Ivy: How old were you when you developed an interest in sartorial culture and what was the major formative influence?
Craig: From a very young age I had an interest in clothing, age 8 or 9. I wanted to pick my own clothes and wouldn’t just wear anything my mother gave me. I started customising my own stuff, sewing patches and designs onto ready made pieces. I was a part of the hip hop and breakdancing scene in the early 80s and wanted all the designer gear but didn’t have the money so I would sew things onto my jeans and colour in my trainers. In those days everything was about having your own style and individuality and the only way to achieve that was through customisation. I also spent my summers in Ireland on my grandad’s farm and would watch him in his tailored suits tend to the animals, dig and work. I observed him hand repairing all his own garments and how well constructed and durable they were as they were bespoke. I would definitely say my sartorial interest started from being around him.
I: Are you the best dressed man in your family or do you follow in the footsteps of generations of dapper gentlemen?
C: My father and mother were always very well turned out, and still are. They are from an era where dressing well is a sign of respect for yourself. I would never say I was the best dressed person over anyone I’m not that shallow. I can’t say one style is better than someone else’s, we all have our own preferences and my choices work for me. Clothing is about what makes you feel happy as an individual. Some people are more comfortable casual, it doesn’t mean I look better because I choose to wear a suit, I choose it because I prefer it, it makes me feel special and more confident.
I: Proper dress etiquette is a dying art in our society and we have entered an era of sartorial Dark Ages. Is there hope for the new generation?
C: I disagree – in business people still wear suits because no other clothing item looks as professional. When did your bank manager, lawyer or financial advisor last greet you in a tracksuit? I’m sure never – no one will take you seriously in business unless you look the part and no other clothing choice other than a suit shows your commitment to your role. I think it’s good people underdress more because then when we see them in a nice suit it grabs our attention. If everyone wore a suit every single day then we couldn’t differentiate between occasions. In response to people dressing down it just means when they do wear a suit, they feel more special. I don’t think its hurt the bespoke trade at all, if anything it means a great suit is even more valuable and desirable as a result.
I: Where do you find inspiration for your styled creations and which top Instagram profiles would you recommend for style ideas?
C: I find inspiration in everything, nature for colours and texture, art and architecture for creativity. If you’re open minded, every day has something different to take ideas from. I don’t follow any one person in particular I tend to combine lots of style ideas together to create my own looks. I am a fan of the sartorialist, mainly for his recognition of people who have their own style. He tends to feature individuals that have something quirky and unique about them rather than dedicated followers of fashion. His images capture the essence of someone and seem unstaged.
I: In the Instagram world of fast fashion and instant gratification, how do you justify the wait and considerable investment associated with ordering a Bespoke garment?
C: With fast fashion whilst you may receive it quickly, someone somewhere could be paying the price for that from cheap labour to bad working conditions. The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter of the planet. People pay thousands for designer brand names that are readily available for anyone to purchase in the shops, they are mass produced and not unique to them. For me it’s important to know how my clothing was made and by whom. I see bespoke as creating your own commission just like a piece of art, it’s an investment. It’s a one off, there isn’t another piece like it in the world. Each item is made to last using centuries of traditional craft techniques and something that people tend to keep forever. Good things are worth the wait. I have clients who have brought me their father or grandfathers hand made clothing and asked me to alter them so they can wear them. How lovely to think you can hand a bespoke piece to your children or grandchildren so your legacy lives on and makes them feel extra special wearing it. After all, the way we dress is largely down to how something makes you feel and if you feel good you will look good. I prefer things with character and a back story. Bespoke clothing is timeless and a tailors soul art, making your own piece of history. It’s hard to put a price on that.
I: Is it safe to assume that you are the best dressed guy in the room most of the time. Do you ever feel overdressed?
C: People have a misconception that being the best dressed means being overdressed. This is not necessarily true. Wearing flamboyant clothing to get attention isn’t synonymous with good taste. I am always confident I definitely have the best quality fitted suit in the room but my own style is generally quite classic, with a modern twist. So whilst I may not be the most flamboyant person in the room, I certainly stand out in terms of fit and sophistication. If your clothes are made well, that beats fashion trends every time. I have never turned up to a party where someone is wearing the same outfit as me, my clothing is as individual as I am.
I: Many men who call themselves “influencers” don’t even own a suit. Do you think there ever be a return towards a more formal way of dress, or jeans and t-shirts are here to stay?
C: I love jeans and a t shirt too in the right context. We dress according to our environment, our job role and our own sense of style. I think many tailors haven’t quite adapted to modern looks and because of that tailoring can seem old fashioned and stuffy. Since starting my own company last year I have made a point of dressing the younger man and slimming down my trouser designs rather than producing only wider legs or traditional turn ups. Younger clients now want a sleeker silhouette so tailors need to adapt to keep up with fundamental changes in modern dress. I bet even the influencers you mention wouldn’t turn up to a wedding in their jeans or an award ceremony presentation. We dress for the occasion and that’s fine as it then makes wearing a suit feel even more special.
I: How would you explain the difference between fashion and style to our readers and how do they influence each other?
C: I see fashion and style as 2 completely different things. I know many people who look amazing and have their own unique style and do not ever follow fashion trends. Style is something you have inside, it’s your ability to ensemble your clothing in a way that is unique to you personally and I think largely that someone’s style is reflective of their personality. I have clients who order bright purple sports jackets and bold checks. Whilst I wouldn’t choose it for myself, the garments look amazing on them because their own personality fits their clothing choices. Fashion follows trends, style is for individuals. I would always rather be an individual.
I: If you have to boil it down to a single advice you could give to our readers who are just beginning their sartorial journey, what would that be?
C: Dress for yourself, don’t be baffled by the so called ‘house style’ just because your tailor has talked you into it. Look at your tailor and how they dress before you allow them to offer you advice. If he looks sharp and is wearing something that you like then choose that guy. Don’t choose the guy who doesn’t look comfortable in what he is wearing and whose clothing choices don’t relate to how you wish to look. If you do, you will generally end up with the cut he decides upon rather than what you really wanted. I have seen very large people squashed into drainpipe trousers and other atrocities in my time. A good tailor looks at proportions, can see the customers own taste and should be trying to make you look your best. If your going for your first piece I would opt for a lovely structured sports jacket as it’s so versatile and can be worn smart or casual, with jeans or trousers. My wardrobe is packed with separates you can mix and match to create a new look each time.
I: Favourite cloth mill and type of fabric and the reasons why?
C: I adore tweed, mainly for its durability and the way it retains its shape. Living in England we get more cold months than we do hot so I get more wear out of tweed than most. I have developed my own signature tweed which is exclusive to Featherstone London. It is undyed using only natural yarn from UK suppliers and woven in Scotland. It’s so beautiful I am really pleased with it. It was important for me to have my own British made cloth, so I chose Araminta Campbell to help me design it. She is young and passionate and like me she uses traditional techniques fused with modern styles. The pairing has resulted in a very interesting and unique cloth containing both herringbone and barley corn patterns. I have had so much interest in it already. For summer I would recommend a wool and linen mix. I use all the top quality suppliers so I couldn’t pick out one cloth merchant over the rest. It all depends on what range they have at that time and what the customers needs are.
I: Favourite suit cut and the reasons why?
C: The majority of my suits are single breasted 2 button with slim cut trousers. It’s a classic style that will never date. It’s more versatile and can be worn many ways. The jacket with jeans, the trousers with open shirt or formal tie and waistcoat. I do love a double breasted jacket but mainly worn more specifically for occasions.
I: What fabric weight would you recommend for year-round suit?
I: Do you recommend silk or bemberg lining to your clients?
C: Bemberg – I think it handles better and it’s sits nicer over a shirt, less friction. It breathes better than silk too.
I: Do you recommend full or half lining for a suit?
C: Full, if your buying bespoke. A well constructed bespoke suit needs all the lining to help retain its shape. If you don’t want all the structural elements that go with a bespoke suit then you might as well buy an off the peg one. It’s these traditional methods that you are paying for along with hand crafting that stands the tests of time to make the garment durable. In my experience lining makes no difference to the weight of the suit, that’s down to the canvassing.
I: Do you recommend full or half lining for a sport jacket?
C: Full always! The art of bespoke is all in the construction. I would also recommend roped sleeve heads, full canvas and all the traditional elements of bespoke which can also be replicated using lighter materials and trimmings too. It’s these techniques that makes the item bespoke, don’t cut corners you will always regret it when your jacket loses its shape quickly. A properly hand made item with a bit of care, can last decades!
I: Do you recommend a lining back or self-same fabric on a gilet of a 3-piece suit?
C: Lining back, the whole point of the lining on the back of a waistcoat is to help the jacket slide over easier as the materials don’t grip together. It’s also less bulky and more comfortable.
I: Favorite type of buttons for a suit?
I: Favorite type of buttons for a sport jacket?
I: Favourite type of buttons for an overcoat? C: Horn every time. (They are traditional and look chic, earthy, elegant and I just like them better. I always choose natural materials for my tailoring).
I: On average, how long does it take to complete a bespoke three piece suit and how many fittings does it require?
C: Fittings will depend on the individuals shape and how tricky it is to get their garment looking perfect on them. Rounder bodies are harder to fit. On average I would recommend 2 fittings. The first one is to check balance and posture and if any size amendments are needed and the second so that the customer can request any tweaks before it’s finished. If you have their measurements right to start with, generally 2 should be enough. A lot of my amendments are done by eye. You can take a million measurements but people stand differently and numbers don’t always take into account bodily nuances, so a great tailor will have a good eye to account for sight adjustments. I always take a photo of my clients so I can refer back to their poise to work out what’s needed. The time it takes to construct is again down to individual tailor and, how good they are at speed sewing without compromising on quality. For me quality is key so I won’t try to rush just to get it out the door. It is possible to have a bespoke suit within a week but I wouldn’t trust anyone who tells you regularly they can achieve it in this time as it usually means corners have been cut. I would always like to have a minimum of one month for new orders to ensure I have 2 fittings included. If it’s a repeat order and the clients pattern is already perfect then a few weeks would suffice, depending on how busy the workshop is. I personally like to leave up to 70 hours continual sewing time to achieve perfection.
I: On average, how long does it take to complete a bespoke sport jacket and how many fittings does it require?
C: If only making jackets, the average tailor should be able to produce 2 a week for a straight finish job (approx 40 hours sewing). Again if fittings are needed I would like to be able to have 2 with the customer so I would prefer to have at least 2-3 weeks as a minimum to achieve this.
I: On average, how long does it take to complete a bespoke overcoat and how many fittings does it require?
C: Same as sports jacket! Although longer and heavier, the actual construction is the same so possibly just a few hours more.