Edinburgh Evening News Wednesday, March 19, 2003.

Edinburgh Evening News – Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Nothing measures up to bespoke

You don’t have to be a master of observation to realise that suits, like those who wear them, come in all sizes. And while off-the-peg suits are all very well, they do have there drawbacks. First there’s the ill-fitting baggy suit that reduces its weaver to a rumpled bag of potatoes. Then there are trousers that fly at half-mast, revealing to the world those branded socks, or the palm-covering sleeves that, in the words of Mr Humphries, are guaranteed to ride up with wear. In fact, they don’t really suit sir at all. Which is perhaps why it seems the lure of the starched collar is currently tempting more and more Edinburgh males to invest in a bespoke suit, hand-crafted by a tailor who knows how to make sure that the proportions of his suits suit the customer.

Dandyism, it seems, is back. And as one such self confessed dandy, fashion writer Nick Foulkes, says, this is because “a bespoke suit is more than a mere fashion item: it is unique, a one-off, a true original”.
But there is no need to head to London’s Savile Row to pick up a made-to-measure suit, as high-quality bespoke tailoring can be found right here in Edinburgh. One tailor who is bringing this exclusive craft to the Capital is Dutchman Jan Domhoff, a fifth-generation Domhoff travelling tailor, who is happily taking advantage of this dapper little phenomenon.
Returning recently to Edinburgh for a second consecutive year for an intense four-day period of fittings, 38-year old Jan has found that demand in the made-to-measure market is starting to swell.
A family business established in the 1850s, the Domhoffs first came to Edinburgh in 1926 to buy fabric from the esteemed cloth manufacturer Harrisons of Edinburgh.
“One of the most important aspects of tailor-made suits is that the cloth is of the highest quality”, explains Jan. “Which is why we got in contact with Harrisons, which produces excellent cashmere, outdoor and flannel materials.”
Twenty years ago, Jan’s father began making suits for clients in Scotland – mostly the friends and family of the director of Harrisons – but today’s escalating desire for bespoke clothing in the Scottish market has seen Jan step up his visits to Edinburgh to measure up his increasingly divergent customers.
Of course, there is no such thing as a typical client, but being an old-fashioned trade, Jan points out that a 40-year-old customer is considered to be a “young” client. He also admits that bespoke clients are predominantly men in the 40-plus age group.
“The reason for this is that in general he has by this time married, bought a house, established himself in his line of work and knows his prospects, and may have children,” Jan explains. “He has therefore got an idea about his income and outgoings and about the necessity for a well-dressed appearance. This is usually when man turn to made-to-measure clothing.

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Domhoff is somewhat middle of the range – despite the fact that he travels to Edinburgh – as his prices start at £ 750 for a bespoke creation. He thinks the most important thing is that the suits fits the costumer, with respect to both shape and personal style.
Edinburgh client Cameron Buchanan confirms that this is precisely why made-to-measure is preferable to ready-made. “What’s unique is that you’re being fitted by a proper tailor who has real flair and knows exactly what he’s doing,” Buchanan says, referring to the hand-finished button holes and quirky trademark linings, which range from vibrant plum and vivid scarlet to quintessential polka-dot.

A former director of Harrisons, Buchanan is the Icelandic Consul in Edinburgh and is well versed in the tailoring idiom. He was wooed by Domhoffs classic designs and craftsmanship two years ago.
“I think Jan has a good formula with the made-to-measure service because I can afford two of his suits rather than one hand-made by Savile Row tailors.”
Of course, having a bespoke suit made can be a lengthy process, although in some cases, such as with Domhoff, machinery is used in certain stages of tailoring to speed up the process. “One of the great barriers to the tailor-made suit used to be the price, necessarily high due to the many man-hours that went into making the suit,” Jan explains. “This way we can realise a made-to-measure suit in less time, therefore making it affordable again.” Consequently, the entire process from first fitting to finish has been reduced to between four and six weeks.
But Nick Foulkes says it’s worth making the effort for made-to-measure. “A proper suit is almost fashion-proof and will be built to last,” he says. “The better vintage shops are full of bespoke suits which have outlived their weavers.
“Often years will elapse and I will have a suit refreshed, perhaps relined, or have the trousers altered. You may well be able to get a perfectly good ready-to-wear suit that looks fabulous on the hanger and costs a fraction of its bespoke equivalent, but a mass-produced garment intended to fit a standard type is unlikely to flatter your anatomy.”
Of course, it’s not just men who are interested in made-to-measure clothing. Professional women are also opting for tailor-made suits which won’t go out of fashion.
Jan says: “We have a few classic suits which were developed when the wives and partners of our clients wanted to order from our extensive range of materials.”
“But all people who wear our suits feel more confident and secure – especially those with a difficult figure who have a tough time in the standard high-street shops.”
The demand for proper tailoring certainly seems to fly in the face of the idea that people prefer to dress down for work. Author Mark Twain was definitely right when he said: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

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