Friday, July 31, 2009

Size Doesn't Matter - To a Custom Tailor

I wanted a bomber jacket. Not some high school letter jacket, a Navy flight jacket or one shouting the name of my favorite football team. No, the idea that had been brewing in the back of my mind’s eye was for something very different indeed, familiar in style but fresh and unique.

This jacket would not be found at regular retailers, never in a month of Sundays. So after finally settling on a vague impression of what I was after and waiting nearly a year for the opportunity, I was on a plane to Hong Kong to see my tailor, David Budhrani of David Fashions and have it made.

There must be a pretty big reason for going all the way to Hong Kong just to get dressed and the big reason is me! I am a fairly sizable man at nearly 6’4” and north of 250 pounds. Retailers simply do not have much in my size. Tailor made clothes offer the unique freedom of things created for you from fabrics, colors and patterns selected by you. When it comes to my wardrobe I prefer to carry my plastic, not wear it, thanks just the same.

Loose fabric is the key: with enough loose fabric the shirt, vest, blazer, or suit of your dreams is in stock, in style and in your size. After ten years of working together David and I know what colors work on me, the fabrics I prefer and which patterns and styles compliment my body and personality. All I need to do is show up with an idea and one day, after years of shirts and suits, I came in with a real challenge.

I had seen a publicity photo of Luther Vandross in a magazine wearing a black quilled ostrich blazer. I did not have Luther’s money and also did not want to merely copy his style so the bomber jacket was born. We started drafting at 9:30 in the morning and while his assistants served the tourist trade I was his one and only customer that day.

The one thing we both knew from the beginning was that it had to be black “quilled” ostrich. Questions flew back and forth and ideas rained from every direction, the collar alone taking nearly two hours to finalize. I received a tour of his leather supplier’s workshop to select the exact skin I wanted, in the process learning how to scan for imperfections, balance, heft and evenness in the tanning. We found one piece that fit the bill and, even more happily, would serve to make the entire body of the jacket. The sleeves, both for look and cost considerations, would be bull hide.

After a late lunch David and I hammered out how to make this dual skin jacket work, argued about zippers (exposed zippers is for biker jackets, recessed for evening or casual wear) and wrapped up the finishing touches. Epaulets, wrist bands, tufted waist, a collar belt, coat loop, piping and finally a blue silk print of library book shelving for the lining. After all was said and done there was nothing to show for our collaboration except tailor’s notes and pencil sketches. He and I both agreed, however, that from the drawings alone, this bomber jacket would work better as a two-skin instead of full ostrich.

All ostrich would suggest one season, one style, while this dual approach gave it “legs,” a look that could stretch over many years. I was satisfied with the work we had put in – I could think of nothing overlooked. We settled on a price for this and some other clothes it took less than an hour to outline, an eggplant blazer, some slacks and a handful of dress casual shirts and ended the day…at 9 o’clock that evening.

I smiled the smile of a very happy man. The finished result came from the abyss of my own clouded musings intended only to satisfy my personal taste; that it turns heads with each outing is extra.

Custom tailors are all around the world and can represent a solid investment but almost right up there with jewelry, buyer beware: you very much get what you pay for. All payments are in advance of any work, refunds are rare and all garments are “as is” the minute they leave the store so do your best not to leave out even the smallest detail of your dream.

David, my man in Hong Kong, knows his stuff, and I have a new idea for a leather peacoat, perhaps this time in a nice caramel brown!

Gotta go!

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