Tuesday, September 28, 2010
There are only really two materials worth making braces from. Silk braces are ideal with evening wear and, perhaps, in warmer weather. For colder weather, more casual wear, or just because you feel like it, boxcloth is the only other option.

Heavy boxcloth braces in bold colours, with their brass adjusters and leather attachments, look fantastic, and are the very antithesis or the sort of skinny, elasticated, clip-on braces that are all too common.

Albert Thurston is perhaps best known for this sort of thing, but my recent acquisitions come from Ede and Ravenscroft - an impulse purchase when I noticed that they sold them with the white leather fastenings that are so much harder to find that the more usual black ones, and which I just couldn't resist.

They also do a nice pair of dark green ones which may, I think, look rather nice with my new tweed suit. On the subject of the suit, in case any of you were wondering what has happened to it, it was completed some time ago but I have been waiting for autumn for an occasion to wear it. Now that the weather is getting colder, I expect it will make an appearance on my next trip to the country.

Dragons Den: Tailor Made London

Thursday, September 9, 2010
Some of you may have seen a recent episode of the UK Dragons Den which featured John Buni, the managing director of Tailor Made London showing off his product and asking for funding (which he didn't get).

The basic premise is the same as any visiting/travelling tailor - he sets up for the day in a hotel or (more often, it seems) a large office, and people come to him to be measured and to design their suit, and then he takes the information away and has the suits made up. Information on the manufacturing process is very limited, but my guess would be that the suits go for a straight finish with no basted fitting but with the option for adjustments later, much like ASTF or the cheaper Cad and the Dandy options. There's also very little information about who makes the suits, or what techniques are used. There is a mention that they are made in Germany which is slightly unusual as most similar companies seem to use Hong Kong or China. To their credit, 'Tailor Made London' appear to use excellent cloth, including some from big names like Holland & Sherry. How much this adds to the basic price of £450 is not totally clear.

The 'gimmick' here, and the only thing that really interested me about what is otherwise a fairly unoriginal concept, was the laser scanner. This takes a full-body scan in a few seconds and saves off hundreds of highly accurate measurements. So far so good, and so far so very press-release-friendly. However, the obvious question that the Dragons didn't seem to ask is: so what? In my experience of tailoring, the accuracy and number of the measurements is not the biggest problem. Sure, the measurements need to be right, and the more that are taken the better (up to a point), but almost anyone can take a large number of measurements quickly and accurately with a minimum of training, and a really skilled tailor is looking for more than just objective measurements in any case. The bigger issue is what is then done with these measurements. Are they used to cut a brand new personal pattern, or to adapt an existing one? Is the suit cut by a cutter with years of experience who understands body shape and has thought about your stance, figure and personal requirements, or by an assembly line of relatively unskilled workers using a pattern generated by a computer? It is these issues that really define a good fit, and it is on these that Mr Buni is silent.

It is not at all clear to me what happens to the hundreds of measurements that the machine takes. In theory, I suppose, this machine could gather information on the customers stance and body shape (although without a human eye, I am not convinced this will be very meaningful) but a much harder job is then translating these measurements to a well-fitting suit. How this is done would fascinate me, but there is no information on it and I strongly suspect that it boils down to a printed list of measurements little different to those that any other tailor just writes down as he goes along.

Both the Dragons Den show and the website leave too many of the important questions unanswered for me to have any interest in ordering a suit from this company (even if I wasn't already loyal to my current tailor). For me, a personal service and an appreciation of the craftsmanship behind tailoring is far more important than gimmicks and technology. Still, I will pose some of my questions to Tailor Made London and, if the answers are of interest, I will post them on the blog so that you may make your own minds up.