Matt Fortune embraces the tech sweeping the tailoring world, and gets fitted out for a bespoke number by the pros at The Custom Shop
We have a sneaking suspicion that Savile Row will greet the new technology infiltrating the age-old tailoring industry in the same way that dyed-in-the-wool book readers looked upon the Kindle; with a lot of bluster about “the good ol’ days”, followed by quiet recognition that it’s all rather convenient, and then resignation that they really wish they weren’t too stubborn to have it.
Body scanning is a 40-second fix to the first phase of custom tailoring, claiming to be 76 percent more precise – and 100 percent less invasive on the inner thigh – than manual measurement. After that, it’s every bit as bespoke as the most staunch traditionalist would hope.
The phrase “Man Cave” is too liberally used these days, but The Custom Shop epitomises it. The glare of the mall is kept at bay by shutter blinds, giving the impression of being in a Victorian basement.
Vintage furniture, all-leather, exposed brickwork and dark shades heighten the aura of something more classical than what lies behind the door at the back. It’s an important distinction pulled off well.
Quite at odds with the main chamber is the room where measurements take place. Sheer white walls, bright lights, laptops, camera; it’s all rather clinical. But needs must.
The body scanner is simple. Markings on a circular platform signal where to put your feet while the screen in front of you beams back a silhouette of how to stand. Once in alignment, the platform whirs into action, spinning you slowly – it takes around 30 seconds – through 360 degrees, mapping every contour of your body.
Results are instantaneous. After a quick try-before-you-buy on a range of styles to ascertain exactly what the suit is for – weddings, work, casual dinners or classy galas – how often it might be worn, and the shirts and shoes that match, it’s time to run through materials. The swab book thumps down on the table with the weight of a copy of The Lord Of The Rings. I genuinely have no idea where to begin.
Help is at hand, though. When I point to pencil-thin pinstripes on a soft tonal jacket, I’m advised that “it adds a few inches”. Not necessary. That style also doesn’t sit well with brogues, I’m informed, as the tailor points to the most expensive shoes I own. Bin those, then.
After half an hour back and forth of suggestion and counterclaim – it seems I have no idea how to dress well, or at least right for occasions – we settle on colour, material and fit. From there, my creative side takes over as I go all in for the cute personalisation opportunities. That means monogrammed breast pocket (I had five fonts and 16 threads to choose from), one of 20 funky patterned linings – I stopped short of asking for a personalised Batman logo, as has been done at the store’s New York shop – and a red under collar.
Most interestingly, though, I was offered a modicum of colour on the buttonhole of the cuff. Turns out that tiny eyelet is one of the most celebrated parts of a custom-made suit, a “thumbprint” of the individual tailor, the creation of which leaves no room for error when hand-stitching. A dash of purple it is, then. I needn’t have stopped there. The Custom Shop New York is bursting at the seams with tweaks and twizzles, some more subtle than others.
The first trip could be as quick as a couple of minutes. But where’s the fun in that? Mine lasted the best part of an hour as I debated every tiny thread. The second, a fortnight later, however, is quick. Try on the template, work out any alterations (the very few that one needed points to the accuracy of the scanner).
There’s a nervousness between approving the second fitting and collection a few days later, but I needn’t have worried. The suit fits every bit as regally as the experience makes you feel. The 3rd Earl of Burlington, after whom’s wife Savile Row is named, would certainly approve.
From Dhs1695 (full suit). The Custom Shop New York, Beach Centre, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 344 5637).