Feeling Horny

My Grandma, Edith, used to come out with some wonderful phrases:

“She’s all teeth and temptation,” was one of my favourites, as was, “don’t spoil the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar.”

The former young filly, is often encountered by a chap, resplendent in a Michelsberg bespoke suit. The latter, is my call to arms when making it.

When it comes to tailoring, the devil is very much in the detail, and economising on trivial things is dangerous ground. It’s all very well selecting a beautiful cloth and lining, but just as important are the use of quality trimmings.

Decent canvas, shoulder pads, pocket bags, thread, zips, will all help to ensure a long and happy life for your bespoke garment.

As far as trimmings go, I’m a big fan of Richard James Weldon, one of the oldest trimming merchants in Britain, who have supplied the trade since 1826. Sourcing top-end silk facings (used to make the lapels) for dinner suits isn’t easy and these guys have a lovely selection.

Another of my firm favourites is Bernstein & Banleys.

Based in Southend-on-Sea, I’ve done business with them for years, but it wasn’t until a recent dinner at the Merchant Taylors Hall in London, that I actually met with one of their tribe.

Here is Peter Lockwood, their Operations Manager, who, like myself, had sneaked off to the bar, during one of the less stimulating speeches…

In my opinion you just can’t beat putting a face to a name / voice at the end of a phone. So even better, when one of their directors, Fran Bardhi, took a deep breath and made the journey North of Watford gap to come and show me his wares.

Without doubt, one of the most important things to me, from a visual perspective, is using beautiful buttons. They are in many ways the alloy wheels of a bespoke suit and can make it, or, break it.

Done right, they are the perfect foil to a prestige marque that oozes style and sophistication. Go wrong and you’ve got a twat-mobile with go-faster stripes, spoilers, and a bangin’ bass booster.

There’s something about the feel of a plastic / polyester button that leaves me cold.

Not so, when you have a nugget of buffalo, or, ox-horn in your hand. It’s warm and weighty. You can almost smell the rolling meadows and hear the thunder of hoofs, as you caress the notches endured over a thousand ruttings.

James Grove and Sons, based in the West Midlands, were one of the world’s largest horn button manufacturers, but sadly ceased trading at the end of 2012.

Bernstein and Banley acquired their entire stock, and for me, are de rigueur when the suit is ready for ‘finishing.’

Here’s Judy, in ‘button-corner’ of the workroom, selecting the brown horn-buttons for my apprentice Charlie’s first bespoke suit, made-up in a fawn wool worsted fabric, by Hardy Minnis of Savile Row.

Whilst horn buttons will work with many fabrics, there are of course exceptions.

I’m currently making a suit, in baby-blue cloth by Scabal, for a wedding in Skiathos and have decided to use Mother of Pearl buttons. The pink and green hues will sparkle in the sunshine and provide a nod to the creamy silk lining that lies underneath.

For a razor sharp black cocktail suit, in silky Halstead Super 120’s, we’ve gone for Smoked Mother of Pearl buttons with a gunmetal grey lining.

When it comes to dinner suits, or a mod inspired Tonic Mohair suit, we make our own silk / cloth-covered buttons using the machine below.

As I’ve always said, making a bespoke suit requires team-work and is a genuine collaboration between the customer and myself.

Whilst I will always make my own suggestions, often is the case we use buttons sourced by my customers.

They’ve come from ‘Duttons for Buttons,’ a flea-market in Paris, a vintage garment they already own, to something (a silver Yorkshire rose) that they just want to use as the last cuff button.

The amount of time and energy that can go into making a bespoke suit is incredible, and it is finishing touches like these that can turn a garment into something sentimental and highly personable.

As far as Charlie goes, he’s made-up with his new threads (pictured below) and who can blame him. Getting the horn is all part of the territory for a thrusting twenty one year old.