For those who read my recent profile on Nino, you’ll already have a good understanding of the New York based, Sicilian tailor, who has earned a great deal of respect over a lifetime of dedication to tailoring. For anyone who hasn’t yet read his profile, it can be found here.
While I was in New York I took the chance to have Nino make me a pair of trousers and, like Leonard Logsdail with my bespoke coat, he was happy to make them during the course of a week (instead of a few months, which is normal).
Cloth: One of my favourite parts of any new bespoke commission, choosing the cloth is always enjoyable. This mostly comes down to not knowing what you’ll find as you search through the books from various mills and eventually landing on something which was what you had in mind. Once the cloth is chosen, it lets you immediately visualise the finished product. Another reason why bespoke tailoring is such an expressive process, allowing each client to design the things they wear.
I try to keep an open mind when looking at cloth books as you’ll often be surprised by some of the smaller mills who turn out a great cloth that happens to be exactly what you were hoping for. As long as the mill has a good reputation then you’ll generally end up happy with the finished product.
My process is, at best, sporadic. Most customers will give their tailor an idea of what they had in mind, be presented with a couple of books, flick through them, find a cloth and move on…. I’m rarely that client. When I commissioned my bespoke trousers from Ambrosi in Naples, It took a good half hour to find the cloth I wanted. Fortunately, Salva was gracious and kept looking for options until we found a great cloth from Vitale Barberis Canonico (my favourite cloth maker).
I’ll always have a reasonably clear idea of what I have in mind before commissioning anything new. Often, it’s a specific cloth which inspires the commission to begin with. In this instance, I was hoping to find a cloth with three attributes as these trousers will be worn mostly for the cooler months from early autumn to early spring – a base colour of brown, a creme or rust coloured check and in a mid weight (around 10/11 ounces, which, several years ago was considered light weight).
I would have scoured a dozen books (which only takes a few minutes as you tend to fly through them pretty quickly) before opening up Harrison’s of Edinburgh “Mirage” book – a series of mid weight wool blends (mixed with silk and linen), most of which were finished with pretty striking, heavily contrasting checks. I settled on a rusty brown cloth with a rust and creme windowpane check. Having these few additional colours in place gives options for the rest of an outfit, with the rust coloured highlights allowing it to work with greens and other seasonal colours, as well as the white and creme being able to pick up on a shirt or creme coat or tie. Harrison’s Mirage book is on their website here.
I’d initially hesitated because of the blend, thinking the linen might cause constant creasing, but as the cloth was overwhelmingly made up of wool and silk, it refused to crease even when scrunched up under force.
Fit: I’ll wear these mostly with lace-up shoes, so the trousers will take on what I’d regard as my standard style of fit for trousers to be worn in this way, that being a more traditional cut at the ankle (21cm) for someone of my frame, without cuffs and angled with a 2cm drop from the laces to the heel (giving a single clean break at the front and then resting on the heels at the back). For trousers worn with loafers, I have an opening of around 19cm and cut straight, letting them rest evenly just on the tops of the shoes. Your physique dictates these measurements and it’s important to respect that. I can’t wear very narrow cuffs or overly slim trousers, my body won’t allow it and it throws my proportions out of sync. The trousers below are an old pair which I had cut slim through the legs and a 17.5cm cuff. An extra centimetre and they’d look better.
The trousers will be cut to sit higher, on my natural waist (see previous article on finding your waist and the right height to wear trousers here) with a single button one and a half inch waistband. To allow clearance over my thighs, Nino’s adding double reverse pleats. The pockets will be cut to sit off the side seam, which should add to a clean look. This last part will make more sense when you can actually see the pockets in the next article of the first fitting. Finally, my signature “fish” symbol will be sewn into the rear right pocket in a similar colour to the cloth, so it won’t stand out.
We’ve kept the construction details simple, due to the cloth having such a strong check. The check is striking enough without any additional attention needing to be drawn to the finished trousers.