Interview: Cad and the Dandy

Monday, October 8, 2012
I've been using Cad and the Dandy (albeit relatively infrequently) for about two and a half years, and my first review of them was my 16th ever post on this blog. Since then I've had four beautiful suits, jackets or coats made by them, so I like to think I've been well placed to see the company change and grow over the last couple of years. Now, to mark their 4th anniversary, I caught up with co-founder James Sleater, to find out how he thinks things have gone.

Image property of Cad and the Dandy Ltd.

St James Style: James, how have the last four years been for Cad and the Dandy, and how has the company changed in that time?

James Sleater: The last four years have flown by and we are so pleased with how far our company has grown. We started of with two of us front of house and now we have 10. Our workshop is now at around 45, and when you consider that what we do is very artisan, that is a considerable number. Fundamentally, we get the chance to do something we love every day and hopefully that shines through in our work.

StJS:You started at the height of the recession selling a product that many men, faced with tightening budgets, might see as a non-essential luxury, and yet you seem to have gone from strength to strength. Why do you think this is?

JS:Yes, at the time people thought we were crazy! Those within, as well as outside of, the tailoring industry thought we should just hold tight and wait for the market to flip back, but I think the challenge just made us work harder and also look at the costs, in order to keep our offering as competitive as possible. It certainly helps that our price point is considerably lower than the traditional Savile Row houses, as it has enabled us to offer a viable alternative product, which is more affordable but which does not compromise on quality.

StJS: And what has been the reaction of the Savile Row old-guard to a new enterprise like yours?

JS: We work in a traditional industry and everyone on the Row has, without exception, been wonderful to us. Many have sent us referrals and when we got our first one a few years ago, when we had only recently started out, we were genuinely humbled. Once we were stopped on the Row by one of the old-guard, who told us, with a twinkle in his eye, that his company had made it their business to make sure their website was better than ours. Friendly rivalry is great and if you do things the right way, with regards to production methodology, how you support the industry and your approach to business, it is a friendly and fantastic place to work.

StJS: So what do you think marks out a really great suit?

JS: One that has been crafted and not just machine sewn. The fact that the cutter, coat maker, trouser maker has cared for the suit, by applying their own specific craft, rather than it being made in a production line, means it will look 'alive' and not just be fabric that has been sewn together.

StJS: What's your own favourite suit, and why?

JS: I think it has to be the morning suit I wore for my wedding, not just because obviously it had a special function, but also because it is made with a cloth that is no longer made, as it is no longer commercial to do so. It was a gift from a fabric merchant and it truly is remarkable, the way it holds and shapes is incredible. There is something so elegant about a morning suit and the fact that you don't get to wear it every day only adds to it being special.

StJS: Now, feel free to disagree, but over the last four years, I get the impression your bespoke offering has been a big focus, and has got better and better, to the point where there is little or nothing to distinguish it from a traditional Savile Row tailor. Would your ultimate aim be to move entirely in that direction, or will you always want to offer the cheaper, more made-to-measure option?

JS: You are most definitely right, a flight to quality is something we have strived hard for and if you are in such an industry, you want to match and better your peers, that's natural. We are not happy to rest on our laurels and we are always looking to improve our suits, range of cloth and website. It's a constantly evolving story. Having said that, we want to remain as accessible as possible and and not scare people before they walk through the door.

StJS: Finally, what else lies ahead for Cad and the Dandy?

JS: Exciting things I hope. We are growing in America, where traditional Savile Row gets its lion's share of business. We are developing more interactive aspects on our site, not to push it as a merchandising platform, as such, but to help people get more of a feeling as to what we are about. We want to keep our business at the obtainable end of luxury, price wise, but getting our name out there as THE tailor to go to for a cracking suit is key.

StJS: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us, and best of luck with the next four years. I certainly hope to be back in before too long, as I've been itching for a new bespoke suit for some time...