It’s no great secret that having something created for you is the pinnacle of luxury menswear. Bespoke and made-to-measure tailoring – working with a craftsman to design and perfect a suit – is retail therapy on a grand scale. It’s a pity, then, that there are only so many excuses to order a bespoke suit now. With today’s casual dress codes, there’s less need for conventional tailoring. Perhaps that’s why a growing number of tailors, independent brands and high-end European designers are expanding their bespoke and made-to-measure services to include casual suede jackets.
London-based tailor Timothy Everest, founded in 1989, introduced its bespoke suede jacket service last year, after requests from long-standing clients who wanted weekend jackets made to the same standard as their business suits. “Making suits alone isn’t enough today, and suede jackets are more relevant for current dress codes,” says Fred Nieddu, head cutter at Everest. “We were thrilled when a customer asked us to create one, and others followed suit. Exploring different ways of working with new materials is all part of the challenge.” To create one of the house’s bespoke suede safari jackets (from £3,500), a unique pattern is made based on a customer’s measurements, after which a canvas toile is constructed to assess fit, before tailoring in suede proper. Details can be tweaked, and a range of rich colours, from classic tan to burgundy, bottle green and teal, is available.
Of course, working with suede is different to wool; you can’t press it, and the skins are small and awkwardly shaped. “With a traditional suit you can work fullness into the sleeves or chest by shrinking or stretching the cloth with steam,” explains Nieddu. “Suede doesn’t respond to steam and it’s very delicate, so it stretches out of shape and marks easily. Plus, cutting a pattern that works for a suede jacket is tricky, thanks to the size of the skins – lots of clever hidden seams are required.”
Another tailor that has taken up this challenge is French house Cifonelli, which cuts suede into traditional blazers and sports coats (The Suede jacket, £5,700). “Three years ago, we created a one-button blazer with patch pockets as an experiment,” says co-owner Lorenzo Cifonelli. “We only had a little interest at the time, but in the past year or so, we’ve seen more customers come to us wanting something casual but still expecting the fit of a proper bespoke jacket, full canvas construction and our house silhouette.” This service is available at Cifonelli’s showroom in Paris and through its new shop on London’s Clifford Street.
Chapal, which was founded in 1832 as a manufacturer of leather coats for wealthy travellers, also reports a recent increase in demand for bespoke suede jackets. CEO Jean-François Bardinon puts this down to a casualisation of dress codes, as well as a desire for discreet luxury. “Clients are looking for high-quality products that are made by craftsmen and include the personal experience of bespoke.” Bardinon’s Paris showroom offers the brand’s original A1 flight jacket (£4,235), adopted by the US armed forces in 1927, and the AE 1932 bomber jacket (£4,235), which features a traditional button-through front, stand-and-fall collar and boxy silhouette, on a made-to-measure basis. They’re available in a wide range of French suedes in different weights, finishes and colours ranging from olive green to Chapal’s signature tobacco.
Where Chapal’s house cuts are true to the original flight jackets, French brand Seraphin’s suede bombers (from £3,460) have more contemporary design features, from slim cuts to two-way zips and concealed pockets. The brand offers these styles – and some sharp shirts (Hude shirt, £2,700) – through a made-to-measure service, with existing blocks adapted to a customer’s specifications.
Cromford Leather in Marylebone – overseen by Pauline Harris, who has more than 35 years’ experience in leather tailoring – has a made-to-measure service for all its suede, sheepskin and leather jackets, as well as bespoke. The Heston two-button blazer (£2,125) and McKellen topcoat (£2,375) are bestsellers, cut from French lamb’s suede with a velveteen feel.
Alternatively, Hong Kong-based Craftsman Clothing offers made-to-measure and bespoke suede pieces out of Cad & The Dandy on Savile Row. Suede jackets (from $1,095) are made in the firm’s Asian workshop using skins sourced from Europe, and the brand prides itself on offering quality products at an attractive price point. The house’s signature safari and flight jackets are the starting point for each design, which clients can personalise with details such as a tie-waist or half-belt.
Outside Europe, Stòffa is a chic independent label based in New York that creates luxury menswear with a minimal Scandinavian-inspired aesthetic. The brand’s core offering has always included made-to-measure casual jackets, and today it has designs in suede, including a striking flight jacket (from £1,400) with an oversized collar, an asymmetric biker-style jacket (from £1,250) and a contemporary field jacket (£1,570). As well as providing the service at its showroom, the brand’s co-founder Agyesh Madan and his team travel to London 10 times a year to meet with customers, and also make occasional visits to Paris and Stockholm.
Among the larger-scale brands offering bespoke suede is Hermès, which has Mesure tailoring salons in 12 of its stores. Suede coats (price on request) can be modelled on favourite designs from past collections or sketched from scratch, before being made up in Hermès’ Paris atelier.
Ermenegildo Zegna’s Su Misura service includes suede tailoring and casualwear, offering anything from a bomber jacket to a full suit (price on request). Every piece is made by hand in the Milan atelier, and customers are measured in their chosen store by staff trained at Zegna’s internal Su Misura Academy. Fittings can be carried out wherever they choose – in store, at home or in the office.
Yves Salomon is known primarily for its ready-to-wear fur coats, but also creates bespoke and made-to-measure jackets in suede (suede and shearling jacket, £2,520). The service launched with the opening of the brand’s London shop this time last year. “When we decided to open on Conduit Street, the space came with a sizeable workshop, and it was only natural that we should use this for a bespoke service,” explains third-generation owner and president Yves Salomon. “London is the only store to offer this, aside from our Parisian flagship. We find that our London customers have a very specific vision for what they want – they like to build their own pieces.”
The concept of creating a casual rather than formal jacket from scratch might seem a little alien to some. However, in a world where men are dressing ever more casually, it’s reassuring that so many brands are responding with pieces that still utilise the principles of handcraft. While the bespoke suit has historically been a bastion for sartorial elegance, these suede jackets offer a contemporary alternative for today.