Bespoke Shirts

This month, Michelsberg Tailoring sold it’s thousandth made-to-measure shirt.

Here are some new Michelsberg bobby dazzlers waiting to be collected before Christmas.

Michelsberg Made-to-Measure Shirts

It all started five years ago, when I was approached by a company who offered to make me a free bespoke shirt, and experience their quality.

Whilst bespoke suits have been a part of my wardrobe since my late twenties, I’d been very happy with my ready-to-wear Eton shirts because a) I liked the fit and b) my ironer-in-chief found their ‘non-iron’ quality a joy to behold.

Needless to say, their ‘try-before-you-buy’ close worked a treat and it was the fit, above all else, that was something of a revelation. Little things I’d put up with, like too wide a cuff width, due to my skinny wrists, are now a distant memory.

A choice of collar and cuff styles, real mother of pearl buttons, stitching options and in-house fabrics, from mills like Thomas Mason and Albini, made their offering even more attractive.

Michelsberg Shirting Fabrics              Michelsberg Tab Collar Michelsberg Collars

Since then, it’s been a great addition to my business and more importantly, to my customers wardrobes.

With a retail price from £150, I think it’s incredible value for money, when you consider that you can easily pay more than that for an off-the-peg number, that doesn’t even fit properly.

Whilst I consider my knowledge of bespoke tailoring solid, I’ve found myself wanting to know more about the world of top-end shirt-makers.

Who are the best? Why? What are, arguably, the features worth paying for?

During a fact finding mission to the menswear show Pitti Uomo, I was pointed in the direction of an Italian family run shirt-making business, called Marol.

I spoke with a charming lady who informed me that their shirts are fully made-by-hand in their Bologna workroom, and would normally be priced from around £450, dependant on fabric. So, not quite your five shirts for ninety-nine quid at TM Lewin then.

After trawling through numerous style blogs and menswear forums, it’s clear they are widely regarded as one of the best in the world.

Other names that kept coming up included Charvet (Paris), Turnbull & Asser (London), Budd (London) Siniscalchi (Milan), Mr. Kabbaz (New York), Battistoni (Rome),  Isaia (Naples), Anna Matuozzo (Naples), Ascot Chang (Hong Kong)

Some of the key things most of them seem to offer (like top-notch bespoke tailors) are:

a) the creation of a fully bespoke pattern, and therefore the option to customise everything, including collar length and shape.

b) fitting sessions before the shirt is delivered, and after the shirt has been washed a few times.

c) the collar and sleeve sewn into place by hand.

d) hand-sewn buttonholes, side seams and hems.

e) an extensive selection of buttons (often mother of pearl) and top-end (often rare / vintage) fabrics.

Of the above, I’ve had experience with Budd (lovely people, very warm and welcoming) and Turnbull & Asser, whom I bought a beautiful sea-island cotton dinner shirt with pleated front for my brother Edward’s wedding in Australia.

He’s recently used Ascot Chang in Hong Kong (and was pretty chuffed with all four of his shirts) and his brother in law (Paul) has tried both Anna Matuozzo and Charvet, with I believe the latter taking first place.

So what’s worth paying for?

Fit. It’s everything. The cloth can be woven from angels hair, but unless it fits right, the rest is nonsensical.

Style is a close second. The shape and depth of collar needs to suit not just personal taste, but to work in harmony with the size and proportion of a man’s face, neck and the tie-knot he likes to wear.

Hand-sewing. As far as stitching goes, the argument is that a hand-sewn stitch is softer than a machine stitch; this supposedly has a functional benefit on the sleeves and collar, providing a smoother shape and more ease of movement.

Put a gun to my head and ask me to tell the difference between two shirts in the same cloth and size, one hand-stitched, the other machine stitched, and to be honest, I think I might be struggling.

To me, the beauty of hand-sewing (like the Milanese buttonholes on our suits), is not about providing a practical benefit. It’s purely aesthetic, a celebration of the skill, patience and precision of the artisan, into producing something beautiful and understated, that is often only recognised by the connoisseur.

Service and experience. To me, the journey you take when having something made, is often more wonderful than the beauty of receiving the finished product itself.

Whether that’s a bespoke suit, a piece of furniture, a painting, or, a pair of shoes, it is that collaboration and shared vision with a passionate, like-minded soul, that makes creating something unique and personal together, so special.

In fact, thinking about it, what a fabulous Christmas present a Michelsberg bespoke shirt (or suit) would make, for a friend, or, loved one! :-)

As the countdown to Santa-season begins, if you do find yourself in the Victoria Quarter on Thursday 15th December doing some last minute Christmas shopping, Charlie and I we will be serving minced-pies and mulled wine to customers from 5pm.

Hope you can make it!

Michelsberg Christmas Drinks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skinny Bottoms

According to the Rake Magazine this month, skinny bottoms are dead.

I’m not talking about the recent spate of plus size models twerking their bodacious booties in Vogue magazine, but a gentleman’s trousers.

Commercial necessity dictates that the wheel of fashion must constantly turn, and every designer wants to be credited with bucking the trend and trailblazing the next big thing.

When it comes to bespoke tailoring, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and despite what the cognoscenti might say, a slimmer silhouette is still the flavour of choice for my customers. 

The razor sharp suits of the 60’s need no introduction.

Sean Connery’s (Anthony Sinclair) grey three piece in Goldfinger is probably one of the reasons why I fell in love with clothes and got into tailoring in the first place. 

sean-connery-james-bond-three-piece-suit

I’ve just started watching the TV series, “Mad Men,” and keep breaking out into spontaneous applause at the fabulous attire of Messrs Don Draper and Roger Stirling.

Madmen

Whilst Roger (on the left) occasionally flaunts an epic double-breasted number that would give Anderson & Sheppard a run for their money, for the most part, it’s all slim lapels, narrower pocket flaps and trousers that hug the leg and kiss the shoe at the top of the laces.

I am, and will for ever, remain a huge fan of uber-fitted threads, however, I am open-minded enough to see merit in a more laid back approach, particularly for customers with a fuller figure.

To be fair to the boys and girls at The Rake, I take their point.

If I had a pound for every picture on instagram of an aspiring dandy, sporting 15 inch ankle-grippers above a highly polished double monk shoe, I’d be typing this missive from the balcony of my villa on the West Coast of Barbados.

Double Monk

As a tailor, of course you need to follow fashion, but what is of the upmost importance is a true understanding of proportion and balance. Width (and style) of lapel, gorge and button position, where the trousers should be worn, are all vital considerations when trying to flatter a man’s figure.

Experience is everything and having a good eye is vital, as well as having the confidence to tell a customer when you think he’s barking up the wrong tree.

It’s all very well wearing trousers like leggings, if you’re a leafy youngster with heroin chic thighs and calves, but that’s not the case if you’re built like a prop forward with legs like filing cabinets.

A guy with a forty six inch seat, twenty six inch thighs and eighteen inch calves is going to look like he’s wearing a pair of jodhpurs rammed to the gills with sausage meat.

Another trait of the skinny bottomed trouser is the way it is often cut to be worn low on the hips. That’s absolutely fine if a guy has a short body and long legs, but is the kiss of death if you are built the other way round.

Simon Cowell gets grief about his high waisted trousers, but here I must jump to his defence and say that I think wearing the trousers a little higher creates a longer, more flattering leg line.

Check out the photo below of my Grandpa, Norman Suthers, in his “Oxford Bags,” shirt collars raised, a la Cantona!

Norman Suthers 3

Here was a man who was always immaculately turned out. Relatively small in stature, I think that by wearing his waistband high on the tummy makes him look taller and rather dashing.

I adore the generous cut of those wide trousers. It helps to showcase his slim waist, before my Grandma’s Yorkshire puddings and meat and potato pies got the better of him!

There’s a touch of Errol Flynn’s swagger, and if you look back at the matinee idols of days gone by – Cary Grant, Dirk Bogarde, Rudolph Valentino – most of them wore clothing that was more relaxed in fit with a little more fluidity about the whole proceedings.

Cary Grant

Judging by some of the latest menswear collections from some of the worlds most influential designers, this is the way things are going again.

For all you lovers of skin tight, nut hugging, hip skimming bobby dazzlers, I’m afraid the tide is turning against you.

On the upside, I, as your tailor, raise two fingers as to what is deemed de rigueur on the catwalks of London and just want to make you look good.

If skinny is the way to go, then so be it; at Michelsberg tailoring, it’s all about you.

A wise man once said there are three people you should listen to in life: your priest, your wife and your tailor.

As the latter, I promise I will always do my utmost to capture your own sense of style and balance this with something that flatters your form and physique, not David Gandy’s.

 

 

 

 

The Earl of Oxford Street

As a surfer, I dream about the perfect wave.

It’s four foot high, the clean surging face a glistening wall of sparkling gold.

I’ve searched far and wide, from Devon to Bali, and it’s proven pretty illusive – much like the perfect suit.

On a daily basis I’m on the hunt for the finest of threads. Instagram. The Rake Magazine. Trips to Florence and London.

Excellence is everywhere but there is one place that has seriously stoked the sartorial fires that glower within me.

The suits and clothing on the TV series of “Mr Selfridge.”

Mr Selfrige Morning Coats

Mr Selfridge DB

Mr Selfridge Tux

From the fabulous morning coats of the first few series, to the magnificent double-breasted lounge suits and dinner jackets of the final series, I’ve been left goggling at the perfect fit, attention to detail and sublime fabrics that have been showcased to perfection.

Beautiful hand-sewn button holes in silk twist thread, straight as a die. Wide peak lapels and uber-roped shoulders, the crown of the sleeve proudly sitting above an imposing shoulder line.

Vintage cloths rich in texture and design, including heavy woollen fabrics, ‘fancy’ worsteds, velvety smooth flannels and glossy pure silk facings for evening dress.

Quality. Utter quality. I’ve often wondered who are the people behind such a magnificent wardrobe?

On a recent ski-holiday to Italy, I was waxing lyrical about the above to one of our gang, a presenter and journalist currently employed by ITV Yorkshire. She was kind enough to put me in touch with a contact at Dench Arnold, the agency behind the BAFTA award wining costume designer (and fellow hat lover) that is James Keast, the man behind the threads of Mr Selfridge.

James Keast

I explained to his agent I was a huge fan of the show, the clothing in particular, and would it be possible to have a natter with the man himself?

Last Friday he called me from his home in Dumfries.

Sounding a bit like Frankie Boyle, with a wicked sense of humour to match, an hour of our time flew by. Open, honest, he shot straight from the hip and spoke freely about the highs and lows of working with the various actors and productions he has been involved with.

His first job was as an apprentice pattern cutter at an Edinburgh costumier, and the first garment he made was a three piece suit, with high-waisted pleated trousers. In his own words (and like my own tailoring course at Batley college) it “taught me how much I didn’t know!”

He cut his teeth as a costumier at the London firm Bermans & Nathans as a bridge between their designer and cutter. For three years he learnt his trade, researching designs for costumes, sourcing fabrics, watching fittings, building up a network of trusted tailors, coat-makers and costume hire agencies.

As our conversation babbled on, it became clear to me that his role is not just about being creative and making beautiful clothes. It’s crucially about managing very tight budgets, working to deadlines and, on top of this, juggling the whims and desires of highly demanding actors, producers and directors.

He told me that the costume budget for a series of Mr Selfridge was around £220k. I said that sounded like quite a lot, but he explained that when you divide that by ten (the number of episodes) and then split that between a core cast of 30 people, each requiring different outfits (not forgetting the hundreds of ‘extras’ involved throughout filming), the budget per costume can easily shrink to £150.

I struggle to buy a decent suit length for that price, so it’s not a lot of money when you need to create something to reflect the style and status of a wealthy Londoner, living the high life in Edwardian and Victorian times!

James said one of the favourite parts of his job is doing the research. He’ll check out vintage shops, go on-line and see what’s available from costume hire companies like “Cosprops” in North London. Sometimes, he’ll decide to make a garment in house and then it’s all about hunting down the right fabrics and assembling a team of makers that will do the job justice.

One of his favourite tailors is Chris Kerr and his father, the legendary Eddie Kerr, who have been making bespoke suits in their shop in Soho since the sixties.

Chris Kerr

I’ve been a fan of their work for a long time. They offer the real deal – truly bespoke, full canvas, hand-sewn, hand-cut – but the service is much more chilled than some of their counterparts on the Row.

James very much enjoys being there for all the fittings, and as I know myself, it’s not always plain sailing.

He articulated his frustration with aplomb when Jeremy Piven (who played the role of Mr Selfridge) decided to hit the weights and bulk up his chest by a couple of inches during production. As any tailor will tell you, it’s always easier making a suit smaller, as you can cut excess cloth away, but the inlays can only be let out so far…

‘Muscle-gate’ kicked off when he complained his double-breasted waistcoat still felt tight after alteration, his PA taking matters into her own hands, and cutting open the bottom of the side seams with a pair of scissors.

Patience, as well as organisation skills, was one of the other virtues he quoted as a key requirement for the job. No kidding. I’d have gone mental.

In the early days of Michelsberg Tailoring, I worked briefly with a lovely old tailor called Barry Thewlis, who did a lot of work for Opera North and theatres up and down the country. He would regale me with tales of highly strung actors and tetchy producers who wanted things done yesterday.

Pressure to deliver on time is one of the crosses that every tailor must bear. I’m bang in the middle of wedding season with about seventy wedding suits in the pipeline – all with a deadline that cannot and will NOT be missed! :-)

Luckily the vast majority of my customers are a genuine pleasure to deal with, but like every business, I still get the odd ‘tricky’ customer who needs to be managed.

Whether you are tailoring for the silver screen, TV, or a groom about to take the plunge, the skills remain much the same. Enthusiasm for the trade, getting the right team around you, being organised and above all, doing it with a smile on your face.

The suits of Mr Selfridge are to me a triumph, and what a pleasure to speak with the guy who pulled it out of the bag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Something for Wimbledon, Sir?”

Greetings!

Hope you’ve had a cracking festive break and have made a good start to 2016!

Winter is upon us, and whilst the radiators of Michelsberg HQ do battle with the joys of a cruel Leeds wind, our thoughts lie ahead to sunnier climes.

Crazy as it sounds, it is now, as we scrape Jack Frost from our windscreens, the perfect time to start thinking about our Spring / Summer wardrobes.

This week, we’ve had two of the biggest cloth companies giving us pre-launch showcases of their wares for next season.

Introducing Robert Oakes, agent for Scabal.

Robert Oakes

He’s been a part of my life since the very day I started my business. Our first meeting was over a coffee in the bar of the Malmaison Hotel, and his passion for the trade is matched only by his enthusiasm for their fabrics.

A font of knowledge, he has generously provided me with a continuous stream of contacts and advice over the last decade. A genuine pleasure to deal with, he’s a true gentleman, bon viveur and salesman of the highest order.

Only Robert could get me to pick out a jacketing for Wimbledon, as I shivered in my showroom on a bitter Monday morning in January!

Next up the stairway to Sartorial Heaven was Liz Knox.

Liz Knox

Agent for Holland & Sherry, her energy is off the scale.

Bright, cheery, elegant, she’s a tornado of bunches and bonhomie. When it comes to selling, she’s no slouch and rattles off price lists and USP’s like a well-oiled Bren gun.

A classy lady, she strikes me as the perfect head-mistress for a Swiss finishing school, with vowels as polished as the silverware in the Michelsberg Tailoring trophy cabinet :-)

As far as their new collections go, we’ve got some wonderful wool, linen and silk blends, summer-kid mohair and incredibly light weight wools, in classic and daring new designs.

We’ve kept a close eye on the international menswear show Pitti Uomo in Florence this month, which has once again underlined the trend seen at the recent London Collections towards a more informal approach to tailoring.

Separates are key, with blazers worn with cotton trousers and jeans. Perhaps more shocking (take a deep breath / slug of scotch traditionalists) is that the double-monk and polished brogue now has a rival in the form of a pair of trainers.

Pitti 1

 

Pitti 2

A more chilled-out style of dress, combined with rising temperatures, means our new Italian style made-to-measure line, is going to be at the forefront of our offering to customers this coming season.

It’s softer, more relaxed feel, incorporating an unstructured shoulder, and the option of no lining, is perfect for what is certainly a more contemporary look.

To compliment this style further, we also have a new limited edition Spring / Summer collection, representing Italian mills like Loro Piana, Delfino and Ariston.

There are fabulous jacketings with more open, knitted weaves, in wool, cotton, linen and silk. Designs feature classic herringbones and birds-eyes (with some punchy blues and greens), and glen-checks and hopsacks providing added texture and interest.

Team Michelsberg is ready and waiting to kit you out for the good times ahead, whether that’s a large weekend in Ibiza, or, Champagne and strawberries at Wimbledon.

Anyone for tennis?

 

 

 

Festive Finery

Tis’ the season for Tuxedos.

Invitations to awards ceremonies, fundraisers, banquets and Gatsbyesque style festive bashes often come with that most wonderful of dress codes, “Black Tie.”

Without a doubt, the dinner suit is my favourite outfit. It’s a creature of the night – dark, elegant, understated, effortlessly chic.

Within every man there is a dormant ‘Bond’ gene, sleeping amongst more sensible chromosomes, itching for adrenalin fuelled, nocturnal misbehaviour.

Put a man in a tux and that 007 gene wakes up, making him feel sexier, wealthier, possibly even dangerous.

When it comes to style, I love to challenge the rules on lounge suits and am not afraid of creating something that will turn heads.

With formal wear, I’m more of a traditionalist.

Here’s something we recently made for Tim.

Tim Ward Tux

Single breasted, one button, pure silk shawl lapels, straight silk jetted pockets and a horse-shoe vest, it’s an absolute classic.

A peak lapel can work just a well and you can have any colour you want, so long as it’s black, or, midnight blue, although I did see a deep purple mohair cloth that could look awesome!

I’m opinionated at the best of times so fair warning – come here asking for two buttons, notch lapels, pocket flaps, or a centre vent, and you’ll be frog marched off the premises! :-)

Whilst most of our dinner suits are made up in wool, or wool/mohair blends (which have a wonderful sheen or ‘lustre’ to them) I have a serious soft spot for velvet.

Introducing my customer Mr Paul Dunphy, BBC Radio Leeds frontman, actor, DJ and self-confessed Bond geek.

Paul Dunphy Velvet Tux

He’s been scratching the velvet itch for some time and finally we’ve got it sorted.

Check out that glorious Scabal midnight blue cotton velvet – it has incredible depth and just screams of opulence and indulgence.

As a contrast, we’ve used a quilted black velvet for the shawl lapel and “Bond” style gauntlet cuffs (featured on the picture below) which on a technical level are not easy to pull off.

Bond Gauntlet

During the fittings it was only right to discuss the latest o07 extravaganza “Spectre.”

As far as Paul was concerned, it wasn’t Daniel’s finest moment, and this opinion has been echoed by some of my other customers.

Well I bloody loved it. Every G box was ticked – girls, guns, glamour, gadgets, garments – and already it’s brought a chap to my door wanting the “black herringbone suit in the funeral scene.”

As far as Mr Craig’s wardrobe went, I honestly felt some of the suits were far too tight.

Most of my customers want their suits to be fitted within an inch of their life, which is fine (particularly if they are in good shape), but go too far and it’s pulling and creasing like you’ve tried to squeeze into your old school uniform.

The highlight for me was the Double Breasted Overcoat made by Tom Ford, pictured below – gorgeous!

Bond Overcoat

Less impressive, and back to tuxedo’s, was the ivory silk tux.

Bond Ivory Tuxedo

Horror of horrors, it had two buttons on the front and a centre vent.

It’s saving grace was the slim fit and roped shoulders, otherwise, it was in serious danger of having a whiff of the cheap hire suit about it.

I’ve always loved an ivory silk tuxedo. One of my top twenty films is Casablanca and you will find no better example than Rick’s double-breasted masterpiece.

It is possibly one of the reasons why I’ve ended up a tailor and certainly why I wore one to my college Summer Ball.

Casablanca Tux

Regarded as a more informal alternative than Black Tie, it should technically only be warn on cruises, or, in the tropics.

Roehampton, London, can hardly be classed as either, and whilst many a rake might have branded me a wine waiter, “rules are made to be broken.”

There is one rule, however, that is cast in stone and that is, a Michelsberg customer is never knowingly underdressed.

So here’s looking forward to seeing you in all your finery at The Michelsberg Tailoring Customer Party on Thursday 3rd December from 6pm!

 

 

 

 

 

Smuggling Budgies

February 2015. Chalet Morzine. France.

Bugger! I’d forgotten to pack my swimming shorts. With gritted teeth and weary legs, I struggled back into my ski gear, hobbled past the mocking jacuzzi, winced longingly at the beer fridge and headed out into the snow in search of something to wear.

My options in the ski-shop were bleak. Retina-scalding, neon-pink ‘board shorts,’ or, black, lycra, ‘trunks’ with cream go-faster stripes down the sides.

I plumped for the latter, and impatient to feel bubbles at both ends of my body, decided against trying them on and gambled medium.

In my head, I was going to be Daniel Craig, striding purposely from the sea, as bikini-clad lovelies swooned over my bronzed weapons.

Once I’d got them on (and that’s a story in itself), I started giggling.

Tight doesn’t come close. What wasn’t pushed up into my abdominal cavity was now on display like a tray of cocktails at a party.

Since then, their only outing has been as my ’emergency pair’ at the David Lloyd health club, when I forgot my kit.

Whilst their life guard is probably still undergoing therapy, I have to say they were a joy to swim in.

Feeling as sleek as a well oiled beaver, I slipped through the water like a hot knife through butter.

On a practical level, ‘nut-huggers’ are the way forward, but in terms of style, do they cut it at the chic beach clubs of Marbella and Ibiza?

There’s no doubt that swim shorts have become something of a status symbol.

A pair of Orlebar Brown’s, or, Vilebreqin’s, will set you back the same as a bespoke pair of trousers, but I, for one, am not convinced.

In my opinion, irrespective of physique, most middle aged men in board shorts look like clowns.

Perhaps the primary colours and swirling imagery are supposed to depict a playful and relaxed demeanour for the wearer?

I fear the truth is closer to Mr Tumble in his boxer shorts.

The real low point is when they get wet. On exiting the water, the genitals are gripped with all the force of a sous-vide machine.

Then, once the airlock is broken, the material flops around your nether regions like a soggy bin liner.

I’m typing this missive as I sit round the pool in Portugal and it’s all very jolly.

Kids squealing with delight as they are boosted into the air. Lilo wars, races, diving for plastic seals.

Ninety percent of the men are wearing shorts and, to be fair, the only truly offensive item of clothing is a waterproof deerstalker.

It’s shiny-faced, happy families in the sun, taking a break from corporate life, with a wardrobe straight from ‘Rainbow.’

If it’s ‘cool’ you’re looking for, then bring on the Italians (and there statutory month of August off work!)

Go to the Amalfi coat and they’ll all be sipping espresso, posturing on their sunbeds, smoking Marlboro reds and checking each other out.

More often is the case they’ll be wearing banana-hammocks.

Whilst I’m always happiest playing devils advocate, I really do think speedos could be the way forward.

Masculine, functional, fit for purpose.

Embracing a more tailored silhouette certainly has its appeal, but for now, I’ll stick to my boardies.

No to coffee. Yes to lashings of Super Bock. I’m going to chuck my kids around like a demented gibbon and put the budgie smugglers on ice. Until next year. Maybe.

 

 

 

Carry on Colin

Last Sunday (Fathers Day), after a wonderful time spent with the fruit of my loins, I settled down with Mrs ‘M’ to watch a film that has been on my radar for ages – “Kingsman.”

Anything that involves spies, sharp suits, Savile Row and Samuel L Jackson has to be a winner. Right?

Well, as my fingers hover over my keyboard, I hear the voice of my Grandma, Edith, ringing in my ears…. “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

So, I’ll say this: Colin Firth’s Double-Breasted Suit. In-bloody-credible.

Kingsman - Colin Firth

Playing the role of Harry Hart, he declares “the suit is a modern gentleman’s armour.”

As far as the “DB” (double-breasted) goes, I couldn’t agree more.

It’s rakish, imposing, dignified, and has a real element of gravitas about the proceedings.

Perfect for scowling down the board-room table at an impertinent upstart; or, upstaging an overbearing hipster, with obligatory man-beard, leggings for trousers and shoes without laces.

Here’s some of my customers, in classic “Button Two, Show Three’s,” with straight flap pockets, pointed peak lapels (each with their own button hole) and side vents.

Stephen – love the hand in pocket.

Stephen Woodfield

Tim – smiling on the inside.

Tim Ward - DB

Austen – a proper chalk-stripe.

Austen

David – love the shoes.

David Kerfoot DB

And now the Young Guns….

Richard – uber-sized lapels.

Richard Jobes DB

Ben – cheeky notch lapel.

Ben

My colleague, Charlie Anderson, in a more contemporary, deconstructed version (very thin pads in the shoulders and soft canvas) with patch pockets and a (slim) peaked lapel.

Charlie DB

In a cunning ruse to monetise Kingsman, a deal was done with Mr Porter to sell the garments “as seen on screen.”

So impressed by the wardrobe, Charlie and I visited the Northern based work-room, who are responsible for making Massenets finest.

Hats off to their choice of cloth suppliers, which included top UK mills and a stunning wool, silk and linen fabric from Loro Piana of Italy.

Kingsman Cloth

As far as the work-room goes, it was clear the staff had a real sense of pride in their work.

A young lady on Quality Control showed me an incredible sample overcoat they’d made-up for Vivienne Westwood. With a smile on her face, she crossed her arms and said, “James, at the end of the day, they’ve all got to get past me.”

Whilst she radiated sweetness and light, trust me – foolish is the sewer who tries to take liberties with this lass. An iron fist in a silk glove!

Here I am with Ray (The Production Directors ‘enforcer’) who gave us a tour of the production line.

Ray

Whilst his primary role is a technician, he’s a born salesman. His eyes twinkled with delight as he took us through their manufacturing repertoire.

At the top end of their construction, they offer hand sewn collars, padded-lapels, hand-sewn button holes, beautiful curtain waistbands, and hand-sewn hook & bar fasteners in the trousers.

Padded Lapel – helps to achieve a lovely ‘roll’ to the lapel.

Padded Lapel

Hand-sewn button holes – take time and skill to make and don’t they look gorgeous.

Hand sewn buttonholes

Hand-sewn Hook & Bar – built to take the strain of a man who enjoys a good lunch.

Hook & Bar

As a business they work with some serious names, including many of Savile Row’s finest, and even do a watered down version of their product for Marks & Spencer.

I have no doubt that their efforts will be enjoyed by many aspiring spies-to-be and only hope that some of the spoils make there way back to the producers, IF there’s a sequel.

Whilst Kingsman, as a film, is undeniably endearing and entertaining, have no doubt the suits were the star of the show.

The absurd, farcical,”Carry on Colin” vibe of it all, left me punching pillows and grinding my teeth, at what was ultimately an embarrassing paycheck, for a bunch of talented actors and wardrobe professionals.

Sorry, Edith! I just couldn’t help myself. x

Power Cords

Happy New Year my friends – may it be a fabulous one for us all!

I’m slowly getting back to my fighting weight, after what has been a particularly sinful Christmas, and am delighted to report that business has got off to a cracking start.

There’s a real Seventies vibe going on at the moment, with bold checks, wide lapels and deep collared shirts increasingly featuring in the armoury of my victims.

Charlie Anderson cordMy apprentice, Mr Anderson, has fully embraced this nod to the days of helmet-hair and flashing dance-floors, with the addition to his wardrobe of this plush, burgundy corduroy suit.

Back in the days of disco and devilment, corduroy was worn by the likes of Jagger and Dylan, but has also been embraced by the landed gentry and Oxbridge professors.

Whilst I have nothing again brains, or blue-blood, we wanted something sharp, more strutting rock star, than fusty fuddy-duddy. So, we’ve turned up the volume, put on our platform shoes and given it the right royal Michelsberg treatment.

It’s skin tight, fitted to the max, with one button to fasten, flamboyant four-inch peak lapels and a turn-up on the (very slim) trouser.

The look has a raffish air about it – perfect attire for deflowering a fur-clad lovely in St. Moritz, rather than taking tea and crumpets with Stephen Fry in West Bilney.

Corduroy has a wonderfully soft, luxurious and indulgent handle. Together with moleskin and velvet, it was part of a group of cotton and linen based fabrics, known in the Nineteenth Century as the ‘fustians’.

Today, it’s usually made of 100% cotton, although the cloth company Scabal have a lovely bunch blended with 10% cashmere.

In terms of its manufacture, the loom is set up with a higher number of weft threads (running left to right) than warp threads (running up and down) so that a dense, smooth, fabric is produced. This is then cut using special machines to form ‘ridges’ of raised pile down the length of the piece.

Cord is classified according to the size of the ‘wale’, or the number of ridges per inch.

I prefer ‘needlecord’ or ‘pincord’ which has a finer amount of wales, meaning the cord count is higher. It’s softer and more subtle than the brown ‘jumbo’ cord trousers of my youth :-)

Another trend that’s very popular at the moment, is ‘separates‘ – mixing up jackets, trousers and vests in different materials, colours and textures.

Scabal JacketingOne of the benefits of investing in a corduroy suit is that you’ll have a sharp jacket to wear with jeans, flannels, or, cotton chinos. Alternatively, you can wear the trousers with knitwear, or, a closely fitted wool blazer, or, top-coat.

It takes a certain degree of style and flair to get it right, but that’s all part of the fun. Bringing together a selection of garments and accessories to create a look that is harmonious and unique.

We’ve just taken delivery of a stunning new Italian jacketing bunch, as well as Scabal’s Spring / Summer collection in cotton, linen and silk.

Whilst most will work with jeans, they are just crying out for that perfect pair of strides. Whether that’s a light grey shade of cool wool, or a seriously bright gabardine is up to you.

Roll on Spring and let the dressing up begin!

Yuletide Greetings

On Monday 23rd December, Christmas came early at Michelsberg Tailoring with an exciting delivery from the elves at UPS.

Introducing our new selection of Donegal tweed, knitted silk ties, and assortment of pocket hanks – deep joy.

Michelsberg Ties

With the frenzied excitement of my three year old daughter Elizabeth, faced with a new “Frozen” costume, I ripped off my Hermes number and slipped on a burgundy Donegal, secured with my favourite knot – the half-Windsor.

My subsequent preening was then rudely interrupted by Charlie, my twenty two year old side kick, who informed me that I should really be using the Four-in-Hand.

Let the heated debate begin.

When it comes to tying one’s neck-candy, the question of which knot to use is overwhelming. The half-Windsor, full-Windsor, Four-in-Hand, Double-Four-in-Hand (Prince Albert), Balthus, Trinity, Pratt, Nicky, Kelvin, Fishbone are just a few for consideration.

Any of the above can be viewed using the powers of Google and You-Tube, but for the purpose of this little missive, I’m going to stick with two, as they represent two very different schools of thought.

In the red corner: asymmetrical, smaller, slightly elongated, and often called the “school boy’s knot” we have the Four-in-hand.

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In the blue corner, symmetrical, looks like an inverted triangle, the half-Windsor (it’s larger cousin, the Windsor, often called the “foot-ballers knot”)

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Technically, what works best for you will depend on how spread (open) the collar is, the size and proportion of your face, the tie itself (weight of fabric, its dimensions) and of course, the style of the coat you are wearing it with.

The Four-in-Hand Knot, because it’s smaller and longer, works well on shirts with narrower, or button down collars, skinny or medium-width ties, and men who have slimmer faces with a more defined chin.

Take for example, Mr Connery in the picture below.

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His skinny, knitted silk tie and slim 60’s style lapels add weight to the above. As far as his chin goes, it’s certainly slimmer than mine after several Christmas dinners and seven days on the sauce.

In From Russia With Love, Ian Fleming wrote that, “Bond mistrusted anyone who tied his tie with a Windsor knot; it showed too much vanity. It was often the mark of a cad.”

Strong words that must be taken with a pinch of salt, particularly when considering he also said “sumo wrestlers can retract their testicles.”

I now call two chaps into the Witness box as further ammunition for my defence:

1) Mads Mikkelsen from Hannibal.

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Here, I think the Windsor knot is a perfect foil for this outfit. It works well with the cut-away collar and echoes the V line created by those fabulous wide, plunging, pointed peak lapels.

2) Patrick McNee from the Avengers

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One of my true style heroes. Immaculate, dandified but certainly not brash. Everything has been considered and laundered to perfection. The starched shirt-collar, vest, lapels and tie all work together in perfect harmony, creating razor sharp lines. Here is a man for whom a wonky knot simply wouldn’t do.

Being realistic, both the four-in-hand and half-Windsor knots each have their own merits, and neither would disgrace a Michelsberg bespoke shirt and suit.

To me, choice depends less on size and proportion and is more about your character and how you wish to be seen by others.

If you are a regular reader of GQ, the Rake Magazine and participate in various online style forums, there is a widely held belief that the four-in-hand is the Gentleman’s knot of choice.

They argue that because it is imperfect and slightly askew, it creates are more free-spirited, laid back impression and is more unconventional.

A man, frequently lauded by the above is Gianni Agnelli, the “Rake of the Riviera.”

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Here was one seriously debonair dude. A bon viveur and lover of Caraceni bespoke suits he epitomised what the Italians call “sprezzatura” – defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “studied carelessness”.

Effortlessly chic, too cool for school, to me, this is the heart and soul of Italian dressing.

Creating an air of apparent modesty and nonchalance, and living with your Mother to be able to afford it :-)

Knitted ties aside, I’ll always be more of a Steed than an Agnelli, but don’t let that polished exterior fool you.

Behind that velvet top collar and Whangee umbrella, lies a mischievous heart and a disgraceful sense of humour.

Ciao for now and here’s wishing you all a wonderful start to 2015.

Running the Gauntlet

I’ve just finished Ranulph Fiennes’s autobiography, “Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know.”

His ‘why can’t I?’ approach to life is uplifting and truly inspirational. He too had his heroes, and in life, I believe you need people (and their work) to look up to and emulate.

Inspiration comes in many ways. As far as tailoring and style go, for me it’s the likes of Sir Paul Smith, Chittleborough & Morgan, Ralph Lauren, Mark Powell, Ermenegildo Zegna, Cifonelli and Attolini who drive me on to do better and achieve more.

When sitting down with a customer for the first time, often is the case they haven’t got a clue what they want. Then it’s all about listening, probing, connecting, getting on a level and building trust and rapport.

Understanding what will work for any given customer is not something that can be taught. Good taste is born in your DNA and there’s no substitute for experience.

Naturally, I have my own sense of style and know what I love, but the many hours I’ve spent, pouring over other tailors work (past and present), is a treasure trove to be plundered with relish.

Style icons are often another source of inspiration for my customers, and that was certainly the case when making a tuxedo for my friend (and Bond geek) Mr Paul Dunphy.

What man doesn’t grin inside, when Mr Connery light’s up his cigarette in Dr No and utters those immortal words, “The name’s bond. James Bond.”

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In my opinion, the one button shawl lapel cannot be beaten and here is what we came up with.

Paul Dunphy Tuxedo

One of the details that we included were “Gauntlet Cuffs” and these are highlighted in the picture below.

Gauntlet Cuff

A first for Michelsberg Tailoring, I feel they are worthy of some debate. Whilst I’m a fan, detractors liken them to a circumcised sleeve.

The “Gauntlet’s” history goes back to medieval days as a metal plated glove used to protect a Knights sword hand.

Thrown down to signify a duel, it’s got a whiff of “Game of Thrones” about it, perhaps striking a cord with today’s immoral, wine-drinking, wench-biffing, wannabee from The House of Lannister.

The first time I came across them was in the work of Soho based tailor, Mark Powell. As far as his threads are concerned, I’m a big fan. Tailor to The Krays, The Stones and other men of disrepute, his clothes are flamboyant, edgy and not afraid to turn heads.

Whether a gauntlet cuff will work or not, in my opinion, depends on the fabric and the style of the rest of the suit, and of course the wearer who needs confidence to pull it off.

Like a storm collar, I feel it works very well with Tweed, as can be seen in the picture below of a suit cut by Steven Hitchcock of Anderson & Sheppard.

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Also, a perfect foil to a classic tuxedo, or smoking jacket, it was very much a feature of Edwardian dress and smacks of days done by. This, I feel needs to be reflected when designing the rest of the garment.

As far as a lounge suit goes, I’d have wide, pointed peak lapels, a longer length coat, exaggerated skirt and one button to fasten.

There’d probably be a velvet / silk contrasting collar and pocket jets, high-waisted trousers with wider legs and a beautiful pair of shoes by Gaziano & Girling.

The image below is on the right lines and is what I am talking about earlier. Finding something that strikes a cord and twisting and tweaking it to make it your own.

Lounge_suit_Winter1911

Here’s a final shot of Gordon Gekko incorporating what just might be the signature cuff of a man who is mad, bad
and dangerous to know.

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Whist both Sir Ran and I might not agree with his notion that “Greed is Good,” you don’t get anywhere in life without hard graft, so there just might be a grain of truth in his maxim that “lunch is for wimps.”