Just before Christmas, I made a few quick trips to Sydney to see Bijan, in order to make sure the the bespoke cashmere overcoat would be finished in time for a month in Europe from Boxing Day onward (you can find the earlier articles on this coat here: part 3, part2, part 1). I’ve combined a few images of the detail seen in the coat along with several images of how I wore the coat day to day throughout Europe, to give a sense for how versatile the design and colour is.
As Bijan had already made a jacket for me last year (see here) the coat was already very well cut from the beginning, so the subsequent fittings were really to refine what was already a good fit.
The final few times I visited Bijan were primarily to get the shoulders and waist right (the waist because I lost 8 kilo’s between May and December, which meant the waist on the coat kept coming in. In all honesty, the shoulders were pretty good from the start, but we both had time on our hands and we’re fussy, so we kept tweaking them until they were exactly what we wanted, to find the right balance of padding and roping in the shoulders. Bijan typically doesn’t like to use much, if any, padding in the shoulders (my earlier jacket has no shoulder padding at all) which follows a more relaxed Italian aesthetic, rather than the more structured style of British tailoring. What makes Bijan’s style so effective is that he cuts a closely fitted silhouette which he learned to refine during his time at Huntsman (known for their very fitted and structured cut) but manages to achieve a similar look without the use of much padding or canvas. The end product being a sharp silhouette, which is light to wear and non-restrictive.
In the end, we used only very light pads for the shoulder, to give a small amount of structure for the heavy cashmere to sit on and we achieved the roping of the shoulders by rolling the cloth into the armhole on top of cashmere off-cuts, to add some body.
Buttonholes (all seventeen of them) were hand sewn with silk thread and the horn buttons which we chose earlier have come up very well. Overcoats typically use larger buttons, but as we had cut this coat to be worn more like a suit jacket (with no jacket worn underneath, only knitwear) I felt it made no sense to add larger buttons to the sleeves when the proportions of the coat would be no larger than normal. Bijan agreed, the smaller buttons stayed. Additionally, the brown of the buttons is dark enough to work with black shoes, but light enough that they work perfectly with brown shoes, which is what I wear most of the time.
The half belt has had the desired effect of accentuating the shape of the back and adding detail. If it had been left plain it would have appeared too formal for what I had wanted, whereas the added texture brought about by the belt helps it to work with jeans and suede shoes, which I wear a lot of the time.
The collar has done its job in working with a good scarf to keep the cold and wind out. Traditionally a lapel like this should look more at home on a single breasted suit as it’s more “notch” than “peak” but the design was essential to having it stand up and wrap around my neck when the collar was raised. A peak lapel would collapse at the tips and flop about when raised, which would look sloppy and drive me crazy, though, arguably, it would look slightly better when lowered than the notch does, but not so much so that it was worth the sacrifice of functionality. In the end, the collar works well in both the lowered and raised positions and most importantly carries out its desired function of insulating me from the wind, which is the most important thing.
Having spent a month between Switzerland, France, Italy, Wales and the north of Scotland, being worn with jeans, chino’s, jumpers, heavy wool trousers, cardigans and every scarf I own, I’m pleased to say that the coat has been exactly what I’d hoped for. Versatile, stylish and warm. If I could make one change, it would be that I’d have opted for an even heavier cashmere, as I still found myself a bit cold on a couple of the colder days of the trip (an extreme example though, given January in Milan and the north of Scotland isn’t necessarily balmy) but that’s something we can address when making the next coat, which I’m hoping to have made from Vicuna.
What all this makes me realise though, as I spend more time getting to know and working with many of the world’s leading tailors, is that Bijan is legitimately among the very best in the world and the fact that he quietly goes about his work in a non-descript building in Sydney’s CBD makes him even more of rare gem.