Ten!

Michelsberg Tailoring is ten years old!

Born on a kitchen table in June 2006, it crawled to “Queen Square,” a business incubator, and started “whipping the cat” – tailoring talk for visiting customers at their homes and offices – and operating out of the Malmaison hotel in Leeds.

Lavished by its father (that’s me) with boundless love and attention, it shed its nappy for shorts and Clarks shoes, setting up its first proper home at the managed offices, ‘Calls Wharf,’ on Calls Lane.

After a year of paying grown-up bills, it took the plunge, and headed out into the big wide world, signing a lease at the Victoria Quarter.

We’ve been here for five years and here I am with the new Centre Manager, James Bailey, signing a new lease with our landlord, Hammerson.

James Bailey VQ

Since day one, I’ve delivered well over three thousand bespoke garments, and two years ago, took on my first full time employee, Charlie Anderson, who is now running the Manchester business out of Hotel Gotham.

It was a big step, and we are now really beginning to see some traction. As many of you know, building a business takes immense energy, desire, confidence and commitment. With Charlie’s efforts, I have no doubt he will assert himself at the top of the Michelsberg sales board in due course.

Whilst the aspiration is to become a shark in the sartorial sea, I still consider us a minnow.

The last ten years have been all about improving the quality of our garments, building a reputation for outstanding service, and defining the core values upon which we will move forward – loyalty, honesty, work ethic.

My dream is to train and build up a team of ambitious, self-starters, who are passionate about customer care and men’s tailoring, ultimately running their own tailoring businesses under the Michelsberg wing.

With Charlie now firing on all cylinders, my hunt for the next ‘apprentice’ has begun.

As a celebration of what has been a glorious decade in bespoke tailoring, I’m throwing a party for all my customers and suppliers.

The date is Thursday 15th September from 6.30pm, here in the Victoria Quarter, and whilst I always like to put on a good show, this one’s going to be special.

So, please, “Save The Date” in your diary.

If I don’t see you before for a fitting, or, further treats for your wardrobe, then here’s wishing you and family a fabulous Summer!

 

 

 

 

La Dolce Vita.

Fed, heavily watered with a glow of self-contentment about me, it was time for the auction at the Bespoke Tailors Benevolent Association dinner to begin.

As part of the “Luxury Goods Package,” three little words ‘had me at hello’ – a bespoke hat. 

Digging as deep as any Yorkshireman might dare, I ended up being the successful bidder, and this month headed to London to claim my booty.

Here I am with Tamara Williams, the founder of The City Milliner.

City Milliner

In my opinion, the greatest gifts a salesperson can have are enthusiasm and energy and this young lady has them in abundance. Beautifully spoken, she was charm personified and her love for hat-making was both genuine and infectious.

I’ve always adored hats. Over the years I’ve built up a decent collection of Borsalinos and Panama’s from Lock & Co, but this was my first time at going down the bespoke route.

My customers often tell me that the experience of having a suit made, is just as important and enjoyable as wearing the finished product, and so now it was my turn to be on the receiving end of a consultation.

It’s a wonderful thing when you are dealing with someone who really takes pride in the product / service they provide. It was made very clear to me that I was to have the finest quality she could muster, and was educated as to merits of using felted beaver fur, as opposed to rabbit, as it’s so soft yet incredibly resilient.

We selected the colour of silk band (remarkable how this impacts on the tone of the hat itself!) and agreed brim size, the shape of the top of the hat, the colour of the silk inside and finally I had my glowing dome measured-up.

I’ll have to wait until August for the finished product, but to me, that’s all part of the charm, and testament to the amount of time and effort that goes into blocking, steaming, stretching, pinning, drying, stiffening, cutting, wiring and fitting the finished product!

Her studio is in Kilburn, but she’d kindly agreed to meet me at Scabal on Savile Row, and I left with a spring in my step.

The first thing I did was pop across the road and offer my congratulations to Kathryn Sargent, who has just opened her own shop on the Row. Former head cutter of Gieves & Hawkes, it’s an incredible achievement, but I’d expect no less from a lass born in Leeds :-)

Kathryn Sargent

It was then a quick walk to the end of the street to Pickett, purveyor of luxury leather goods. They’d very generously contributed some money towards their products as part of the auction prize.

With my Mulberry briefcase falling to pieces, it was manna from heaven, and here I am with their salesman, Henry  Sylvester, and my new tan man-bag, handmade in England.

Pickett

After a cracking lunch at Le Bab, recently profiled by Giles Coren, we headed off to Foster & Son on Jermyn Street. One of the oldest custom shoe and bootmakers in the world, their bespoke service starts at around three and half thousand pounds.

Again, they contributed money towards a treat from their wares and my choice was a tasselled black Claverton loafer.

Here are some cheeky photo’s I took of some of their work – love the Edwardian style boot with the buttons to fasten!

Foster

Foster2

My final pit-stop was the Shirtmakers Budd in the Piccadilly Arcade. Established in 1910, they are one of the few companies to have their own cutting room on the premises, and here is their bespoke shirt cutter Darren Tiernan.

Budd

The shirt he is cutting is for a well know, aggressive, opinionated, arrogant TV personality (who cannot be named) but as long as he keeps helping these lovely chaps earn a living, I hope he continues to bore us all with his testosterone fuelled gibbon-like antics.

After a final purchase, I wandered back to the hotel with more bags than Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

To be fair, and my paymaster Mr Scrivenor will confirm, it’s not often that I treat myself.

When I do, London is one hell of a place to splash the cash, eat great food, live La Dolce Vita and unleash the bon viveur that lies within.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tipsy Tailors

Since the start of the year, it’s been mental.

Wedding season is in full swing, Manchester is flying and we’ve just had a record month.

It’s all adrenalin fuelled, pink-cheeked positivity, but all work and no play, makes James a dull boy.

So, this month Mr Anderson and I headed down to London for the annual Bespoke Tailors Benevolent Association dinner, held at the Merchant Taylors Hall at Number 30 Threadneedle Street.

What a venue. Old school elegance at its finest with stunning chandeliers, Georgian windows and hand-carved oak-panelling. It’s my fourth time to this venerable institution and yet my heart still raced as I entered the fray, a veritable Whose Who of the Bespoke Tailoring and Textile trade in the UK and beyond.

Generously invited by the cloth company Scabal to join their table, we dined with members of the team from The Rake Magazine.

For those of you haven’t read this, it’s a must – with a focus on the good things in life and people of note, it’s witty, informative, a right riveting read and something every aspiring dandy needs on their coffee table.

After a fabulous meal, we headed out into the Courtyard Garden to commence the best part of the evening – simply having a good drink and a natter with fellow cutters, tailors, shoe-makers, hatters, shirt-makers and men of the cloth.

James & Charlie - Merchant Taylors Hall

Here we are before things started to get messy.

I feel that Bespoke Tailoring is a genuine calling in life, and as individuals gathered together, our bond was the decision to tread a similar path. Enthusiasm for our trade and the satisfaction of doing something highly personal, creative and service driven was apparent in all I spoke with.

Time flew and before I knew it we were in a cab, heading to the Duck and Waffle on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower.

Duck & Waffle

The chap with his back to you is responsible for extreme distress to my kidneys, liver and bank account. My paymaster, Mr Scrivenor, would have winced at the price of a bottle of Asahi beer – but that’s London for you.

At the risk of doing irreparable damage to my reputation, let’s just say it was ‘rather late’ when we got back to the hotel.

All too soon, the day after the night before, was upon us.

Whilst waiting in the lobby for my partner-in-crime to materialise, I spotted two chaps with their wives, resplendent in trilby’s and immaculately cut overcoats.

A sociable beast and still ‘buzzing’ from the night before, I introduced myself and commented on their attire. It turns out they were also at the dinner, representing the City tailors Couch & Hoskin, and their rather pink eyes, told a similar story to my own.

A truly fabulous firm, here’s a picture of one of their creations – a Silk Velvet Smoking Coat – made for the BTBA ‘ President Patrick Bunting of Dormeuil, who was at the top table that evening.

Couch and Hoskin

A cooked breakfast was called for and we found a belter of a place round the corner at St Katharine Docks. We sat outside, the sun shining down upon our alcohol drenched faces, and wallowed in a sausage and bacon recovery programme, admiring the glorious view before us.

London

London Town. The perfect place to let off steam in style.

 

 

 

 

“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?

 

 

 

Happy Holidays!

December has been an absolute belter.

As far as business goes, it’s usually a lean month, with people saving for Christmas, but the till has been ringing away like Santa’s sleigh bells.

It’s been a great end to what has been a terrific year and music to the ears of my accountant, and paymaster, the venerable Mr Scrivenor.

Some of this was down to the launch event of our made to measure collection and the influx of new victims to our Manchester operation.

It’s been a month where the gym has been replaced by sin, with team bonding sessions at Whitelocks, Friends of Ham and a memorable lunch at Sous les Nes.

The highlight was the Michelsberg Christmas party, my showroom and terrace rammed with customers and suppliers, glasses of mulled wine raised to the heart-warming tones of The Tingley Brass Band. Magic.

brass band

Our final hurrah was on Wednesday 23rd, with an exceptional lunch at Manchester House, with a bottle of Bordeaux that will bring tears to the eyes of the aforementioned Mr Scrivenor.

Since then it’s been a booze and food fest of criminal proportions.

Christmas Eve was spent in front of the log fire, with my oldest friend Pete, and his lovely lady, Ching-yin.

Here we are getting into the spirit of things, gangsta’ style. Respect to the Amsterdam massive!

pete

Yes, it’s fair to say your tailor is a happy chappie, even more so when Santa brought me a new O’Neill ‘Pyschofreak’ wetsuit. 😎

Fingers crossed Mother Nature will allow me to christen it over the next few days as I head over to the east coast with my family.

So here’s wishing you all a fabulous festive run up to New Year’s Eve and a cracking start to 2016!!

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Michelsberg Made to Measure

Ciao amici miei!

The Michelsberg Italian Uber level has landed and here I am on a passeggiata outside Michelsberg HQ.

James Michelsberg Italian Uber

As I mentioned in my previous blog, it’s the real deal, top of the tailoring tree. Suit porn for a sartorial connoisseur, absolutely everything hand-made, a work of art.

The moment I slipped the jacket on, my back shivered.

Excitement, adrenalin, I’m not exactly sure what caused those tingles of joy, but it felt like nothing I have experienced before. The soft canvas, so light and yet still palpable, caressed my torso like the embrace of an angel.

The attention to detail was mind-blowing. The Michelsberg label, cross-stitched using matching thread, beautiful hand-made buttonholes and check out that wonderful stitching between the gorge and collar (which I’ve always admired on Tom Ford suits).

Michelsberg Italian Uber Level Details

With a retail price of two and a half grand, it’s expensive.

With our British Bespoke line starting from £800 for a two piece, it’s going to be a jump too far for many of my customers, but it’s a serious addition to the Michelsberg armoury and one hell of a weapon I can’t wait to start deploying.

Whilst I believe there will always be a market for British formal suiting, built to last with a sharp, chiselled silhouette, there is no escaping the trend towards more informal ‘de-constructed’ tailoring.

Armani ‘ripped the stuffing’ out of Savile Row in the 70’s / 80’s.  “Gone were the shoulder pads, the tight armholes, the straight trousers. Armani’s suits draped, they flowed, they allowed wearers to exhale. This was the path forward.” (Lauren Goldstein Milan)

Don Johnson

Judging by the recent collections at Pitti Uomo, the wheel has turned again. Whilst I have serious doubts that the ‘Miami Vice’ suits of my youth will return with gusto, I very much want to offer that softer, Italian style at a more affordable price-point than the new Uber.

Working with the Italians has opened my eyes to a new philosophy of suit making. Whilst I am still totally committed to producing wonderful British suits, I am taking our soft-tailoring offer a step further, with the introduction of our NEW MADE TO MEASURE OFFERING!

Over the past ten years, I’ve visited and had trial garments made with at least a dozen made-to-measure operators, with workshops in Italy, Romania, Egypt, Germany, Czech Republic, Portugal, Mauritius, China and India; the results have been variable.

At Michelsberg Tailoring, service is everything.

Finding suppliers with that same ethos and level of commitment to delighting the customer is difficult.

It’s all very well when things are going right, but what is more important is how people respond when something goes wrong. It is then that a coat-maker, or cloth supplier, can be worth their weight in gold.

Honesty, enthusiasm and passion for our trade are what we are about, but we are only as good as the people behind us and our garments have to stand up for themselves.

At long last, we have found the right people to work with. Their sales director flew in to meet us here in our Leeds showroom, and how refreshing to see such genuine pride in their product and company.

Charlie and I were measured-up, and four weeks later we flew out to their studio to collect our suits and meet the team.

Here’s Charlie in his new threads, made up in a soft wool cashmere cloth by Loro Piana.

Charlie Anderson - deconstructed

The key difference of the Italian style, compared with our British Bespoke suits, is the super light canvas and unstructured shoulder, which means there is no padding.

One of my favourite Neapolitan Tailors is Rubinacci, pictured below. He seems very humble and most importantly for me, his style is very distinctive. He does his own thing, rather than follow the crowd, and I adore his use of colourful fabrics.

Lys lærredshabit med sommerstriber og vinrødt foulardslips

His garments bear all the hallmarks of a Neapolitan suit, key of which is an unstructured shoulder.

As well as a shorter jacket length, cut away fronts, minimal skirt, ‘kissing buttons’ on the cuffs and wider lapels, the sleeves are much wider than the armhole.

This means that when they are sewn into place, it creates a pleat, ‘pucker,’ or, fold, and produces a style known as “Spalla Camicia”, or, shirt shoulder, as shown below on these jackets in our agents showroom.

Michelsberg Spalla Camicia

Whilst I do love the idea of a softer, more rounded shoulder (like Charlie’s) for a more informal blazer, or suit, I’m not really a fan of spalla camicia and  feel it looks rather feminine. That said, if a customer wants it, we can now provide it :-)

We can also offer a more “roped shoulder,” whereby the sleeve head sits proudly above the shoulder line. This can be seem in my made-to-measure suit pictured below, made up in a soft flannel from Carlo Barbera.

Michelsberg Roped Shoulder

Another key design features associated with the Italian style is the “Barchetta” breast pocket, which means “little boat.” I adore the way it accentuates the swell of the chest and is going to be a permanent feature on all our Italian Uber & Made-to-measure garments. Gorgeous!

 

Barchetta

You can also see the double-hand stitching which many people find charming.

Personally, I think it looks rather fussy. On many Italian suits, there is further stitching down the centre back seam, sleeves and trousers, which again, I think is over-kill.

Finally, Charlie’s and my made-to-measure jackets are unlined, which means they will be cooler to wear in the summer. Vital if you live in Naples. Less so in Leeds, but we live in hope..

Unlined Jacket

We will be showcasing some of these garments at the Michelsberg Customer Christmas Party, on Thursday 3rd December from 6pm. The Tingley brass band will be playing carols, and if you are a customer, you should have received an email with all the details. If you haven’t, drop us a line!

On a final note I’d like to say this:

I’ve built my business on British Bespoke. I will always love and champion the English style. At Michelsberg Tailoring, it is here (god willing) to stay. Heavier cloth, canvas, wadding, means the garments are more durable, keep their shape better, and can take a bit of a hammering.

With our British Bespoke and Italian Uber levels, we provide a proper fitting, which will always help when dealing with a more challenging figure. Whilst great results can be achieved using a made-to-measure system, some figures (or style choices) are too extreme and can only be dealt with on a bespoke basis.

Whilst some of our customers adore our British Bespoke offering, they complain about the number of meetings required (3 to 4) and the time it takes to make a suit (2 to 3 months).

Personally, I think the good things in life are waiting for, but with a 4 week turnaround on our made-to-measure, this is going to help those customers who need new threads in a rush. Let’s face it, many blokes leave things to the last minute.

When push comes to shove, it’s something new. Something different. Something I adore. New suppliers, new fabrics and further style choices for you, the customer.

Here’s looking forward to raising a glass of mulled wine with you at the Christmas Party!

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Made in Italy”

I’ve had an itch for some time. It’s been tickling me ever since my first trip to the International menswear show in Florence that is Pitti Uomo.

It’s a condition known as Italophilia – “the admiration, general appreciation or love of Italy, its culture, society, arts and/or people.”

For me, it’s their threads that I adore, and of course, the flair, confidence and way in which they are worn. The Italian dandy, in all his finery, is the espresso sipping peacock of this planet.

Ever since I got into the game,  I’ve been seduced by the royalty of Italian bespoke tailoring.

Brands like Zegna, Brioni and Kiton need no introduction, and every suit connoisseur will have Attolini, Panico, Liverano & Liverano, and Rubinacci on their radar.

Talking generally, the Italian style is softer than the English look, with less canvas and wadding inside their garments and a more natural shoulder.

The overall style is often more laid back, embracing the spirit of sprezzatura, creating an air of nonchalance and invoking a rakish, devil-may-care attitude.

I will always love the hallmarks of a typically English suit – an imposing shoulder line, a chest (like soft armour) that curves powerfully down to a nipped in waist and a slightly flared skirt.

To me, it speaks of tradition. Dignity. Dependability. A sense of order. Gentlemanly values.

It is, of course, entirely possible that underneath this cloak of respectability lies a bounder of the highest order, but, taken at first sight, a chap will be given the benefit of the doubt.

There are many occasions when a level of formality is entirely appropriate, and this is the perfect backdrop for an English suit to shine.

That said, there are times when we can take a chill-pill, lower our guard, and wear clothes that will help bring out the more playful, unencumbered side to our personality.

This is the time to go Italiano.

Well this month, the time came to scratch my Italian itch, fly to Pisa and find my inner Giuseppe.

It started with a whisper from an Italian cloth agent. A workroom, near Florence, tucked away in the tumbling countryside, with thirty people making a product to rival that of Brioni and Kiton.

I investigated further and liked what I heard (apart from the price!). Cloth was despatched and last week I headed out for a first fitting on my trial garment.

First of all I was introduced to their cutter and striker, pictured below. Would you believe the cutter (on the right) is fifty one years old?

What better argument for a diet of red wine, olive oil and mamma’s cooking!

Italian Cutter & Striker

Next it was a trip round the workroom and everything that you’d expect from a low volume, top-notch operation.

Full canvas construction throughout, absolutely everything sewn by hand (here’s a clip of an Italian Button Hole being made), and my god, the enthusiasm for their work was exceptional.

Italian Handsewn

One lady glowed with pride, her bejewelled hands dancing through the air, as she sang the importance of using, not just the eye, but touch and ‘intuizione’, when positioning canvas and pads.

It was then to the office where I was fitted by their master-tailor.

Italy1

How refreshing and enjoyable to be ‘the customer!’

As far as first fittings go, it was straight sailing. The sleeves were slimmed, coat shortened, fronts cut away a bit, button position raised a touch. Minor tweaking. Balance and fit, spot on.

The cutter had clearly done his job well and taken into account my square shoulders, drop right and slightly sway stance.

It was then finally down to the nitty-gritty and a huddle with the master-tailor and their pattern cutter.

It is vital that I understand exactly what inlays are provided, the location of balance points, and when I ask for key measures (such as the finished half waist), we are all on the same page as to where, and how, they are taken.

This is when the fireworks began. Italians are generally passionate people, that’s what I love about them. They are noisy, wave their hands around in the air like a Jewish mother on amphetamine sulphate, and will argue their point like their life depends on it.

We got there in the end, hugged it out (totally true!) and, you guessed it, headed out for a very late lunch.

The place had no frills. Clean, quirky, a very warm welcome, three things on the specials board and I can honestly say, the best bowl of risotto I’ve ever eaten.

In three weeks time, the finished threads will land and then the judge and jury is out.

I’ve paid top dollar and my expectation is high. The quality of finishing is everything and all that passion, time and energy invested in its creation, will hopefully give me the fit and feel I’m looking for.

It’s busy times here at Michelsberg Tailoring. Whilst the “British Bespoke” remains the back-bone of my business, we are also looking at other manufacturing partners, and not standing still for a second.

Whilst this may mean more late night tussles with the customer service kings of Ryan air, on the upside, the wardrobes of Messers Anderson and Michelsberg, are not looking too shabby.