Due to the surge of interest in bespoke tailoring in recent years along with the countless stories of first bespoke experiences being less than optimal, I set out to meet with Messrs. Patrick Chu and Arnold Wong from W. W. Chan to find out from a purveyor’s perspective what a customer should look out for. Fortunately, they graciously agreed to this interview and we sincerely hope the following discourse will be of great benefit to prospective customers.
Q1. In determining how well a suit fits, what is the most important area to consider?
As a bespoke suit is created for an individual’s body, the suit’s fit must be assessed when worn on the customer’s body to be of a proper length and width across different areas of the body, as well as achieving a proper overall balance. We understand this sounds abstract so let us take a closer look at specific parts that we look out for. To us, a bespoke suit starts around the neck, so we first consider if the collar is the right size for the customer’s neck. From there, we follow the shoulder seam down to examine the shoulder line is clean and ensure that the shoulder seam is in the right place. We then move downwards to the chest, waist and then take a look at the overall balance. Of course the back and areas under the chest are also very important and we must make sure there are no unsightly creases and breaks to the suit’s lines.
Q2: What should prospective customers consider when ordering clothes?
Each person has different requirements when it comes to their wardrobe, hence it is a necessity that these requirements be on the back of the customer’s mind when ordering. Such requirements can include the purpose and/or occasion for the garments – workplace, leisure or for a wedding? What sort of climate? Determining these will be paramount in finding suitable fabrics and ruling out others. After this, a customer should think about the style and any other preferences they may have, such as amount of construction (soft or structured), etc. Naturally, one must also consider what would flatter their body type to emphasise strong features and downplay others that are less than ideal. To this end, customers should ask their tailor and trust their judgment.
Q3: For a new customer’s first suit, what do you normally recommend for fabric?
For a first suit, we typically suggest either selecting a navy or medium grey suiting, as the versatility of these colours is unrivaled, particularly for any work environment. We would advise against black as those garments should only be reserved for formal occasions or funerals. As for the fabric type and composition, we would push for a moderate Super 100s classic worsted wool. Hopsacks (open weave wool not suitable for trousers) and Frescos (a unique high-twist worsted fabric) would also make great choices although they have a rougher hand than classic worsteds and new customers may find them somewhat less comfortable. On the other side of the spectrum, we advocate for a moderate worsted because although high Super number wools (150s and up) are luxuriously soft and silky, they are more prone to creasing, retain their shape poorly, tend to be far more expensive, require more maintenance and are not nearly as robust as their moderate Super number worsted cousins. Super 100s-120s worsted wools strike a much better balance in these respects.
Q4: During the bespoke process what should a customer look out for? Are there any common pitfalls that should be avoided?
First the customer must understand that major changes to the garments’ shapes must be made at the basted stage as they will be largely fixed by the forward fitting and any further interim fittings prior to delivery. The customer must make sure that during the measuring and all fittings that they are relaxed and standing normally (meaning not sucking in their stomachs or standing particularly erect) to ensure the garments hang properly on a daily basis and not just in front of a mirror. During fittings, we also encourage customers to wear a shirt, properly fitted trousers and dress shoes and avoid trainers, jeans and trousers with side adjusters as these may lead to an imprecise fitting. On this vein a customer should be aware that the garments are unfinished during the fitting stages so they will not be perfect. Lastly, we hope customers would appreciate that compromises may sometimes have to be made with their choice of fabric and preferred style and we try our utmost best to make these known during the initial consultation, so please understand that after a fabric is cut for a fitting that there is no going back with cloth and style.
Ultimately, communication is key in any bespoke commission as the garments are a meeting of minds between tailor and client. Without the tailor’s expertise and input, as well as the client’s wishes, the outcome may not be satisfactory.
Q5: If a customer does not understand what their tailor is saying (jargon or otherwise), what should he do?
We suggest communicating through the use of pins, chalk and constant feedback. Ask the tailor to show what he is changing by pinning the garment and marking with chalk when pinning is not possible and then tell him how you feel and if any further adjustments need to be made until you are satisfied. We do not think it is absolutely necessary for you to understand and use the jargon when communicating with a tailor unless it is of interest to you. Communicate instead the look you are going for, let the tailor pin and mark the changes he would suggest to achieve the look, and then provide feedback on any further changes you think might be needed.
Of course, this is only the first instalment on this series. If you, the readers, have any other burning questions you might want to ask, please leave your questions as a comment or shoot us an email and we will be sure to pass them onto our tailors in the future.