I whirr-around them with a tape measure!

So, broadly, that is the appointment process in a nutshell. Book your appointment with us at a time that is mutually convenient – including evenings. Bring your ideas, wants and desires to the table and feel free to spend as long as you’d like discussing your sartorial requirements – this can take place over more than one appointment.

Once a decision has been reached with regards all details pertaining to the making of a suit, we will then arrange a mutually convenient time to take measurements. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Once we have taken measurements, we request a deposit of 50% of the total cost in order to commence works. This enables us to place an order for the chosen cloth and materials with the mill or cloth merchant.

In fact the term bespoke comes from the word bespoken, which is the process of asking your tailor to earmark the cloth of your choice for use in making your suit and is the beginning of the tailoring process: The Order of Things.

If you’d like to make an enquiry, please find our contact details here.

With thanks,