What's In A Suit (Part 2 of 4)


January 22, 2017

From the beginning we set out to build the highest quality suit possible, using only cloth from the world’s greatest European mills, at as low of a price as possible. We believe that a world-class suit shouldn’t cost $8,000. We spent years deconstructing our industry, comparing brands, construction techniques, cloth mills, and every level of the supply chain. Our research, extensive travel, and ability to work directly with cloth mills and manufacturers have shortened our supply chain significantly. This allows us to offer some of the finest custom suits in the world at extremely aggressive prices. 

As we built our production program, we sourced the finest materials, the most skilled master tailors, and the latest in pattern and cutting technology. A great suit is much more than a good fit and nice cloth. While these are very important, there are many other areas where we provide value to our clients. It’s an unfortunate reality that in the suit business – particularly in the world of custom suits – there exists a great deal of deceit. Many companies prey on the ignorant with misleading information about cloth composition, country of origin, and construction techniques. We believe in being 100% transparent. We want to educate our clients and help them make informed decisions as they invest in their wardrobe.

In this 4-part series we will break down the details of what contributes to the value (and cost) of a world-class suit.

PART 2 - THE CRAFTSMANSHIP

1) Construction - This topic requires several sub-categories to adequately address each aspect. For a more detailed explanation, click here. In short, great cloth gets you only part way there. The cloth needs to be tailored using other high quality materials and skilled expertise to create a world class garment. The important factors to take into account: How was the suit made? By hand? By machine? A bit of both? Is the chest made of a floating canvas, or is it fused (glued)? What tailoring techniques are used to attach the collar, to fit the sleeve into the sleeve head, to create buttonholes, to make the lapel? There is a wide range of variation from one factory to another. As a consumer you have the right to know what you’re paying for. A significant component of the justification for a retail price is derived from this topic, yet most makers are silent on it. Often a store clerk simply doesn’t know the answers. At B&R we pride ourselves on our transparency and our training. Our staff are well trained on how we make our garments and are happy to share our practices. Our suits are built in a 3rd generation, family owned tailoring facility in Portugal, and our shirts are made in a 40 year old, family owned shirt making facility in Spain. We use a combination of machine and handwork. Many processes are actually better by machine, while other steps are still best completed by hand. Our jackets consist of a floating canvas made of canvas and horsehair. Our standard construction is half canvassed, which means that the floating chest piece extends from the shoulder line, down through the lapel, and to around the bottom of the wearer’s ribs. We also offer full canvas as well as a completely unstructured and unlined option. Our sleeves are attached to the head by hand. We have options for either machine or hand sewn buttonholes, and working cuffs come standard. Our linings and pocket jettings are finished by hand. We offer several shoulder pad options, with a minimal amount of padding as our standard. Extra padding or none at all are also options. Trousers come lined to below the knee with reinforced seams in critical areas. A heel guard at the bottom of the trouser hem is standard. Our shirts use the best interlinings sourced from the finest interlining factory in the world (located in Germany). As a result our collars and cuffs are the perfect combination thick yet soft, meaning the collar won’t sag under lapels when worn without a necktie. There’s more to this story. Read the rest here

2) Trimmings - The quality of the materials doesn’t end with the cloth. Linings, for example, require a significant amount of cloth and can enhance or detract from the performance of a suit. A fine suit is made with cupro, a regenerated cotton material that is silk-like to the touch. It’s breathable, durable, and drapes nicely. Inferior linings are made from polyester. When used on the inside of the suit polyester holds heat in, negating some of the best properties of the wool on the outside of the suit. Cupro is commonly known by the brand name “Bemberg.” For buttons, we use horn, corozo, and mother of pearl instead of cheap plastic. Wool felt is used under jacket collars, canvas and horsehair in the jacket front, lapels, and shoudlers. At Beckett & Robb we only use all of the superior materials described above because we know the suit is the sum of its parts.

3) Design - The look of a suit is a personal thing, and tastes vary widely. By definition a custom suit takes on a bit of the personality and taste of each client. That’s part of the charm of designing your own suit. Our design standards remain the foundation upon which a B&R custom suit is created. From there we can adapt fit and other design elements to suit the client. Historically, suits began as military uniforms that incorporated a significant amount of structure to create strong shoulders and a stiff chest. The modern suit retains much of the look of its military predecessors, but has largely gone in a different direction in terms of construction. As technology and materials have gotten better it’s possible to have a great fit and silhouette without all of the structure. We like a British aesthetic in terms of the pocketing, venting, and collar. We borrow from the Italians when it comes to slanted cuffs, shoulder style, higher armholes, and the curved breast pocket, and overall softer construction in the chest and shoulders. We encourage many of our clients to try an unstructured jacket and see how it compares to a normal jacket. While it may not completely replace our standard canvassed and lined construction for business and more formal attire, the unstructured and unlined jackets have a comfort and charm of their own that can be dressed up or down. 

4) Country - Like cloth origin, the country and region where a suit is made matters because of tailoring tradition, skill, and local technique. A trained eye will be able to easily identify the differences between a suit made in Europe, USA, the Middle East, or Asia. Though the average consumer doesn’t have to know those differences, they will be wearing them. We believe that the tailoring techniques that have been refined over centuries in Europe are the finest techniques on Earth. We’ve tested factories in numerous countries, including the USA, and decided to make our home in Portugal and Spain where we get the benefit of the European tailoring traditions while not paying the high prices of England or Italy. We were dissatisfied with many of the factories we looked at in Asia, due to a lack of design, counterfeit fabric and trimmings, fusing, and for unsophisticated tailoring techniques and quality standards. The cost to produce in Asia is very attractive but the trade off is worth it to produce a product we can truly stand behind.

5) Consistency - In the custom suit business, consistency is everything. If a company cannot have total consistency with fit, they will frustrate and lose long-term clients who expect to receive a new suit that fits exactly the same as their last suit. Some companies tout the benefit of “hand cut” suits. Unless the person cutting the cloth is the same person that took the client’s measurements (true “bespoke”) the term “hand cut” is really just a nice way to say that they don’t have a CAD program in place to ensure precision and consistency. The only exception to this is if the tailor creates and maintains a paper pattern, making changes to the pattern after fittings. This old world practice normally only accompanies a bespoke operation. Without a paper pattern or a laser cutter the suit will be redrawn each time and is therefore subject to the inconsistencies of a human hand and a ruler. They may be similar but they won’t be identical. As with all of these topics, consumers have the right to know. At Beckett & Robb we have embraced amazing new technologies that make this part of our operation really easy. First, once we have your measurements, we keep them in our database indefinitely. Even a small tweak between orders is maintained in your order history. Each set of measurements is inputted into our CAD (Computer Aided Design) system and is then plotted and cut by laser, ensuring that the cutting is identical forever. We take the consistency of our design just as seriously, having created specific patterns for our unique design elements such as our various lapel, collar, cuff, and pocket options. All of this results in a client being able to reorder with confidence, even by phone, email, or online.



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