Falling in Love with Bespoke
Bespoke is often thrown around these days without a real sense of actual bespoke in the true sense of the word. The time we take to appreciate and even develop the different areas in our life often takes a back step to the multitude of activities we have going on. Once upon a time, we had less, refined what we had, took great care in every aspect and knew more about what we kept in our lives. Times were different of course, the world we live in now moves faster in our lifestyles. We do however, see a movement back to really nurturing what we have, how we live and one such area I find wonderful to be kept alive is bespoke tailoring.
London, and particularly Savile Row, has held much fascination for me with the connection to bespoke tailoring. I have to say, London is a source of enchantment in many ways for me and the amount of people dedicated to menswear is a highlight indeed. Exploring style made in England is a wonderful journey. Over the years, I have met many of these talents who work tirelessly behind the scenes – and sometimes in the public eye, to bring us the beauty of wonderful design.
One such person I came across a few years ago was Simon Lloyd Fish. At the time he was designing for a prominent global menswear brand specialising in the luxurious world of polo. Since then we have connected about his work in bespoke tailoring. I had a chat to Simon about his love of bespoke tailoring and how he came to be involved in an industry I have a particular fascination and admiration for. This is the first in a two-art interview, the first focusing on tailoring and bespoke, and the next we talk suits and travel and how Simon uses Bennett Winch to make it a breeze – continuing the theme of Made in England.
Exclusive Q&A with Simon Lloyd Fish
TMHS: Share with us more of your journey to become a Bespoke Tailor
SLF: After working in creative industries for many years as a visual and graphic designer, I moved to London at the end of my twenties after travelling in Italy for a year, I decided a career in fashion was the direction I wanted to take, I worked in retail management and marketing for businesses such as Paul Smith and REISS before embarking on a career in marketing for a Savile Row tailor. It was there I fell in love with tailoring, more so as I loved the whole design aspect heritage and romance of the famous street. I gradually learned about the process, retrained myself and combined it with a degree at London College of Fashion. Along with the help of some experience people, I trained to learn all the aspects of what it takes to make and design a good suit. After periods working in the square mile, West End of London, as well as the Middle East and USA, I have developed a diverse client list with people from all walks of life.
TMHS: For those who don’t know, what is the difference between Made to Measure and Bespoke
SLF: Two very different disciplines aimed at creating different end results for individuals, mostly based around quality and cost. Bespoke will always be the pinnacle and benchmark for quality, a bespoke may take as long as 60 hours over 8 weeks from start to finish, the suit is completely hand cut, hand stitched, and created by performing a basted fitting with the client, which enables the cut of suit to be manipulated to absolute perfection for the individual at the start of its creation. The suit is then re-cut to the clients shape and completed by hand in the 4 weeks thereafter. A bespoke suit is normally completed with a full floating horsehair canvas with gives allows the suit to form a more natural shape on the clients body, together with the level of handwork, care and attention to detail makes bespoke a unique experience but affects the cost and prices start from around 4k.
Made to measure offers a different proposition, largely based on the construction method the client is fully measured as with bespoke however this time his measurements are interpreted through an pre formed pattern template, not hand drawn but using modern CAD technology, whether thats classic, modern, sports led and then the suit is pushed into a forward fitting fully constructed where alterations are done if required. The process takes less time say 4 weeks, is part machined and part hand stitched using fusing and half body canvas. Less work therefore affects the cost, and makes the whole process slightly easier on the pocket, and prices start around 1500.
TMHS: A gentleman comes to see you for a suit, what can he expect?
SLF: First and foremost I like to think I give any person that comes to see me an honest, informative first class service covering every aspect of what it takes to make and design a good suit. The client will be guided on the cut, construction method, the type of fabrics used, and every little aspect such as the detailing and design of the garment to the last button hole. I always go the extra mile for every client as customer service is at the forefront of everything I do, and happy to travel to see clients by appointment all over the world where ever that maybe.
TMHS: How important is the fabric/cloth selection in the overall process?
SLF: It’s very important, depending on what the suit will be used for, how you want it too look, also how it feels to wear as a garment, when I meet a client I have the ability to show them a full range of 1000s of fabrics from across the globe. Some cloths are more suitable to frequent use, are tougher, last longer, others simply look and feel amazing when you need to look immaculate an make an impression. Full consultation on fabric types is done at the first meeting where the clients needs are discussed and an informed decision is taken from that point.
TMHS: How do you find traditional techniques of tailoring have translated to modern times?
SLF: Traditional techniques for construction a garment are everlasting and the same methods used hundred years ago are still applied today in modern times, although much changes over time within the context of fashion, style, with new shapes and cuts which lie in the innovation and creatively of the tailor/designer. Savile Row dictates a style that is timeless although in recent times has seen more contemporary shapes emerge in brands such as Kilgour and the rejuvenated Hardy Amies, appealing to a younger generation. But the true mastery and magic of bespoke tailoring lies for me in the ability of a good tailor to make a suit look good on any man, whether tall, short, large, or slight, a good bespoke tailor can change the whole personality of an individual through the power of dressing well and looking good.
TMHS: Bespoke tailoring is very British, the term itself originated from the street Savile Row, long considered the ‘golden mile of tailoring’. How do you keep the traditions of this British tradition alive today?
SLF: For me, after entering fashion at a late age at the start I was very much involved in mid-market high street brands, then when I started working on Savile Row it showed me it has always represented the benchmark and the pinnacle of fashion production, clothing design at the highest level and is a benchmark in the industry steeped in tradition created from the legacies of people such as Beau Brummell and more modern style icons such as Carry Grant, David Bowie and so on the list is endless the street has always attracted quality individuals looking for a quality product and service that the Row provides.
In terms of keeping traditions alive, thinking beyond production methods your question is for me more relative to keeping alive the traditions of style alive, and how men should dress. A trip to “the Row” is all about being associated with confidence, success and placing responsibility of your appearance and clothing in the hands of your tailor, who then has task of making his client look and feel absolutely amazing. Savile Row is for me renowned for its service and hands on knowhow, where any request can be catered for no matter how strange or bizarre, from a standard 2 piece suit, to WW2 Winston Churchill style boiler suits, 1920s Fred Astair style tails, full dress uniforms, dressing gowns the options are endless in its diversity, and it is also shown in the different houses, styles and cuts on offer…
Keeping it alive for me is continuing all these elements and traditions, whilst reflecting on the past and also the challenges of the future and by creating new styles of garment, using modern fabrics and also bringing in technologies adopting a more modern mentality, as times change.
For me thats the true beauty and tradition of the Row, its ability to adapt whilst retaining its tradition.
TMHS: Three things you use most in your day?
SLF: My oyster card, my iPhone – and of course, my tape measure.
TMHS: What is the one item of clothing you can’t do without?
SLF: I should say suits or any any good piece of tailored clothing, but I am going to say my BENNETT WINCH briefcase, simply as it gives me the ability to carry my life, laptop, notebooks, and most importantly – my tape measure!
Note from TMHS: A follow up story is coming up with Bennett Winch, continuing on the exploration of made in England.
TMHS: A favourite quote?
SLF: “Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” – Aldous Huxley
TMHS: How can readers of The Man Has Style find you online?
Simon travels to see clients Internationally and is a regular visitor to New York and the USA. To make an appointment please contact via his website www.simonlloydfish.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org