My father took me to his tailor in Barking, Morris’ to buy my first bespoke suit. I had to pick out cloth from stock of course, I didn’t really want brown, but the best I could choose at the time from what they had was a brown worsted – probably around 14 ozs. It’s was what I would call a brown ’double plain’ .
It was 1965, I was 15years old and heavily influenced by ‘mod’ fashion, as a result I managed to insist that they make me a two piece single breasted, 4 button suit with a very narrow notch lapel with a long centre vent, completed with an outside ticket pocket and slanted pockets.
My first bespoke suit was cut by Alan Bennett for whom I worked at the time – it must have been around 1984. It was a single-breasted, notch lapel 2 button suit with two vents and straight pockets – in 11/12ozs navy blue herringbone stock cloth from Alan’s shop – at that time Alan Bennett at 36 Savile Row. The jacket (coat) was made by Jim Stevenson and the trousers by Don Snow.
I was 23– it was a single-breasted peak lapel 2 piece suit in navy herringbone with a blue stripe – the 11/12ozs cloth was from H Lesser of Great Pulteney Street. The coatmaker was Stefan Jedras and the trousers were made by Sarkis Sultanien.
I must have been about 17, 1952 – I was working at Davies & Son in the 19 Hanover Street premises. It was a blue ‘pinhead’ double-breasted, 1 button 2show suit. I remember the blue pinhead was truly ‘blue’. I cut the suit myself and worked with a coatmaker and trousermaker to make it – I trained as both cutter and tailor.
I was 17 or maybe just 18 years old. It was a two piece, perfect navy hopsack. The colour was not too light but not too dark. It was single breasted, 2 button with a notch lapel. It had slanting pockets and an outside ticket pocket. I remember being told not to go too flashy on your first suit as I would be wearing it everyday at that time. The Jacket was made by Tim Sheehan and the trousers by Peter Theophanis
My introduction to bespoke tailoring is a tale of two suits. In the early Noughties, I got a booking to be a fashion presenter for the BBC at Royal Ascot. I didn’t own or inherit morning tails or a top hat but fortunately had recently met a dapper chap called Chris Modoo who worked for Britain’s oldest tailor Ede & Ravenscroft. I was measured-up for black morning tails, grey and black stripe brace-top trousers and a buff waistcoat. Instead of the usual consultation between cutter and customer, I just nodded my head and allowed myself to be guided. It was Chris who pointed out that the brace-tops had to be high so there was no danger of showing shirt and insisted that I wear yellow over-the-calf socks and garters. Chris selected a claret tie with white micro dots, a duck egg blue tunic shirt and a detachable stiff, stud collar. We worked on over forty combinations of shirt-tie-waistcoat-pocket-silk for the subsequent nine years that I worked at Royal Ascot. He never got one wrong.
About five years into the BBC gig, weight or wear necessitated new kit. By then, I was a little more familiar with Savile Row and asked Davies & Son chairman Alan Bennett to cut a new tailcoat inspired by one worn by the Duke of Windsor when Prince of Wales in the 1920s. Alan doesn’t advertise it, but he is incredibly knowledgeable about the history of Savile Row. There wasn’t even a question that he was going to cut generous ‘spongebag’ (houndstooth) trousers as worn by the prince and trim the tailcoat with black braid. It is the form at Royal Ascot for the men to wear dark waistcoats on Ladies’ Day so Alan cut a single-breasted tone-on-tone vest from the same cloth as the tailcoat and trimmed it with ‘slips’ made from white Marcella. Every detail was an homage to the Prince of Wales and was carefully considered. Even if you didn’t know or care about tailoring, you’d know Davies had produced a winner.
In 1984 I had my first suit made for me by City tailor Couch & Hoskin after I had mentioned them in a piece on bespoke tailoring I’d written for the business section of The Observer. I went for a single-breasted three-piece in a black-and-white dogtooth cloth with a notch lapel. The tiny checked pattern was more interesting than a plain. I chose a bottle green for the lining.
I remember my first fully bespoke suit with great fondness: I’d had Made To Measure before, and in fairness, they too were beautiful garments made under the auspicious House of Sulka on Old Bond Street. A name from a bygone era of style and sophistication. However, no one can ever forget the first time they are taken in hand and guided through the labyrinth of full bespoke; First the style: Single breasted, double? How many buttons? waistcoat – pretty much the same questions. The trousers; pleats, pockets, brace tops. The list is endless, or so it seems. Having had some limited experience in my previous career, I wasn’t as daunted as I should have been. The cloth selection was the very best part of the whole experience for me and remains so to this day. Back in 1998 I selected a dark grey wool & cashmere with a red stripe, 3 piece with extra trousers and I have to say that 18 years later I am still extremely proud of that suit and even more proud that I can still get into it. Sure, some of the seams need a little attention at times but this is a hand made garment. The Rolls Royce of the sartorial world and just like those illustrious automobiles, they are crafted by people that fell in love with the bespoke world and became part of it. I’ve had many suits since then but the first always holds a special place for every man.
I almost forgot…..The tailors were Kilgour, the cutter was the newly appointed Richie Charlton (now at Alexander McQueen).
Prince Michael of Kent’s first proper suit was cut by Davies & Sons, tailors to Lord Nelson, the Duke of Windsor and Calvin Klein. ‘I was about 15. I’ve still got some Davies suits in tweed made for me in the 1960s,’ he says. ‘They still fit, though they would need some adjustments.’
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