Indochino Suit Review

If there is one constant between all of the online tailoring houses I have reviewed, it is that none of them have failed to impress me with the internationality of their businesses and the speed within which they can fulfill customer orders.

If you were to ask a small, charming country tailor in, say, Tunbridge Wells to make you a suit, they’d tell you – rightly – that “it won’t be done in a hurry.”

There’s the fabric to order, and that takes a bit of time. Then, there’s the tailor’s trip to the fairways of the Algarve that forces a small delay. Then, of course, there’s the fittings and second fittings. They also need the right people on the job and, this being a cottage industry, we have to “be mindful of their schedules.”

“Quality takes time” they chuckle, holding their hip, straightening their faded portrait of the Duke of Windsor and staring off into the sunshine of this vast, incomprehensible, rocket-speed world.

Indeed it does, but it would seem the actual time required to achieve this quality is lessening. As is the significance of borders on the map and distances over oceans.

In my suit reviews, I have dealt with ambitious companies as close as London and far away as Australia – with everything in between, including Thailand, Spain, Hungary and Switzerland.

And so to Indochino. Founded in Canada in 2008, Indochino are one of the most ubiquitous online tailors around, thanks to their highly successful advertising and marketing campaigns. They are not, as their name suggests, utilizing Vietnamese or Cambodian tailors. Instead, like many companies, they have found a unique team of tailors based in China.

The process

Indochino has one of the sleekest websites of all the online tailors. The interface is post-Apple white n’grey – clean as a whistle.

You navigate to ‘Suits’ and choose one of the 30-odd options available. This is essentially your fabric choice, not the style of suit.

The choice of fabrics isn’t huge – and it’s also undeniably conservative, although there isn’t a man-made fibre in sight. You won’t find red wool herringbones or sky blue window checks either. This is boardroom-friendly territory and the palette doesn’t move beyond grey and dark blue – there’s also a few black options.

The suits range from a lower end ‘Essential’ collection, starting at $449 for a two-piece to ‘Premium’, which is a distance of roughly $400.

I chose a ‘Goldfinger’ suit; a light grey pick-and-pick three piece, similar in character to the one worn by Sean Connery in the Bond film of the same name (although his was actually a subtle Glen check). I opted for a one-button with a notched-lapel and a six-button single-breasted waistcoat.

The measuring process is very easy and has video guides to follow. Like all other online tailors, the measurement accuracy is your own deal, so it makes sense to find a helpful person familiar with a tape measure.

The product

The suit itself arrived, neatly packaged in a large box. The folding had been carefully done, which meant minimal creasing.

I didn’t have a sample of the fabric before selecting it, although swatches are available, the cost of which is redeemable against purchases.

Given this is one of their entry level fabrics, I was quite impressed with the quality. It’s not at the Vitale Barberis or Holland & Sherry level, but it has a pleasant hand to it.

I was also impressed with suit’s quality of construction. For the price, it was quite unexpected and, given that other suits I have reviewed have cost more, I would say that this suit is close to representing the best value in this regard. The buttonhole stitching is carefully done and there is a delicacy to the work that is normally missing at this price point.

Details of particular note are the elegant pocket flaps, the substantial horn buttons, the fine curve on the lapel and the quality lining. The initials are a little vanity, but it’s worth noting they weren’t an extra cost.

The jacket is ever so slightly slim on the hips, causing it to pull when buttoned, but I prefer it this way. The shoulders are fairly impressive for an online MTM and despite a little pulling on the back – one of my bodily quirks – there is little shoulder divoting as a result.

I am very pleased with the height of the jacket’s gorge and I am relieved it doesn’t look quite so short as the very fashion forward jackets on the website.

The lapels are, ironically, far thinner than the new fashion for enormous Dumbo-flaps but I think they work well with the rhythm of the suit.

The trousers are good. I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to the lower half, but despite the odd location of the side adjusters, they are very comfortable and very elegant. The turn-ups are slightly out of proportion to the pockets and the lapel – they should be a little taller – but I don’t mind so much.

The waistcoat (yet again) was the least delightful thing about the suit, but in of itself isn’t too bad; the chest is a little too big and is also a little too long for my personal tastes. I have tightened the buckle to the maximum setting as I prefer waistcoats to look too tight than too loose. I might get the chest sorted and an inch taken off the length at a later date.

It’s a bit disappointing that yet again, an online tailor hasn’t got the waistcoat quite as right as the jacket. Many high street stores have managed to produce far better fitting waistcoats, so it must be something to do with the block being used.

That said, the grumbles with the ‘vest’ are minor.

Fit: 8.5 out of 10 – this was very pleasing. As a whole, the suit comes together very well. The shoulders, so easy to get wrong and so hard to change, are a lovely shape. They’re also adjusted slightly for my sloping upper body, so the arms don’t sit awkwardly on them. There are some minor shoulder divots, slight pulling on the fabric and some issues with the waistcoat, but it’s way better than an off the rack suit.

Fabric: 8 out of 10 – better than expected, and works with the jacket to produce some lovely shapes on the waist, lapels and shoulders.

Service: 7 out of 10 – fairly quick, although not as lightning fast as some. This was ordered at the end of February and arrived a few days ago, so about the same length of time as Massimo Dutti Personal Tailoring but several weeks slower than Tailor4Less. There was some ‘double checking’ of measurements required (to be completed in 48 hours) which was a little annoying, but apart from that the service was professional and friendly.

Quality of finish: 8.5 out of 10 – up there with Massimo Dutti. Quality control on the stitching and buttonholes is of note and the jacket feels robustly made; some jackets can feel a bit flimsy, particularly when the material isn’t a heavy tweed, but this felt like the proverbial VW passenger door.

Overall satisfaction: 8.5 out of 10 – very strong from Indochino. I must say I am pleasantly surprised, as the website images – which are more Topman than tailoring – do not do it justice. I had expected a very trendy looking suit, albeit with the right fit around the chest and shoulders. But I am delighted to report that this is precisely the ‘Goldfinger’ suit I was looking for. There might be some very minor changes but considering how well quality of finish, value for money and fit marry up here, it’s fair to say that Indochino are a contender to be reckoned with.

Taliare London

Taliare: From the Latin verb ‘to cut’ and the origin of the word tailor

If you’ve read any of my past articles here or on BespokeMe you might recall me mentioning Erlend Norby.

A lovely guy, originally from Norway, over the years we’ve become good friends and often share a few pints together while discussing the finer points of tailoring. Erlend first studied in Paris as a modelist – someone who cuts and creates a suit. Erlend then went to work as a cutter on Savile Row where he remained for a number of years.

When I met him and first introduced him to readers he had just taken over running my shirt maker Stephan Shirts. While there he began a line of made-to-measure suiting, which was great value and I tested – you can read the reviews here, part 2, part 3 and part 4. At the time I called his service made-to-measure plus. The reason was that Erlend provided a service which went beyond the norm. It wasn’t quite bespoke but very close. Erlend cut the pattern but he didn’t actually make the suits up himself, at that time. But it meant that for just under £600 you got a perfectly cut suit which in reality – whatever other pontificators tell you about hand work etc. – is really the only bit that matters in having a suit made. Without a great pattern cutter able to perfectly translate the curves of your anatomy into a suit you’ve really got nothing – however much hand work, bench sitting or rolls of expensive cloth you employ.

To cut a long story short (too late!), Erlend has now left Stephan Haroutunian Shirts to establish London’s newest bespoke tailoring house, offering his excellent made-to-measure service and a full bespoke service – made here in London.

Erlend told me of his plans last year and it’s great to see a good man’s plans come to fruition. I have to say he’s done a wonderful job and found the perfect little shop in Marylebone, close to some great independent restaurants and bars.

Erlend has also expanded his offering considerably. He still has his basic made-to-measure suits but has now added a made-to-measure with a full floating canvas for £795, not just the ¾ floating for £595 as before. Finally there is a full bespoke service for £2000. In addition to the suits, and building on recent experience, he offers made-to-measure and even bespoke shirts.

With a mix of prices suitable to most pockets and no compromises on the standard this is a great new venture which will please existing customers like myself and delight those new to tailoring. Erlend’s a great guy and nothing is too much trouble. So if you’re contemplating a voyage into tailored clothing – a daunting prospect at first – I suggest a visit to London’s newest tailoring house.

Taliare

5 Seymour Place

Marylebone

London

W1H 5BA

http://www.taliare.com/

Bulldog & Wasp Launch Event

Dear Men’s Flair Reader,

All work and no play makes…you know the rest.

To celebrate the official launch of my clothing label, Bulldog & Wasp, I’d be delighted if you could join me on Thursday 12th March for an evening of fine clothing, good conversation and discovery.

During the course of the evening not only will you get a chance to see and purchase some of Bulldog & Wasp’s fine shirts and ties (at a 10% discount on the night); we will be hosted by London’s newest tailor, Taliare, who will be showing their new spring summer fabric samples for 2015 from Holland and Sherry. They have agreed to offer a 10% discount on any orders using Holland and Sherry cloth. I’ve also arranged for the local specialist perfumery, Les Senteurs, to host an introduction to the world of scent. They will also be offering a special 10% discount on purchases. All that and you’ll discover a street full of great independent bars, pubs and restaurants. What more could you ask for from a Thursday evening? It promises to be a fun evening and you’ll get to drink my booze. Please brings partners, friends and colleagues.

Now, I know that many Men’s Flair readers live outside of London, indeed, they live all over the world. But for those that can’t make it, and I’m sorry for that, we will be offering a 10% discount on Bulldog & Wasp shirts and ties from Thursday 12th until midnight Sunday 15th March so that everybody can share a little in the good times.

Time & Date: Thursday 12th March, from 7pm.

Location: Taliare, 5 Seymour Place, London, W1H 5BA. Map

I hope you will be able to join us and I look forward to meeting you.

Best wishes,

Andrew

Bulldog & Wasp

Sebastian Ward Review

It’s fair to say that shirts are an addiction of mine.

Some sartorialists choose footwear as their vice, others nearly bankrupt themselves through repeated visits to Savile Row. I have even known one man to be utterly besotted with socks, so much so that he had an entire six drawer chest full of them.

I am pretty attached to ties, I must admit. But shirts are a greater extravagance. I always flit from selecting basic whites and blues – using utility as an excuse – to chasing after French collars, unusual stripes, greens, yellows and pinks.

My collection now has its own, overstuffed cupboard and, due to the hanging arrangements, it is nearly impossible to keep them neatly maintained; a good once over with an iron is always required of a morning.

I was introduced to the pleasures of shirts by my father, who has himself, a formidable collection. He emphasizes the important facets of fine shirting, paying particular attention to collars. He often points out ‘weak collars’ of newsreaders or politicians; curving at the tips, asymmetrical, poor stages for fine tie knots. I have consequently paid enormous attention to collars, ensuring they are starched, stiffened and substantial.

The latter word is certainly one I would use to describe the collar on a Sebastian Ward shirt. There’s something superior and UHNW about this collar, something Dragon’s Den-like. I put it on and instantly felt I was just about to be nasty to someone about their radical idea for dog onesies.

Sebastian Ward is a classic story in modern menswear: a brand borne of frustration.

It was founded by Christopher Berry, a Manhattanite raised the Ivy way, who originally experimented with his design for the perfect shirt on a restored Singer sewing machine. Having encountered kindred spirits, Konrad and Alika, who were sympathetic with his frustrations, they set about producing a design that would combat the mass of ready to wear shirts that are either “too tight-fitting…too short at the tail…or the collars too flimsy.”

The shirt itself is somewhat anti-slim fit. As Christopher states, “It’s ridiculous to believe that a tight and skimpy shirt is going to perform comfortably in our current day and age. Yet, over the years, men have been tricked into thinking that ‘tighter fit’ is synonymous with ‘better fit.’ As a result, functionality and mobility are often limited in modern dress shirts.”

Indeed, everything about the Sebastian Ward shirt speaks of its founder’s frustration with other shirts providing function or form – but not both. The 3.1mm Mother of Pearl buttons are milled to be easy to manipulate through a button hole; the tail is a traditional length to sufficient for the ‘tuck’ when seated; the sleeve length is generous for comfort but the cuff slim.

Like many premium shirt brands, Sebastian Ward use the mighty Lancastrian Thomas Mason’s cotton, which is deliciously smooth. With it’s comfortable fit and high, aristocratic collar band, it feels like a combination of an 18th century lawn shirt and a modern Italian.

If I had to pick a standout feature of this shirt, it would be the collar. For one thing, it’s huge, but not comically so. Secondly, it has a beautiful roll that is majestic with or without a tie.

At $175, this shirt isn’t cheap but then it isn’t designed to be. This is a small brand that caters for a discerning group of men who believe that elegance and comfort should come in the same package. As Christopher states; “The reality remains that athletic men are seeking a flattering, yet practical fit that will reliably stand up to their daily physical requirements.” Having ripped the seams on a shirt with the attractive but impractical description of ‘Extra Slim Fit’, I think I know what he means.

Ravis Tailor Review

There’s more to Asian tailoring than Hong Kong and Hong Bang.

Ravi’s Tailors might not be the most famous ‘distance’ tailors available online but they are certainly one of the oldest.

Founded in 1991 by Ravi Daswani in the Bangkok Palace Hotel, Ravi’s is a singular operation. If the website looks nearly twenty years old, that’s because it is. Back in 1998, Richard James was the darling of Savile Row, the toast of the new generation of bricks and mortar tailoring – at the same time, Ravi’s was setting up an online tailoring platform.

It’s also worth noting at this stage that Ravi’s Tailors is also a good-old travelling tailor. They regularly visit the UK and Ireland for a more traditional measuring service. This is often preferred by many to online-only due to the human interaction. Their schedule for this February is here.
The process

Unlike other tailors, who have developed sleek, minimalist sites with 3D suit builders, professional photoshoots with models and free books of fabric swatches, Ravi’s relies on a more informal method. In much the same way that one might take a magazine cut-out of a film actor to the barber to achieve the desired hairstyle, Ravi’s ask you to supply a few pictures of the kind of suit you want – or choose from the range of styles that are already on the site.

Instead of having radials that change a suit’s design from single to double-breasted, peak to notch lapel or two-piece to three-piece, Ravi’s just ask you to browse through and check whether you prefer the suit worn by Kevin Kline in ‘De-Lovely’ or by Hugh Laurie in ‘Jeeves & Wooster.’ It’s somewhat unsettling to begin with, and you start to wonder just exactly how closely the suit you order will represent that particular style.

You enter an email address, which permits you to go to the next step: fabric selection. There is a very large range of fabrics, many of which have interesting patterns such as window checks and chalk stripes. The swatch images aren’t exactly huge, which is a shame as the swatch books start from £18.75 for a book of 20 swatches.

Following this, there is a good deal of form-filling, but most of it highly beneficial: you can choose light or heavy shoulder padding, exact lapel width, button type (brass, horn mother of pearl etc). Crucially, they also offer two different types of construction: Standard Fused (“the jackets are fused and also have canvas facings for added support”) and Full Canvas (“a ‘floating’ canvas is attached with the silk threads at certain strategic points to ensure the front of the garment is unmarked and no fusing is used”). The latter costs an additional £50, which given the work involved is a bargain.

The suit I chose to review, however, used the standard construction. I wanted a light grey double-breasted design, so sent a few example photographs. I provided detailed measurements of an existing suit and sent them on. The price of such a suit is a rather awkward £296.25.
The product

The suit itself arrived fairly quickly (within two weeks of ordering), although a customs fee was payable.

Out of the box (see above photos) it was fairly wrinkled and needed a good steam – unsurprising, given the journey. The fabric is a rather stiff, mid-light weight wool blend; as I had supplied photos of examples, I was unsure of the exact fabric that I would receive. Given my experience in distance tailoring, I’d say that fabric is 60% of the satisfaction in a suit. A good fit is no longer sufficiently impressive and a poor fabric makes an excellent fit irrelevant. Fabric samples help alleviate concerns about fabrics, so I don’t know why these tailoring companies don’t send potential customers a book of fabrics for a very low cost (like Dragon Inside) or at least let them order them and claim the cost back against future orders (like Tailor4Less).

I disliked the standard plastic buttons provided with the suit and, as usual, sought better replacements in Mother of Pearl (see photographs below).

The jacket fit well – perhaps a little too well. It is certainly a nice cut, but is very slim, particularly in the arms.

The waist is actually a beautiful shape, although when the jigger button is secured and the jacket is buttoned up, there is evident wrinkling due to the strain caused by the button positions. I, personally, don’t mind this as I don’t like the flat-board perfection that everyone else seems to crave. However, others would probably wish to have the jacket let out at the side seams.

The lapels are pleasingly traditional (I seriously dislike skinny lapels on double-breasted suits) and the shoulders are lightly padded. The arms are properly set (I had specified my shoulder slope in the order) which means there is little shoulder divoting.

The trousers were slightly shorter than expected – with very little excess fabric to allow lengthening. They were also disproportionately wide compared to the ultra-fitted jacket. I had them tapered all the way down the leg by one inch at an alterations tailor.

Fit: 8 out of 10 – this was a copy of the measurements of a single breasted suit, so it didn’t turn out badly at all. The jacket is a little tight across the torso, with the wrinkling a result, but it is not at all difficult to wear. I think the shoulders and waist shape are particularly pleasing. The trousers were too full and wide for the suit, but now they have been tapered I am very comfortable with the fit.

Fabric: 6 out of 10 – slightly disappointing, middle-of-the-road in terms of quality. Feels a little hard and unfortunately typical of internet tailors. However, they have other great fabrics available, just need to be able to see them before buying!

Service: 6 out of 10 – strange website and ordering process. High charges for swatch books – and you can’t even choose which swatches they send (just the ‘most popular ones’). I also think that they should sort out the customs issues by arranging prepaying of charges in advance. It’s not nice to know your suit has been impounded by the taxman.

Quality of finish: 7 out of 10 – good but not great. Very few stray threads and very neatly finished button holes. For the price point, it’s a tidy suit. Cuffs aren’t working cuffs though and the original buttons were as cheap as they come.

Overall satisfaction: 7.5 out of 10 – this feels harsh as I’m not at all dissatisfied with the finished suit. I like the fit and it looks a lot better in my eyes now that the trousers have slimmed down and there are better buttons. However, the process – and the website – are not at all reassuring. Given that people spend hours in bricks-and-mortar tailors poring over fabric swatches, the inability to choose the fabric samples you want to see and touch is off-putting and the images of 1980s low-end catalogue models wearing boxy suits is, though transiently charming, ultimately unprofessional and disturbing.