– George Bernard Shaw
As any well-dressed man can tell you, there is nothing quite as elegant as a hand-tailored suit. For those not familiar with it, the term “bespoke tailor” has an interesting history. The phrase dates back to the 17th century when tailors had bolts of fabric in their shops. When the customer chose his material, the fabric was spoken for, hence the term “bespoke.” This material was then transformed into a garment tailored to the customer’s individual measurements, just as a bespoke tailor will do today.
Each tailor has his own individual style; find one that appeals to you, but look for standard details that demonstrate quality. For instance, the canvas lining should be free-floating rather than fused, and button holes and edges should be hand-stitched. Now let’s go shopping. Here is a selection of top international tailors; whether you are in London, New York or an exotic locale, you never know when you’ll feel the need for that ultimate suit.
Note: All prices are in U.S. dollars.
Number 1 Gieves & Hawkes, 1 Savile Row, London, England
Since the late 18th century, the tailors at No. 1 Savile Row have fitted some of the United Kingdom’s most famous historical figures — George III and Admiral Lord Nelson among them. Intact Royal Warrants of Appointment to the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales will ensure Gieves & Hawkes’ place in tomorrow’s history books; approximately $5,000 (to start) will secure your own bespoke legacy.
Number 2 Ascot Chang, Kimberly Road, Hong Kong, China
With a list of celebrity clientele that includes former U.S. President George Bush, Ascot Chang obviously has something special. Those in the know flock to one of their locations — Hong Kong, 57th St. in Manhattan or Beverly Hills — for their fine custom-tailored shirts.
Number 3 William Fioravanti, 45 West 57th St., New York, New York
Frequently acknowledged as the “best of the best,” William Fioravanti’s credentials are impressive. President of the Custom Tailors and Designers Association of America, Fioravanti hails from a long line of great Neapolitan tailors and was awarded the Golden Scissors by the Academy of Master Tailors in Italy. Fioravanti charges up to $10,500 for a bespoke suit in Super 220 merino wool, of which $5,000 covers the cost of approximately four yards of cloth; he sells at least 12 suits at that price each year.
Number 4 Gianni Campagna, Via Palestro, Milan, Italy
Mr. Campagna apprenticed at an early age at the top tailor shop of the era, Sartoria Domenico Caraceni. His awards include the Golden Needle for Italy’s finest tailor and the Golden Scissors for Italy’s best pattern and fabric cutter. Gianni Campagna’s creations adorn many prestigious names in Hollywood and Wall Street, such as Pierce Brosnan, Jack Nicholson, Charlton Heston, and Revlon’s Ron Perelman. A limited edition of 700 pieces of Gianni Campagna clothing are produced each year, including three suits a week in the $5,000 range.
Number 5 Henry Poole, 15 Savile Row, London, England
Another name that is synonymous with Savile Row and the first Savile Row tailor to enter the Japanese market, Henry Poole’s list of famous clients and dignitaries sparkles. Just a few to pique your interest: Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle and the Duke of Windsor. Poole’s talented team of tailors undertakes quarterly journeys to the United States, covering 10 cities between New York and San Francisco. The company’s senior cutters also regularly visit France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.
Number 6 Caraceni, Via Fatebenefratelli, Milan, Italy
Clients of the original Caraceni included Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, the kings of Greece and Italy, the Prince of Wales, Prince Rainier of Monaco, and Aristotle Onassis. Although there are now several family businesses that use the name Caraceni, those in the know consider A. Caraceni, which is run by Mario Caraceni, to be the best of them all.
Number 7 Imperial Tailoring Company, Gostiniy Dvor, Moscow
If you feel the need for some bespoke tailoring when you’re in Moscow, try the Imperial Tailoring Company. Sammy Kotwani earned his degrees in fashion in India and went on to study in London. As masters of true bespoke tailoring, Imperial’s tailors take more than 20 measurements and figuration details from the customer in order to cut a personal pattern from scratch. VIP clients include Nursultan Nazarbaev (president of Kazakhstan) and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (president of Kalmykia).
Number 8 J.H. Cutler, 23 O’Connell St., Sydney, Australia
The fourth generation to head this iconic Australian company, John Cutler graduated with a Diploma First Class from the Tailor & Cutler Academy of London. He has a passion for discreet and personal custom service with Old World craftsmanship, and is able to disguise imperfections while accentuating the positive. In business since 1884, Cutler has outfitted prime ministers and foreign dignitaries.
A tailor in Moscow, more European geniuses, and the No. 1 bespoke tailor in the world…
Number 9 Raja Fashions, Cameron Road, Hong Kong, China
Raja Daswani is the resident genius and grandson of the original owner. His grandfather emigrated from India to Hong Kong to start up a custom tailoring business, and it has developed such a loyal following that customers stay for life. Raja’s clientele includes members of the House of Lords and Downing Street.
Number 10 Ozwald Boateng, Savile Row, London
Featured in The House of Boateng, an original series on bespoke tailoring on the Sundance channel, Boateng’s many clients include Laurence Fishburne, Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, Keanu Reeves, and Mick Jagger. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire in the 2006 Queen’s New Year’s Honours, and was voted one of the 100 Great Black Britons. Make sure to check out the series if you want a better look at Boateng’s unique style and the bewildering world of bespoke.
the best of bespoke
There are many excellent bespoke tailors out there; this list is just the beginning. Research their different styles until you find one that suits you to a tee, and remember that your suit is only as good as your tailor. If you find one you like, stick with him — he’s worth his weight in gold.