Monday, October 11, 2010

Experiencing Reiss Personal Tailoring

Can you remember your first real suit? I can. I arrived in the city, shaggy haired, unskilled, full of hope but in full realisation that the task of finding employment was essential to survival. Up until then I had owned one Topman suit which had been worn to a variety of dull family extravaganza and the odd formal social function. Now, if this suit had a prime, it had certainly passed long ago. What kind of employer would trust a young man in such sartorial disarray? I needed to take well polished brogue step up on the tailoring food chain. My first executive decision to join the rat race involved a jaunt to Reiss to update my largely high street wardrobe with a premium high street suit. I opted for a simple two button black suit. I can distinctly remember feeling very special indeed when my purchase was whisked away from my uneasy grasp so that alterations could be made. The very idea of alterations was alien to me. Oh how naive I was back then. Fast forward a few years and despite a reduced need for a formal uniform I have found myself back at Reiss. Invited to take another step up on the sartorial ladder to sample their recently launched Personal Tailoring service.

The Reiss Personal Tailoring area within the flagship store.

Long time readers will know how often I have dreamed of entering the world of bespoke and made to measure suiting. The thought of having a suit made to my own personal specification and desire has appealed to me for many years. Thanks to a break to Hong Kong I entered in to this fabulously well fitted world last November. Having been warned that the experience would lead to an addiction I managed to avoid the lure, mainly through the fear of bankruptcy. Almost twelves months on and Reiss gave me the opportunity to step back in to this world to road test their latest offering.

The seventeen process beautifully presented in store.

The Reiss Personal Tailoring experience brings a much needed luxurious approach to formal menswear and has the potential to change the concept of tailoring on the high street. The comprehensive, seventeen stage made to measure service outfits the discerning, modern gentleman. Costing from £550, only £100 more than its most expensive off-the-peg suit this would be a sound investment and takes between four to six weeks from the first consultation to finished suit.

The tailor's essentials

Unless you are Antonio Bracciani (refer to issue No. 9 of Fantastic Man) an off the peg suit will rarely fit. In all likelihood, it will not fit specifically because the brand is designing for a type of man that is different from you. I frequently have issues with sleeve length and pitch while trousers are an ever present thorn in my suiting paw. The thing is most of us don't have ready to wear bodies. As you should all know, a made-to-measure is cut from an existing 'block' which is adjusted to a client's unique specification. Although Reiss are not naming names, the block has apparently been created specifically for them by a prominent Savile Row pattern cutter.

A glimpse at Reiss' block pattern.

Each of the seven stores in Britain that offer the service have personal tailoring specialists to guide you through the process. To ease matters further, my sartorial guide was Ben Leaver, Head of Personal Shopping. Before joining Reiss just over twelve months ago, Leaver worked at Kilgour. He certainly knows a thing or two about suits and was the perfect companion to walk me through the process. The real beauty of a well measured, well made suit is that it will hide any flaws and accentuate the positives. Not only will you look slimmer, taller and more pulled together, but you will move much more freely and feel totally at ease. You should feel as relaxed in it as you would in your favourite pair of jeans. To reach this level of ease, the first stage requires the tape measure. Eighteen measurements are taken with a display of consumate ease. After the measurements were recorded the real fun began as Leaver began to sketch out our shared vision of what the suit could and ultimately would be. The level of choice and degree of customisation is almost overwhelming but Leaver talked me through everything.

A selection of fabric options

To begin with there are more than forty fabric options in combinations of wool and mohair and a variety of patterns. I opted for a mohair blend in a stunning midnight navy hue. Following this decision I had the choice of three jacket styles; one button, two button and tuxedo. Then decisions had to be made on the lapel, pockets, cuff buttons, vents, trouser style, waist details, trousers bottoms, lining, undercollar melton, button holes. After succinctly describing how I wanted the suit to be and how I would wear it, Leaver was soon in perfect pitch with my way aesthetic. I left the first consultation hugely excited and in full confidence that the suit would match my high expectations.

Thread choices...

Four weeks later and I was invited back for my first fitting. After reading Simon Crompton's bespoke suit fitting experiences I recalled that one of the most important things to discern in the sleeve at this stage is its correct pitch. By this I mean how it hangs in relation to the body. If there is more material in the back of the sleeve, it hangs forward, more in the front and it will hang further back. Unlike Crompton it seems that my arm hangs a little forward. Leaver soon made the required adjustments by inserting a few pins where necessary. The odd little tweak on the length and fit were the only required amends for the jacket and the trousers only needed the smallest of adjustments. A week later and the finished suit was ready and this weekend saw me wear the suit for the very first time. Below are a few snapshots of my made to measure suit worn on a seemingly made to measure Sunday afternoon in Autumn... 

In spite of my terrible posture, the suit manages to accentuate my good points and hide the bad. Worn here with shirt by Omar Kashoura, handkerchief by Drakes, and Pukk shot brogues by Joe Casely-Hayford for John Lewis.

I am particularly pleased with the sleeve length. I might be showing off more cuff than most but after suffering from years of oversized sleeve lengths I positively thrive on revealing that little extra.

A closer look...Worn here with shirt by Omar Kashoura and handkerchief by Drakes.

My new favourite trousers. Finally a pair that fit! As I wanted this suit to be my ideal Sunday Best I opted to go a little higher in the leg and reveal a little more sock and shoe than I normally would. After investing so heavily in my shoe options in recent months it is only right that I wear trousers which show them off.

I take great pleasure in declaring that the finished suit is as close to perfection as I can comprehend. Whilst there is nothing that I would change, there is plenty for me to wax lyrical over. I was hugely impressed by the entire experience. A world away from my previous experiences of tailoring on the high street. As David Nicholls wrote in his piece over on the Telegraph, 'The personal tailoring range is Reiss's stab at 'affordable luxury', with the aim of enticing the more aspirant of its existing clientele as well as the recession-hit banker looking for an alternative to Savile Row.' I am quite certain that the uncompromising level of quality and service that Reiss are offering will help transform how most men buy their suits on the high street.

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