At dinner just off Madrid’s Plaza de Colón last July, the starters were cleared and the tailor I was feasting with stood up, took off his jacket and passed it across the table. “What do you think of this?” he said, proffering it with an inquiring look. I’ve visited a lot of tailors and a lot of workshops over the years, but never are bespoke tailors so keen to hear what I think of their work as they are in Spain.
Like many European nations where industrialisation never developed in such a way as to make artisanal skills redundant, the Spanish still have a good pool of artisans who specialise in intricate work. Yet Spanish tailors are different. There are only a few – mostly in Madrid – and I am told that they have little exposure to traditions elsewhere in Europe. Whereas a Savile Row tailor is constantly aware of his Mayfair competitors – at the very least at the biannual industry dinners – and sees varieties of Italian tailoring on his clients every day, it seems that the Spanish keep themselves to themselves and cater to a narrow circle of gentlemen for whom they are the primary tailor.
I took the jacket and, at the tailor’s prompting, began inspecting the stitching. The level of detail was impressive and, although the edges around the pockets could have been neater, the entire lining had been attached by hand.
“And what about the style? Do you like the style?” he asked. Now this is where things get tricky because my impression is that Spanish tailors don’t have much exposure to the wider fashion world and, as much as hand-stitching is key to the quality of a suit (and it is), no one is going to buy a suit that isn’t stylish. It must be sharp, it must be elegant and – most importantly – it must be contemporary. Only a small number of tailors make good designers (in my opinion, at least), but constant exposure to clients and their wishes slowly updates the house look. Lapels shrink or grow almost imperceptibly – perhaps by a quarter of an inch every decade – sleeves narrow and jackets shorten, then stop and begin slowly lengthening again.
But now, a few Spanish tailors, such as Reillo Sastre (first picture), Langa (second picture) and Calvo de Mora, are reaching out to an international clientele and pushing to broaden their appeal. Some of them have English-language websites in the pipeline and are planning personal-client trips abroad. And they seem to be looking beyond Spain for fashion direction.
Although, in the search to be contemporary, there is a risk that some tailors might lose their identity – offering bright linings, flashy details or mimicking styles from elsewhere in Europe – these tailors are maintaining their integrity of style while embracing subtle fashion influences, and have a huge amount to offer. They are very good value, for one thing. The starting price for a suit at the aforementioned houses ranges from around €1,700 to €2,700 – while on Savile Row it’s £3,000 to £4,500. The quality of the work is very good and the little inaccuracies can be ironed out (sometimes literally). With the right balance between broadening their outlook and retaining their Spanish identity, Madrid’s tailors are a highly attractive offering for gentlemen everywhere.