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Bespoke Suit

Posted on 2011/06/05 14:00:04 (June 2011).

[Tuesday 31st May 2011]
As a result of my increasing interest in all things sartorial over the past few years, I'd been thinking for some time it would be quite special one day to have a bespoke suit made, and of course, being in London, there's an obvious place to go with that in mind - Savile Row.

It had taken me some time to finally get round to it, in particular the difficult task of choosing a tailor. Having done some extensive reading on the web I had narrowed it down to a shortlist of two or three, but finally the clincher was the vegetarian question - I wanted a suit made without any silk or other (dead) animal products used. At least one of the companies I had spoken to seemed a little perplexed by this request, and so I was much reassured when I called Norton and Sons to find out they'd had other customers with similar (and even more complex) requirements and it wouldn't be a problem at all.

Moreover, there was something very appealing about Norton and Sons - they're very much one of the traditional tailors on the row - having been established in the 1820s, and have been on the row since the 1860s. However, thanks largely to their very stylish (and relatively young) director, Mr Patrick Grant, the place has a bit of a contemporary feel to it as well - the best of both worlds.

So at lunchtime today I was booked in for my first appointment. I met Stephen Allen, the head cutter, and together we set about the slightly daunting challenge of trying to choose a cloth from their cupboards full of sample books - they apparently have over 8000 to choose from. I'd decided I didn't want just a plain black or navy suit, I wanted something a bit bolder and more interesting, and I eventually settled on (what I hope will turn out to be) a rather fetching shade of blue. I also chose the material for the lining - a very bright blue - but then of course other people wouldn't normally see that. I had my measurements taken whilst I was there, and then went through a long list of questions about the style of suit - how many buttons on the jacket, single or double vent, what style of pockets, and so on. I have to admit for a lot of the questions to just asking "what do most people have?", despite having carefully studied Hardy Amies' ABC of Men's Fashion on all these issues the night before. Anyway Mr Allen was very friendly and easy going throughout - I'm sure he's used to people who have never had a bespoke suit made before.

There's a reassuringly unhurried pace to the process from here - the suit could take about three months to complete and I think there will be two fittings between now and then. My first fitting will be in four weeks time - I'm very excited to get that first glimpse at the finished article.

In the evening Chie was out with a friend from work, so I decided to do a bit of exploring, and managed to get Kyle from the office to tag along. Still at the back of my mind is the ongoing pressure that we really ought to buy a flat at some point, and once again I thought it might be time to try and challenge my prejudices about South London, where you get much more for your money. I'd heard there was a nice little area in Kennington called Cleaver Square which had a nice little pub on it (The Prince of Wales) and so it seemed prudent to go and investigate. The pub was quite nice - that in itself was something of an achievement as to date I'd never really found any genuinely nice old pubs South of the river, with the exception of Borough. Better still, we sat with our pints on a bench in the middle of the square, watching the locals playing petanque, which was very pleasant.

Unfortunately finding this one exception to my pretty negative image of South London doesn't actually help the process of choosing somewhere to buy - Cleaver Square being a well known "desirable" spot means prices in the square itself are much higher than the immediate surrounding area, and more or less back up to the sort of levels you'd get in parts of the centre of London. Which rather defeats the object.

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