Leng Ngo’s new bespoke studio tucked away on Sydney’s York Street, has been recently established with former colleague Gennaro Scura, both of whom worked for John Cutler.
A native Cambodian, Leng and his family fled the Khmer Rouge, escaping to Vietnam, before later arriving in Australia, with Leng being offered work as a 16 year old with JH Cutler where he stayed for the next 30 years, much of which was spent working alongside Gennaro.
Last year Leng felt he was ready to open the doors for his own business and Gennaro came with him.
Gennaro is spoken of very highly by those within the tailoring industry in Australia, particularly for his skills as a coat maker. One of the few remaining tailors from the generation of post-war Italian tailors, Gennaro learned his trade in Rome, not far from the Spanish steps. Like countless others, he made the journey to find a better life in Australia, going to work for JH Cutler where he was based until recently. We can thank this Italian exodus for contributing greatly to tailoring worldwide, with many others moving to England and America, such as Nino Corvato in New York.
This is the first time I’ve dealt with Leng, but I’ve liked the silhouette I’ve seen on one of his customers suits. The goal for this commission was to create a unique three piece suit with the central objective being versatility. If the design works as I hope, each item will be capable of being worn in isolation to the rest of the suit, allowing a larger number of possible situations in which the items can be worn.
If the coat is to be worn both on its own and as a part of a suit, it needs to be able to walk the line between formal and less formal dress. Fortunately, these days I rarely need to wear anything overly formal and, even then, my own style is best described as a relaxed version of formality which still pays respect to tradition. This is achieved by keeping to time tested principles of formality and then making subtle changes in the details.
Regular readers will have read one of the most popular articles here about texture and for this I’ve chosen one of my favourite cloths – flannel. The light absorbing nature of the cloth and brushed finish softens its appearance, whilst still being formal enough for business. It allows the coat to make the transition to less formal scenarios more comfortably than a finely woven worsted wool might. Leng lined up his flannel books from various mills for me so it didn’t take long to flip through them all. Dormeuil’s “ICE” flannel book was good for what I had in mind, no patterns (helping to make the suit more formal), in a very wearable weight of 9.5 ounces and with a small blend of mohair and cashmere. While the amount of mohair and cashmere won’t make a huge difference to the suits performance, the mohair will increase its resistance to creasing, whilst the cashmere will give it more softness and body, though hardly enough to notice. I’ve chosen a very blue cloth, which I’m still not 100% sure of, as I don’t want it to stand out and, thinking about it more afterwards, it probably will. Time will tell if it’s the right decision, but I’m hopeful that it will add some character without making too much of a statement. (edit: my finished position was that the blue is too blue and I should have chosen something darker, but the colour still works fairly well)
Secondly, we’ll use patch pockets (as well as a semi-hidden ticket pocket above the right patch pocket) instead of the more traditional flapped pockets found on most suit coats (see my earlier article on choosing pockets here). If you work in a particularly formal environment, this may not go down too well with the establishment, but for the rest of us who don’t risk being executed for wearing patch pockets, it’s a nice trade-off for the jetted pocket formality.
The overall cut should be classic and simple to bring back some of the formality lost by the pockets and cloth. A slim cut overall, with notch lapels and a slight rope to the shoulder.
With all of those details, the jacket should work well as a part of a suit with polished oxfords, but equally well with separate trousers or tailored jeans and loafers.
A unique double breasted design with small watch pockets on the left and right. Being double breasted, it’s more formal than if it were single breasted. So that it can be worn as a separate waistcoat we’ve chosen not to use a satin lining for the back (as is traditional with waistcoats) instead choosing to use the same flannel cloth as the front. Removing the satin will take away the shine and reduce its formality. This will go unnoticed under the coat, when worn as a suit.
Possibly the easiest part of the suit to get right in regards to balancing formality. The trousers will effectively be cut and designed just as they would for a suit and then simply worn as separates with an odd coat, knitted tie (or no tie), a shirt with a more casual texture (such as an oxford weave) and loafers.
Overall, they’ll sit high on the waist, have a wider waistband fastened by two small buttons, single reverse pleats and a cut somewhere between classic and slim through the legs.
We’re also not going to cut rear pockets, I never use them anyway and it will make for a cleaner silhouette.
Leng will need a few weeks to order the cloth and make the suit ready for its first fitting. So we’ll revisit this for an update in a few weeks’ time.
The cost for the suit is approximately $5,300AUD ($4,100/$4,200USD). Note that this may vary slightly for other suits, depending on the cloth selected.