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,

 

Time: The Greatest Luxury Of All

To say that we have been a little busy of late at Brown in Town, would be a gross understatement – Saffron Darby may require a housekeeper if we spend any more time in the studio and not at No. 73, ahem.

And there is one reason and one reason alone that our books are so full; grooms. It is wedding high season and it is most certainly in full swing. But whereas in previous years our grooms were a well organised bunch who picked up the phone as soon as their brides went to look at the first (of many) wedding dress shops, this year, we seem to have regressed. And more’s the pity.

If there is one luxury a groom is afforded on his wedding day, then surely it is the opportunity to have his wedding suit tailored and to perfection. But these things are not to be rushed, nor the undertaking to be taken lightly.

For example, there is the task of finding a tailor. Whilst we may be enjoying a sartorial renaissance, those that are worth their salt do not grow on trees. Moreover, it must be a tailor with whom you have a good rapport – this is incredibly important, as you want to feel at ease explaining to them what you like and what you do not, or, perhaps more importantly, if you have no idea and need their assistance in matters of the cloth.

Once we are in the company of a tailor that we trust enough to discuss which cloths and, moreover, which cloth colour will be most appropriate – by which I mean flattering, not traditional i.e. grey. There are literally 1000’s of cloths to choose from, made by 100’s of mills, all of whom have their own finishing techniques, colourways, patterns etc. Take your time, there are no right or wrong answers. But I’d suggest the best cloth is the one that is flattering of the wearer i.e. it compliments your own complexion in terms of skin-tone, hair-colour, eye-colour and, more commonly these days, beard colour.

Then, you must decide whether your suit will be made up of two or three pieces i.e. jacket, trousers and if you so desire, a waistcoat (or vest as it is known on the Row). The three piece wins almost hands down these days as it is generally understood that a three piece suit will distinguish the groom from the congregation (when the suit is worn without the jacket) and in terms of a three piece suits elegance, there will be no mistaking who the groom is.

Once we’ve decided upon the number of pieces we’d like to be clad in, you will want to consider which lapels; notched or peaked and pockets; slanted or straight and vent; single or double. Not forgetting how many buttons you may want on your sleeve cuff, of course (the answer to which is four: if it’s good enough for the Row, it’s good enough for you).

Once these decisions have been reached, then, and only then, will your tailor take your measurements, which will take around 30 minutes depending on whether you trust your tailor to dress you to perfection or whether you want to dictate every last detail based on the fit of your favourite skinny-fit chinos! Feeling exhausted already?

This is why Brown in Town prefer our grooms, or any of our patrons for that matter, to afford themselves a little time. Because we prefer to conduct an initial consultation in a relaxed fashion over a coffee or even a gin and tonic of an evening – cigar optional. This gives both parties an opportunity to ascertain whether or not there is a good working relationship and whether or not we are right for the job i.e. we can provide the service which the groom, or customer in question is looking for.

At the end of this initial meeting, we would hope to furnish you with enough information to be able to make an informed decision, or, at the very least, something to show the memsahib so that she can make an informed decision with/for you. This would include costings, design details and perhaps one or two options of cloth and if a cloth has been selected, also linings for coats (jackets) and waistcoats.

Once a decision has been reached and, we would hope, reached at one’s leisure, will we then make another appointment to measure our subject and take down the details of the chosen design together with a 50% deposit in order to commence works. Presently, this second appointment can take up to 3 weeks to get booked-in, owing to demand.

It is from this point in the process that we quote 8 weeks to make a suit, at the end of which the customer is invited for their first fitting. Now, if the customer’s suit was made in it’s entirety, that is to say if there were no reason to warrant making it piecemeal, and there are no adjustments to be carried out to the suit, then the customer is in the very fortunate position of being able to take the suit home with them then and there – a hole-in-one, as we call it.

However, If the suit requires adjustment, then another two weeks are required. And if the suit has been made piecemeal i.e whereby several fittings of the basic garment are required in order to adjust the balance and fit before the coat is made in all of it’s glory, then factor in an additional 8 – 12 wks. Getting nervous.

So, whether groom, businessman or layman, when it comes commissioning a tailored suit, afford yourself and your tailor the greatest luxury of all: time. And enjoy the process having something made just for you.

Style, after all, is a journey, not a destination.

Once Bitten, Forever Smitten

Last week I had the unfortunate duty of laying an old friend (too young to die) to rest. Not only was Simon an incredible athlete and skateboarder, he brought a smile to many faces over the years, not least his wonderful family who now have a huge void where Simon’s beaming face once was. May you rest in peace old boy..

Like so many friends that we grow up with, we lose touch over the years as our lives take us down different paths, but it was nice to see some familiar faces and reminisce about the good ol’ days when we were footloose and fancy free.

Our reunion, as it was, also afforded me an opportunity to wax sartorial with one of my fellow skateboarders about his own sartorial journey which I’ve watched unfold with great pleasure on Facebook. Steve was also an exceptional skateboarder, with a fun sense of style who I’ve wanted to quiz for some time about his recent induction into the world of bespoke tailoring and how he had come to embark upon the journey.

It transpires that, in the old fashioned way, Steve was introduced to his tailor by his sister who used to work alongside the in-house tailor of John Lewis in London. Upon leaving John Lewis, he set-up shop in Reading where Steve makes the pilgrimage whenever he wants something made – I should point out that Steve lives in south London so Reading is quite some distance, but when you have found your man, it is worthwhile and you are unlikely ever to take your customer elsewhere.

So confident is this chap that once a customer has tried his services they will never stray from his path, he purports to make them their first suit at a loss, safe in the knowledge he’ll have a customer for life. Savvy.

While Brown in Town may not offer the first garment we make for our customers at a loss, I have always been of the volition that if you take care of your customers and their needs before your own, they will be with you for life – looking out for tomorrow, if you will.

However, I am oft’ surprised by the limited view that people have of a traditional tailor in terms of what it is that he makes i.e. that a tailor makes suits only and not much else. Given that suits would be the reason that 80% of our customers knock on our door, I suppose this is, perhaps, fair enough. But did you know, for example, that Brown in Town makes more shirts than it does trousers?

Given that Brown in Town have been dressing many of our patrons for many years, I often take for granted that it is understood just how much of a man’s wardrobe we can make – but this would be a folly.

Tailors will make for you pretty much anything that requires a needle and thread, for example, overcoats of varying styles and lengths i.e. a single breasted Crombie style, or double breasted reefer. Suits of two or three pieces (the third piece being a waistcoat or vest, not an extra pair of trousers). Single breasted jackets or double breasted jackets. Trousers or slacks (albeit an Americanism I often use the term slacks to define casual trousers like chinos or traditional style trousers worn as separates as with a jacket of a different colour and/or cloth). Shorts to smarten-up an otherwise casual ensemble, giving the wearer the opportunity to choose a colour which is flattering of their skin tone – not necessarily a consideration for trousers, but above all to ensure a comfortable-jib with a flattering silhouette – I have historically favoured a double continental-pleat (facing outwards as opposed the English pleat which faces inwards which I prefer in trousers) and a turn-up. Shirts for both work and play – often it is the cuff that defines one style from t’other i.e. double-cuffs are more often worn for work and single-cuffs on casual shirts. Also, casual shirts are often worn without a tie and, ergo, have a collar which reflects this, for example the Kent collar which has wingtips closer together and which do not disappear beneath one’s jacket lapels when worn unfastened – as a cutaway shirt collar would.

We also make tailored shorts for the summer months as well as overcoats for the winter ones. It is perhaps little known, but it makes sense does it not. Broadly, any garment made using a pattern, where the various pieces are stitched together with a seam and an inlay that can be both taken-in, or let out, is an item of clothing which can be tailor made.

And just as our own personal style is refined over the years, so can your tailor made garment’s if you afford your tailor the opportunity to make more than just your business duds, or your wedding suit.

For those who appreciate the luxury of having something made and made to their own specifications, using their own measurements, once is never enough – and why should it be – and why should you stop at having just your suits made..

So, before you have need of a new linen or seersucker jacket for summer, or short sleeve shirts for your hols, or even a pair of chinos that won’t cut you in half, look to your clothier of choice and enquire if they can’t rustle you up something unique, made just for you, and in the comfort of their studio and their good company.

With thanks,

 

“You Have To Make Them Feel Good, Before You Can Make Them Look Good..”

It has come to something when the photographer asks you if he is dressed appropriately for the shoot which he is about to conduct: I have always been of the volition it is one’s responsibility to provide sartorial inspiration and solace, not strike fear at the heart of one’s cohorts!

Lee ‘Magpie’ Smith had been commissioned to take some candid photographs of me – I’m no fan of having my picture taken, as official Brown in Town photographer Remco Merbis will attest; that is to say, I do not like seeing myself in pictures. However, I realise that it is a necessary evil and so prefer candid photography over the staged sort.

So, what better opportunity to catch me off-guard, as it were, than to observe me in one of my natural habitats, enjoying a lunch at  The Ethicurean restaurant.

And, given that we were at The Ethicurean for the inaugural Diners Club luncheon, this not only afforded our lens the opportunity to capture me off guard, but also to capture this wonderful event where like-minded souls met to break bread over a glass or two of wine in Wrington’s most picturesque Barley Wood Walled Garden.

The best of Bristol, not to mention Wales, were represented; from restaurateurs, vintners, distillers, mixologists, photographers – in fact both of the lenses who are responsible for making me look good were in attendance – Google gurus, DJ’s and even the prolific blogger and omnipresent social media commentator who is Bookends and Bin Ends.

To my chagrin, it soon became apparent that our photographer was not alone in his quandary about what to wear to this wonderful occasion, as many of the table made apologies for their appearance. But if ever there were a perfect opportunity to wax sartorial, then doing so over a couple bottles of wine and a good meal would certainly be it! In the words Mount St.’s most famous tailor, Douglas Hayward “You have to make them feel good, before you can make them look good..”.

What did impress me was that some of the chaps in attendance had made use of various items which they’d had tailored by Brown in Town and were mixing and matching, as opposed wearing the entire suit, which I’ve often found is a wonderful way in which to discover new ensembles e.g. tailored chino jackets with contrasting untailored chinos or tailored suit trousers with Smedley style knitted polo shirts for a Jazz or Mod appeal. The key is both how you wear it and how you complete the look. The same rules which should be adopted regardless whether for casual or formal attire.

Most importantly, one should feel completely at ease in what one is wearing; whether it be a kaftan, a pair of shorts and a t-shirt or a three piece suit; you should look as comfortable as you feel, or not, as the case may be. Some men have this laissez-faire style and have it in spades. They will most likely never have use for a tailor as they can throw anything on and look effortlessly cool – our photographer would certainly fall into this category. 

However, for the rest of us, following a few simple guidelines will ensure that we do not look like a dog’s dinner;

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere
Most of us have what colourists refer to as base colours. These are more often than not muted tones which form the backdrop for the rest of our ensemble and it is important to ensure that this colour, whichever colour that may be, is flattering against one’s skin tone, or hair colour or even eye colour. More recently an additional consideration or reference has been the colour of a man’s beard, which abound in Bristol and also Shoreditch – this has no bearing on the reasons why Brown in Town choose to conduct their business in these hirsute places, but certainly in my experience, the bearded fellow is invariably a discerning fellow.

Keep it Simple
Use no more than two colours for the main garment; obviously a suit should have the same colour trousers and jacket but if wearing separates the jacket and trousers should be colours which work well together, for example a blue blazer with khaki coloured chinos or grey coloured flannels or worsted trousers. This will give an overall consistency to the ensemble which is easy on the eye and, above all, flattering of the wearer.

A Little Colour
Try not to introduce more than one additional accent colour to the outfit, whether that be a pair of brightly coloured socks or a tie, a belt – hence your shoes and belt ought to be the same colour if not shade, so as not to add an additional colour to one’s ensemble and thus detract from the overall effect. 

Shoes should be of a colour which either match, or offer a complimentary contrasting colour to, the trousers i.e. dark brown or tan shoes with navy blue trousers or khaki chinos, or black shoes with navy blue or black or grey trousers. There are of course exceptions to the rule i.e. brown brogue shoes with grey trousers can look good together but ensure there is an element of black in the broguing, for example, that is cohesive and ties the two colours together. Tan shoes and grey trousers is a contrast too far..  Continue reading

Any Colour, As Long as It’s Your Colour

Given the clement weather of late, the thoughts of those of us who are sartorially inclined naturally turn to our wardrobes and, invariably, the distinct lack of summer clothes in them, in particular, summer suits.

The most popular of all summer suits is, of course, the linen suit. However, it is popular for reasons that are perhaps not as obvious as we might think; whilst the cliched linen suit has always been a lighter shade of ivory or beige which you’d think is good for reflecting the sun and it’s heat, the real reason the linen suit is good in the heat is that linen flax, which is what the cloth is woven from, can absorb more than 20% of it’s own weight in moisture – mother natures very own Gore-Tex, if you will.

Historically, linen suits were made and worn in natural shades, but they are now produced in the most wonderful array of vibrant colours; from white to tan, from inky navy blue to sky blue, from pink to bright red, from sage green to bottle green and everything in between and all of which lend themselves to suits which are ideal for the summer months; when we throw caution to the wind and feel inclined to dress in brighter colours.

However, this poses the million dollar question: which colour is the right colour for us..?

In fact, it was whilst waxing sartorial about this very topic with one of Brown in Town’s new patrons, a journalist no less, who had quite the keenest sense of style of any journalist I’ve ever met – you’d think they were all well turned out in a Clarke Kent kind of way wouldn’t you, but this could not be further from the truth, regrettably – which caused him to enquire how I dressed the men on our books; what was my modus operandi. To which I responded that, having ascertained the application of a suit (or chosen garment), my next line of enquiry, or consideration, are the colours which can be worn by the wearer, or, rather, the colours which one should NOT wear.

To which our muse responded with a question which no-one else has ever posed before; why do I choose to dress men in this way, why do I focus on the colour of a man’s suit first, and not the cut of his jib, or the design of his suit?

So I thought for a minute and I recalled an experience I had had early on in my career when attempting my first ‘summer suit’ and learned a lesson which I live by to this day and which I endeavour to instill in all of our patrons: just because you can have anything, does not mean that you should!

For I learned that whilst blue is a good colour for me, sky blue is most certainly not. I gave no thought to the fact that, albeit I can wear navy blue well, sky blue would react with one’s particular shade of pallid and make me look as anemic as a microwave chip. Not the look I was going for, as you might imagine.

So why did I choose sky blue: because our friends at Richard James on Savile Row had a beautiful bright blue suit made of mohair and wool from Delfino (mohair having a microscopic weave is a great suiting cloth for the summer months) and I thought how beautiful it looked and how it looked the very picture of summer. Which it did; on the rail in the Richard James concession in Selfridges.

For all of it’s benefits, the shortcoming of bespoke tailoring, particularly when one is uninitiated, is having to select the cloth for one’s suit from a book (known as a ‘bunch’) as opposed from a rail of suits

which are ready made and on display in various colours and in a range of sizes; which you can try on for size and also for colour. There is nothing like trying on a suit to ascertain if it’s colour is right for you.

In fact, I use this off-the-rail analogy when offering advice to those embarking upon the bespoke journey for the first time: when commissioning your first tailor made suit, choose a cloth (and a design, for that matter) not dissimilar to that which you would be comfortable buying off-the-rail. Pay it safe in other words. There will always a be another opportunity to have another made once you’ve had time to consider what might be nice to experiment with the next time around.

And so I made it my raison d’etre to impart the wisdom which I gleaned from this experience to one’s patrons and do my level best to prevent any one them from making the same mistake that I had. Of course, you can only lead a horse to water. Moreover, if a groom comes to Brown in Town for morning dress, then we shall make him morning dress, whether or not black, dove grey and stripes look flattering on him.

However, if the world is indeed your oyster, and one is only interested in having a suit made that you will take great pride in wearing, and not one that you won’t, our advice is to choose any colour, as long as it’s your colour.

Enjoy your Summer..