Cuts, collars and cuffs – an insight into the fascinating world of The Bespoke Tailor

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Profile Picture 16As part of our Profiles series, we had the opportunity to speak to The Bespoke Tailor, Adrian Barrows. Adrian has tailoring in the blood, and so we were humbled to receive his words of wisdom on what to look out for on your bespoke tailoring journey.  

What inspired you to start tailoring and how long have you been in the business?

I’ve been in the tailoring business since 1996, but I think it’s fair to say that tailoring has been in my blood since before I was born. As well as my uncle being a top designer in the 60s and 70s, my mum was an artist and my dad was an engineer, and I think all of this added to up to tailoring being in my DNA.

Since I actually started in the business, I’ve been involved in every aspect of tailoring, from working on the shop floor of a luxury menswear boutique to precision pattern cutting to designing and creating bespoke garments for high-end corporate clients and celebrities. I think it’s important to understand every aspect of the industry to be able to deliver a full, personal service.

Do you make clothes for your customers, or are you the chief designer and use pattern cutters and manufacturers to create your finished pieces?

Having have been involved in every aspect of tailoring, I’m familiar with every possible way of creating the finished garment. Nowadays, with The Bespoke Tailor going from strength to strength, it’s obviously not possible for me to personally create every single commission, so it’s often a case of me designing garments and passing the design on to hand-chosen expert pattern cutters and manufacturers to finish the job. However, I do still personally create suits and other garments when time permits or when I have a special request.

Do you use any manufacturers overseas?

No, everything we use at The Bespoke Tailor is sourced in the UK. I’m very proud of supporting British industry and promoting the incredibly high standard of British craftsmanship and skill, which I think is amongst the best in the world.

What are your thoughts on how Brexit could affect this?

I think if Brexit has any effect on the tailoring industry, it’ll be to promote a reinvigorated Buy British sensibility throughout the country, so it’s not something I’m particularly worried about. Also, as all of the materials I use are sourced in the UK, there are no increased import costs or punitive tariffs to consider. I think we’ll be OK.

2016 - SMALL - COLOUR - Photoshoot - Dormy House 41What’s your favourite part of the tailoring process?

The thing that gives me the most pleasure is meeting and getting to know new clients. I have such a varied range of clients throughout the UK and I love travelling around the country to visit them and conduct a personal consultation. It’s then that I find out about their lifestyles and get to know their personalities and what it is they want out of life and out of their clothes. Meeting them and designing bespoke outfits that fit with their personalities is without doubt the most satisfying part of what I do.

How many measurements are there for an average suit?

For an average suit, I will take in excess of 30 measurements, everything from chest, shoulders, waist and hip to wrist, forearm, neck and biceps. When it comes to bespoke tailoring, the more measurements you take, the better the suit will fit, and it’s always my aim that my clients feel as comfortable in their garments as they do in their own skin.

Should your waistcoat be a smaller measurement than the suit jacket?

As it’s an undergarment and therefore a little closer to the body, yes, the measurements for a waistcoat will be a little smaller.

2016 - SMALL - COLOUR - Photoshoot - Dormy House 46Do you like pleats or no pleats?

Pleats have their place for sure, but it depends very much on the individual. As far as fashion is concerned, pleats come and go and it often comes down to personal taste. Pleatless pants are great for slimmer men who like the streamlined, unfussy look. Larger men or men who like to carry stuff in their pockets, including their hands, often plump for a pleat or two. What’s great about choosing a bespoke suit is that this is the kind of detail I discuss with my clients at their consultation and then they can make an informed decision.

What’s your favourite lapel on a blazer? i.e. peak, notch, storm collar etc

My personal favourite is a classic notch.

Why do so many high street brands get it so wrong, with lapels nearly as high as the shoulder?

Buying a suit off the peg from a high street store can’t possibly compare with having a suit made to measure, and for obvious reasons. As I mentioned earlier, I take more than 30 individual measurements when I’m making a suit for someone. This guarantees that your suit will fit every inch of your body like a glove — like a bespoke glove made to measure each finger. Wearing an off-the-peg shelf is like getting your haircut by a pre-programmed machine. You might get lucky and end up with something that looks OK, but it can never match something that’s been created for you personally, specifically, with love and with skill.

Working cuff or fake cuff?

Always a working cuff. Fake cuffs have no place in bespoke tailoring.

2016 - SMALL - COLOUR - Photoshoot - Dormy House 4How many buttons would you have on a sleeve?

It depends entirely on the suit and on the individual. Few people plump for anything other than three or four and there is no practical advantage to be gained, but with a bespoke suit, the choice is yours. I have made suits for men with button phobias who chose to have no cuff buttons at all.

What’s your favourite monogram style?

I don’t have a favourite style. All monograms are absolutely unique and specific to the individual who chooses them. Historically, three-initial monograms were considered the done thing but these days there is no right or wrong.

Why do British men fear colour whilst Italians go all out with elaborate oranges, royal blues etc?

It’s purely a result of tradition. British tradition has dictated that suits are worn for work or for serious occasions which must therefore be rather sombre, so British men have always gone for navy blues and blacks. But times are definitely changing and more and more younger men are opting for brighter colours and even elaborately patterned suits. There are really no rules anymore and with bespoke suits, men are only limited by their own imaginations.

Which customer challenges you the most and why?

The most difficult customers tend to be bodybuilders, as they’re forever changing and it can be difficult to find an average weight or body shape.

Why spend money on bespoke rather than a sale suit off the peg?

There are many reasons. The main one is that you will look, and more importantly you will feel, a million times better and more confident in a suit that’s been made to fit you. If you come to me, you get to choose from over 5,000 fabrics and you have the benefit of my decades of experience brought to bear in a personal consultation. As well as looking and feeling much better, the suit will also last a great deal longer as it will be much better made. Essentially you get what you pay for. If you’re interested in quality, bespoke is the only way to go.

What are you currently making/designing?

Currently I’m working a range of wedding suits, shooting jackets and trousers.

What are your favourite fabric of all time? This could be a brand or an offcut you’ve kept sacred.

I had a cashmere/mink blend once that was absolutely stunning.

Which tailor, alive or dead, do you think has the most knowledge about the science of a suit, the way of the human form?

Ozwald Boateng.

Do you think tailoring is a dying trade in the UK, or could Britain ignite a renaissance through apprenticeships?

There’s no doubt that tailoring does not have the same cachet it had, say, a hundred-and-fifty years ago, and in recent years it has occasionally been suggested that the trade is dying. However, it’s also true that there’s definitely been something of a renaissance in the past couple of years with more and more apprenticeship schemes being introduced at top tailoring businesses throughout the country, but particularly in Savile Row. This infusion of young blood has done wonders to reinvigorate the business.

More importantly, increasing numbers of men who would never have thought about having a suit made have started to turn to bespoke tailors such as myself as they realise that the style and class they crave is actually much more affordable than could ever have imagined. So no, I don’t think tailoring is a dying trade. On the contrary, I think this is a very exciting time to be a bespoke tailor.

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