The relationship between a tailor and consumer should be harmonious and built on implicit trust. A good tailor should make you feel nourished and equally, the tailor should also feel appreciated that he has brought value to an individual’s life. But what if this is your first time buying a suit? You don't know the lingo and think fabric is a nightclub in Farringdon. First off having a mild sketch in your head of the look you're after will be a great way to get the ball rolling. Maybe you've seen a suit on an actor, in a magazine, a particular pattern etc. Be realistic, but try and envision what your dream suit looks like.
Here below for your careful consideration, are the right questions to ask your tailor.
What have you got?
Ask to see some look books; a recent portfolio. If he points to the cardboard cutout by the cash register you know you're in trouble. Any tailor worth his salt will also have an online store so be sure to check that out and any recent feedback on their social channels. Facebook is still a good barometer for ratings.
The tailor will bring along sample fabrics for you to try, masticate the swatches a little (I said masticate, unless you REALLY like the fabric) and then ask..
What fabric is best for.. ?
[fill in the blank]. It's important that your tailor fully understands your needs. You might be getting married in the tropics and require a certain breathable fabric. It could be your work suit, but what kind of work? Is there a long commute involved and will your job demand any physical exertion? Ask your tailor to elaborate on why the fabric or cloth recommended would be suited to the occasion, and if there are any other options available to you.
Free next Friday?
Your tailor is a busy man, with many other customers, interviews to write and cocktail parties to attend. Make sure you schedule set dates and times with your tailor for fittings and additional alterations. Not having to chase each other for appointments over email will optimise both your time.
Show me your papers.
This is what separates the men from the marines in the tailoring universe. If you specifically want bespoke products, ensure that your tailor will create an individual paper pattern for you. Ask to see it and have it pictured with an edition of the local paper. OK so that might be overkill, but this is a reasonable question and will let the tailor know you're not here to have your pants taken down. Semi-pun intended.
The best way to describe a 'pattern' in clothing is to compare it to a 'blueprint' of a building. An architect will build a house based on the blueprint and the tailor with piece together a suit based on the pattern.
Will it be fully canvassed?
Canvas cements the lining and outer fabric of the suit, thus enabling its shape over time. You might be asking for an unstructured fit, in which case the lining might be absent from the body. Although ensure it's in the arms, all jacket arms should be lined for ease of access. Not all suits are fully canvassed, but the vast majority of made-to-measure suits will at least be partially canvassed.
You don't want a yes-man tailor. It's important that your tailor presents positivity and optionality for you, but isn't just a yes man. In an interview for GQ Franklin Saltos, owner of N.Y.C.’s Tailoring Room, mentioned, 'The best tailor is an honest one. If yours routinely overpromises, jump ship'.
I hate it man!
I'm going a bit sensational with the questions today, but it's important to highlight early on what changes can be made during the process if you're unhappy with the design. It could be anything from the length of the trouser, to the style of the pockets. Having good communication with your tailor is key, even if you're unsure of the terminology, understanding at what point of the process you can make alterations is key.
The photos used in this blog post and from a past European-wide campaign I did with Brooks Brothers.