Male urban chic, the final fashion frontier. Trimmings, darts, and split shirt yokes, the tailormade recipe is one tried and true perfected by London’s style-savviest. The savoir-faire of your Great British Bespoke exudes an allure that crosses the borders of time and space sparking the interest of many a fashion layman across the globe. The New China Man included. Time to get off the cuff!
The custom-made menswear clientele nowadays includes a rapidly increasing number of suited and booted Chinese aficionados, whose pattern palatableness very much favors the traditional, timeless British gentleman style, resulting in a rush for London’s finest dexterity.
One such endeavor in craftsmanship is that of Henry Herbert bespoke Tailors set up by Charlie Baker-Collingwood some 11 years ago, with the objective to change the way bespoke tailoring was delivered. Instead of customers having to make their way down to Savile Row, the golden mile of tailoring in Central London, Baker wanted to make the tailor work for the customer.
He consequently introduced the Savile Row by Scooter Service where tailors go to see customers in their homes, offices, enter random locations. The company in the meantime has also grown into its own shop, with customers swarming in from all four corners of the world. And from China, in particular.
Temper brings you the Great British Baker-Off. #weheartcheesy
Temper: Diving right in. Henry Herbert: What is the full-fledged Henry Herbert experience? And, obviously, what is a good fit?
Baker: We always say to customers, “If it doesn’t fit a little, it doesn’t fit at all.” But having said that, every customer is different and what’s right for one, might not be right for another. As bespoke tailors, we work around each client individually, trying to understand what makes them feel comfortable and confident wearing their bespoke suits.
Temper: About Fabrics, Paper Patterns and Canvasses. And Fittings. Let’s inject a bit of pro-lingo here!
Baker: There is an oasis of fabrics to choose from for a customer; we stock over 20k fabrics. But that’s just one part of the story. Once the customer has chosen the fabric, then we have to start the making of it. That’s where the real work starts.
We have so many different trimmings and parts and different bits and pieces involved in putting a suit together – canvas, trimmings, collars, 10k hand stitches to boot – which all accumulate to a very expensive product. One that takes about 80 hours to make. It’s a long process but one that wraps up with a standup product that will last you for years.
Temper: Men’s style in the past 20 years, from Bieber hair to beards-we-do-care. How about suits?
Baker: I think we definitely see styles coming and going and what is in vogue one decade, quickly goes out of fashion the following decade. Or season.
I think it’s important for customers to discover a timeless style and we’re here to steward them through this process of discovery. Though we obviously never tell a customer what to do. I think a few years ago, the one-button single-breasted jacket was very popular, but we’ve seen that disappear quite quickly and people seem to return to the single-breasted two-button.
There was speculation maybe double-breasted suits would reappear, but we saw very little of it. Timeless, classic suits are currently at the order of the day. Clients know these will stand the test of time.
Temper: The New Made In China Man. Particular palates?
Baker: We have a fair few customers from China and Asia at large and whereas they do look at Europe for style-inspiration, perhaps, more importantly, the type of cloth we use is of bigger importance because of the climate ranges one might encounter from China down to Singapore. In that light, we recommend light-weight wools and cottons and even mohairs. Fabric is a much more important consideration across Asia. It’s about practicality as well.
Temper: How about the evolution of China’s menswear and style based on your experiences?
Baker: As we live in such a globalized world driven by images such as Instagram, magazines and other popular figures in the media, China Style is (in our experience) very much keeping up with European styles. What we see here in London is seen straightaway in Asia and because of that they very much are keeping up.
Ensuing from the aforementioned, many of our Chinese clients opt for simple, classic two-piece suits with a very slim cut, often single-breasted, two-button.
Temper: What is it about the British Savile Row style that attracts a global clientele? Is it that stiff upper lip savviness? Or the savoir-faire? How do you play into that demand?
Baker: In this digital day and age, people can quickly get an understanding of your credentials and reviews, newspaper articles, Instagram images, and other social media applications. They are attracted to the British style, but they do expect a very high standard of service. Which we give very naturally, anyway.
Nevertheless, we have tried to make it a more approachable service. We’re a young team, the works shop and shop are very beautiful but also carry a very relaxed atmosphere. So we sort of drive ourselves away from the stuffiness of British Savile Row and offer a very fresh, young approach to modern British tailoring, which I think our customers across Asia – and other parts of the world, for that matter – very much appreciate.
Temper: From Beijing to London to New York to …: Different body types, different shapes, what are the general rules to go by as to avoid one too many alterations?
Baker: Every customer is different. And no matter where in the world the client may come from, we all go in and out in sizes and so we future-proof our suits by building in a three- to four-inch seam allowance — both in trousers and jackets.
Subsequently, if a customer goes in or out size-wise, they can come in and see us or we go see them and we can make the adjustments so the suit can keep up with their changing body patterns.
Temper: When it comes to male accessorizing… What say you?
Baker: Less is more. Both with accessorizing the suit and the suit itself. Maybe a pocket-handkerchief and a smart-watch and a very beautiful tie, but certainly nothing more.
When it comes to the suit, keep it clean, sharp and simple. Two buttons, very slim fitting and then the work of the suit can really show its stuff.
Temper: Men everywhere… What NOT to wear?
Baker: Interesting one! We’re never ones to tell our clientele what to do and often we can learn from them as much as they can learn from us. We do see customers from all four corners of the world in all their flamboyant styles and cloths and size-slash-fit preferences and thus often we can take ideas from them. We never want to say to a client, “Don’t do this.”
The most important thing that any suit should do is to make you feel good. That’s the No.1 box to tick.
“One should either be a work of art or wear a work of art.”
— Oscar Wilde
FEATURED IMAGE: IN MEMORY OF Godfrey Gao, 1984-2019. Image: online.
ALL IMAGES IN THIS FEATURE COME COURTESY OF HENRY HERBERT TAILORS, 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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