Ever since David Reiss pioneered his first boutique in 1971, Reiss’ design philosophy has embraced clean, design-led menswear, women’s wear and accessories. Recently though the brand has been bringing a touch of Savile Row to the city launching the Reiss Personal Tailoring Service.
An avid follower of the brand since the launch of the New Street branch on the corner of Corporation Street in the late 90s, I have always been an admirer of the unique approach Reiss has taken in the display of its fashion stores.
When the brand came on to the high street in the 70s, there were just a handful of stores around the UK but 40 years on Reiss has transformed into a global business bringing theatre into the retail experience, with each store boasting its own unique stamp.
I remember picking out my millennium eve party outfit from the New Street store, an elegant and understated pair of navy chinos, some suede loafers to match and a crisp white shirt that had baby blue stitching with the mother of pearl buttons and button holes. The manager at the time, Lee chatted to me about the celebrations going on in Birmingham, there was a buzz of anticipation about what each customer was going to pick for the night of a thousand years and Reiss was at the centre of it all, or so it felt at the time.
The philosophy of exceptional, genuine customer care has only strengthened in the past decade or so. In 2013 you can find a Reiss store in some of the most exciting, far reaching destinations across the globe including China, Russia, Kuwait, to name a few and in their 40th year, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge wore Reiss when she met the Obamas.
Today I am meeting Matt the store manager, for my personal tailoring appointment, this time in the flagship Bullring store.
As soon as I arrive, one of the stylists, Tom comes over to greet me. We chat about the jacket I’m wearing, his eagle eye for detail analysing the cut, the fabric and he guesses who made it, – I’m impressed already. Tom’s shark grey suit is a sleek fit set off by some bright red socks and conker tan shoes. He shows me around the off-the-peg section and in roughly 10 seconds flat I seem to spot a dozen or so garments which I love. That’s the sense of occasion you get while browsing Reiss. It’s never a case of finding something that you’d like to buy; it’s about selecting what you don’t want as much, and then choosing a jewel in the crown, an investment piece perhaps?
The SS13 collection is particularly striking this season. Lots of earthy pastel shades, greens, crimsons, a plethora of blues in a breathtaking palette of shades make the store come to life. All of the rich wools, crisp cottons and sharp tweeds are a feast for the eyes.
I sit and wait for Matt for a couple of minutes and look through the Personal Tailoring Service brochure. It’s an elegant book with thick bound casing around it, giving me a real indication of the passion the design team must put into every part of this new service.
Reiss have mastered the art of creative thought when it comes to the complete made-to-measure service. You are taken to a quieter area of the store to your own private sofa and allowed to sit back and relax while, Matt, both the store manager at the Bullring and also heading up the regional tailoring service took me through the 17 stage process we would be going through to make the suit.
“It’s a journey of self discovery” Matt explains, his knowledge about the art form of tailoring engaging my brain before we go into the specifics of the suit. “It’s true, we get to know our customers as friends first, and business second. That way we’re able to match their suit to their individual taste and personality.”
“We don’t do crazy or ostentatious but we do ensure that all the lines are clean and the detail is sharp. The suit should just sit comfortably giving enough room to breathe, while at the same time bringing the best out of your shape so you look and feel great”.
The team on the shop floor suggest best practices, so you know how to choose the right cut, and fabric but they have the knowledge to let you explore your own creative design ideas too. After a brief conversation about what kind of style I like, plus Googling a Christian Bale number he’d worn at the premier of his latest movie, Matt told Tom to “bring us some wools, some blues, some navies” and within a couple of minutes I was presented with a stunning collection of fabric swatches to browse through as Matt guided me through the history of how the service had come about.
Matt tells me that Reiss’ unmatched attention to detail means that they can now offer customers a Savile Row quality suit for a fraction of the cost, largely due to the sheer volume of orders Reiss commands. It’s a move that could transform the world of tailoring as we know it on the high street, and so far it seemed as if there was nothing else quite like this outside of the capital.
Matt explained how the team had worked relentlessly to get the contemporary silhouette just right and that every element had been perfected.
First we chose the fabric, a rich blue wool, spun by mills in England. From the style of the jacket this opens a world of possibility, from the lapel, to the buttons, the pockets, the cut, the lining and even the vents – this gave way to my fascination with a peak lapel and Matt’s boundless creative wisdom and energy helped me define the best angle for the pockets, the working cuff buttons and the character of the cut.
Moving on to the trousers the next stage was to explain to my tailor / designer each of the individualistic aspects of what I liked, and what I didn’t like about wearing a suit. Without ever going to a tailor before this opens your eyes to the aspects of your frame and shape you may not have even been aware of before visiting for an appointment.
The smallest detail, from the way the trousers sit, the detailing around the bottoms, the waist, whether or not to have pockets, pleats, belt loops, each stage was clearly explained so I could focus on the look and feel of the suit, leaving Matt’s expertise to look after the complex measurements and adjustments required to make everything work well together.
Speaking personally, I do happen to have a slight hunch, only a slight one mind, but this still paved the way for the guys on the shop floor to analyse my frame and make the slightest adjustments to the measuring process so that the jacket would sit more comfortably across the back. Tom helped out at this point, both designers looking at the way the fabric sat, commenting on each element along the way.
This was reassuring, asking questions certainly helped, but I was impressed by their understanding of the suit making process, considering for the large part they weren’t pattern cutters or fashion designers as such, but customer service managers and assistants in a retail outlet. It didn’t feel like a normal store visit though, what Reiss can be proud of is their unique ability to have transformed their stores into fashion boutiques that involve the customer every step of the way. It’s also a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. And the best part is that once your perfect suit is made for you, unless you change shape on a regular basis, you have your measurements on the computer and you can place orders over the telephone, or as quickly as it takes to go into store and chose your ideal fabric. You don’t have to just order a suit of course. From a second pair of trousers to a waist coat for a special occasion, even a sports jacket for a more casual, jeans and t shirt look, the options are endless.
To book your own personal tailoring appointment simply call 0121 616 1191 or visit the website www.reiss.com/personal_form