All it took was a single image and I knew that it wouldn’t be long before I’d be on the way to New York to see Leonard Logsdail. The image was of the peach coloured jacket (see below) and although you couldn’t pay me to wear that colour, the cut of the coat was flawless. The roping of the shoulder (where the top of the sleeve-head is inserted into the shoulder) was immaculate, as was the roll of the lapels and the overall clean lines of the silhouette. It’s worth noting that I’ve written about never working with a tailor based on a jacket you’ve seen on a mannequin, as it’s utterly misleading, but it was more the way the jacket had been put together which was a giveaway to Len’s ability. I sought reassurance by speaking with friends who have had Len make for them previously and the feedback was consistently positive.
It took me a year to get over to see Len, but I’m glad I made the effort to see him in New York.
Len is instantly welcoming and still retains his London charm, even though it’s been decades since he came to New York. It only took a couple of minutes before we were sitting in his leather club chairs and talking about the trip and New York. Len’ talks with the relaxed confidence and easy familiarity of a rare few who have reached the pinnacle of their craft. He’s someone with nothing left to prove and he simply wants to continue making a quality product. At face value, Len’ has a great sense of humour and a story for every occasion, a dry, self deprecating wit, so characteristic of the British, which has stayed with him since his youth in London. His sense of humour belies a quality of character of someone who has, through his own determination and resilience, become one of the world’s leading tailors.
Originally from a very poor family in East London, he was told in no uncertain terms at an early age, that he should expect to fill his designated station in life and not hope to rise above it. At best he should aim to learn a trade which would pay enough to keep a mediocre roof over his head. After leaving school at 15 he went to a tailoring college as a stop-gap while he worked out what to do with his life. That decision proved pivotal as he quickly found a love of tailoring, deciding to pursue it for the long term. After college, he worked for a few of London’s quality tailoring houses, before making the unlikely decision to go out on his own at only 21.
It would be a trip to New York several years later, at 27, that changed everything. Staying at the Biltmore for a trunk show (as most tailors did then) he was confronted by a scene which still sticks in his mind as the tipping point. A young woman, screaming, protesting and naked, except for a barrel around her torso, held up by straps, was being arrested, albeit awkwardly, by police. The chaotic scene had Len’ hooked and he instantly fell in love with the city, its unique personalities and unexpected surprises.
Having spent more time in New York, he found a love of America’s enthusiasm for, and support of, anyone willing to elevate their place in life through hard work and perseverance, a stark contrast to the class system which he grew up with in England. He saw a place in which he could achieve anything he wanted to, if he was prepared to put in the effort to do so. It also allowed him the opportunity to stand out. With England having a strong tailoring heritage, he ran the risk of blending in against myriad other tailoring houses, whereas in New York, he could be the very best and have a strong client base and reputation.
Early lessons proved costly, with several customers refusing to take delivery of his suits and the feedback was consistent. Len’ hadn’t made the suits they had asked for, instead choosing to make what he thought they’d prefer, based on his own style and knowledge. Having to throw away over half a dozen suits is a painful way to learn, but importantly, he did learn, taking from it the knowledge that he must make the suit the customer wanted, whatever that may be. The caveat, the customers would still be given his opinion… whether they wanted it or not. In my experience that’s the ideal balancing point which a good tailor will strike. The ability to be flexible around an individuals preferences, but able to offer advice and opinions to help the original vision come together in the best way possible. Len’ is making me a coat at the moment and I’ve found this approach to be helpful, with a number of changes to my initial concept for a sports-coat, helping it to become better version of what I had in mind.
His premises on 53rd Street are beautifully laid out and the back room is busy with his staff of 4, working away on the numerous commissions which continue to keep everyone under pressure. Additionally, Len’ still has a coatmaker in London who works for him.
Over the years his reputation and business has grown exponentially, with Hollywood forming a valuable part of his business. There is a good chance you’ll know Len’s tailoring even without realising it. He’s been sought out to create the suits for American Gangster, The Wolf of Wall Street, Wall Street 2, The Great Gatsby and countless others. What I admire about Len’ is that he’s chosen to not let this define him, where many others might have. The work with Hollywood has also, largely, been on his own terms, holding his ground on unreasonable demands and without giving away his expertise for anything less than he’s worth. There’s no doubt that he’s proud of these achievements, but his private clients (many of whom are significant public figures and come to Len’ as their tailor) who he has worked with for years, clearly matter enormously to him. He has also created a strong following for shooting clothes, something which he’s come to be seen as a specialist in. It’s these clients who have consistently returned to him that have helped him to build an exceptional business and, most importantly to Len’, look after his family.
In a short space of time, he’s a man I came to admire greatly. Getting to know Len’, as I only began to over the course of a week, what I quickly realised that I admire most about him is that beyond all of the accolades and success he’s achieved, of which there are many, to him, his greatest achievement is that he has given everything of himself to raise and support his family. Coming from difficult circumstances, he is a man who hasn’t allowed his beginnings to dictate his future, has thrown himself in the deep end on countless occasions, coming out at the other end as one of the best in his field.
And when you really consider the gravity of that, there are very few more worthwhile successes in life.