This story first appeared in the Oct. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Hollywood is getting the message. Although most junior agents and actors suit up in off-the-rack, a growing number who want to appear a cut above are spending big money on perfectly tailored custom clothing, from suits that require three fittings to shoes that take a year to craft. Why should stars on the red carpet be the only ones whose clothes fit like a glove? "Looking like you care about your clothes shows respect for the people I do business with," says Facebook head of market development Matt Jacobson, a longtime bespoke fan. "And I get better service everywhere than anyone I know."
In the past, a man typically waited to reach a professional peak before rewarding himself with a suit cut to his proportions, which costs anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000. Today, it increasingly is a part of men's wardrobes throughout the industry, including such younger names as 34-year-old APA agent Brian Dow ("I bring my A-game to my office on many levels, and appearance is one of them") and 30-year-old reality TV producer Charlie Ebersol, who even makes his own bespoke knickerbockers ("It drives me nuts, people applying for a job in shorts and flip-flops").
As the clients for bespoke have become younger and more daring, bespoke itself -- a process by which a garment is more or less handmade from the world's most luxurious fabrics and cut from a pattern created exclusively for a client -- is evolving. The suit still involves about 36 measurements and 50 or more man hours to sew, with 3,800 stitches in the jacket alone. But what once was synonymous with Britain now includes Hong Kong tailors with American storefronts, design school grads with showrooms in L.A.'s booming downtown and rock-inspired New Yorkers opening West Coast outposts.
A delightful paradox: Bespoke often costs less than brand-name ready-to-wear. But the ultimate appeal is the power and personal pleasure lent by bespoke and even made-to-measure (its less costly cousin that involves premade patterns). "There is personal storytelling behind every decision we make when we get dressed in the morning," says Jonas Bell Pasht, a 33-year-old co-creator of the new Esquire Network show How I Rock It (and a bespoke man since age 23). "It is especially meaningful for me when I am wearing something 100 percent unique to me." Adds Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, "If you're the captain of a ship, dress like a captain."
Bespoke shirting starts with high-thread-count fabrics sourced from various European mills relied upon by Zegna, Loro Piana and Thomas Mason. Collar selection isn't only about stylistic preference: Pointed collars flatter round faces, while spread collars soften long chins. Sewing typically is done on a single-needle machine with a high number of stitches per inch. Hand finishes, such as monograms and mother-of-pearl buttons attached with silk thread, bring the starting price to about $200.
258 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills; 13300 Riverside Drive, Sherman Oaks
The Rat Pack's iconic style perennially is emulated by shirtmakers -- Anto dressed the originals. Patterns for the shirts that soaked up Frank Sinatra's and Dean Martin's martini spills figure among the more than 10,000 housed in a former bank vault at Anto's Sherman Oaks headquarters. In the Beverly Hills boutique, clients choose among bolts of fabric on shelves in front then proceed to a dozen collar and cuff options mounted on a wall in back (shirts from $325). Anto Sepetjian's sons Ken and Jack continue the tailor-owner family tradition.
➻ ASCOT CHANG
9551 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills
Asia's most famous shirtmakers are a family operation in its third generation. Bespoke service (from $200) involves 24 measurements, followed by two or three fittings. The company offers a range of fonts for monograms.
At Carroll & Co., 425 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills
The fall/winter shirting swatches have just arrived at the boutique that coordinates orders (from $325) for Hamilton, a traditional American company that makes everything at its Texas home base.
➻ TURNBULL & ASSER
50 E. 57th St., New York
British authenticity isn't easy to find in Los Angeles. So when visiting New York, a must-stop for many in the industry is Turnbull & Asser, whose shirts (from $405) are made by seamstresses using old-school pedal machines in Gloucester, a town near the Welsh border. Clients return shirts after three washings to get adjustments made for shrinkage.
➻ THOMAS PINK
255 Post St., San Francisco; 520 Madison Ave., New York
The British shirt specialist, founded in 1984, now is part of the luxury conglomerate LVMH. Its Personally Pink service (from $250, offered at the San Francisco and NYC boutiques and rolling out soon in other regions) involves four measurements as well as the client choosing the silhouette, collar, cuffs and monogram. A single craftsperson in England makes a shirt from start to finish.
➻ FREDDY VANDECASTEELE
13437 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks
This expat Belgian shirtmaker relies on word-of-mouth from clients like Jacobson and inquiries by men who simply see his handiwork (from $180) gracing someone else.
Individual wooden lasts (molds of feet) are created for bespoke shoe clients. Onto those, the finest leathers and exotic skins like python are hand-sewn, a process that can take a year. For the less patient, made-to-measure also can provide great fit -- even if your feet don't match in size or shape.
➻ G.J. CLEVERLEY
By appointment only at Leather Soul; 479 Rodeo Drive #103, Beverly Hills
"Cleverley shoes are so soft and comfortable it's like putting on a pair of slippers," says Jason Statham, who brought the company's George Glasgow Jr. to the last Vanity Fair Oscar party. "All I've got is Cleverley shoes now." The Beverly Hills-based Glasgow runs G.J. Cleverley with his father, making 4,000 bespoke pairs per year in their U.K. headquarters. The 58-year-old company has shod Humphrey Bogart and Laurence Olivier and now sells to Tom Wolfe and Brett Ratner. From $4,000.
➻ GEORGE ESQUIVEL
By appointment only; 8309 W. Third St., Los Angeles
After buying two dozen pairs of boots from the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund nominee, Ryan Seacrest graduated to bespoke Esquivel shoes such as the black patent tux slippers he wore to the Emmys in September. Bespoke from $4,000; M2M from $750.
➻ JOHN LOBB BOOTMAKER
South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa
Freestanding John Lobb stores, nearly all owned by Hermes, offer bespoke. From $7,650.
➻ LEATHER SOUL
9513 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills
The store facilitates made-to-measure orders for Saint Crispin's (from $1,700), ready-to-wear for John Lobb and Edward Green, and serves as a showroom for G.J. Cleverley.
➻ THE LEFT SHOE CO.
8473 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood
Using proprietary technology, this company scans clients' feet in its new West Hollywood boutique, then matches each foot to one of more than 100 lasts at its Finland headquarters. Customers select the color, sole, silhouette and other attributes of their made-to-measure dress shoes, boat shoes and desert boots. Joe Manganiello, writer-producer Josh Berman and DreamWorks PR honcho Chip Sullivan are early adopters of the shoes, which begin at $395. The Left Shoe has just initiated "Made to Measure Mondays," after-work drinks at the boutique's sizeable bar, with participation from fellow M2M companies, such as J.Hilburn shirts.
Although suitmakers each have a take on shoulder shape, waist placement and other silhouette elements, the underlying promise is to craft what the client wants. A man and his clothier create the look, referencing swatches, samples, photos and sketches. Savile Row remains the epicenter of bespoke, but today its centuries-old houses -- including Anderson & Sheppard, Henry Poole & Co, Dege & Skinner and Huntsman -- travel to the West Coast to measure and fit.
On the made-to-measure front, many luxury brands offer the service: Gucci, Prada, Zegna, Ralph Lauren, Brioni, Loro Piana, Kiton and Tom Ford. "Tom Ford is my current fashion hero," says Feig, who has been perfecting two jackets from the house for a year. "Tom likes the '70s cut with the big lapel, even though thin lapels were in when he started doing so. It doesn't look '70s anymore; it just looks like Tom."
➻ JOHNATHAN BEHR
5455 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
A native Angeleno, Behr nonetheless cleaves to British tailoring traditions: classic silhouettes; 3-inch lapels; high, peaked lapels --and everything handmade on the premises. Behr likes a tasteful mix of plaids, windowpanes, and chalk-stripe fabrics -- all from hallowed Italian and English mills. No surprise that he counts expat Brits among his clients (and even Londoners, who find his prices more palatable than Savile Row norms). In addition to clothing for Fleetwood Mac's Mick Fleetwood, Behr has made bespoke costume suits for Mad Men characters Don Draper and Roger Sterling. "His stuff stands the test of time," says Dateline NBC correspondent Josh Mankiewicz. "I still have the tux he made me back in the '90s, and whenever I wear it people ask me about it. Because it fits, it's classic -- and it looks great." From $2,500.
➻ WARAIRE BOSWELL
834 S. Broadway, Los Angeles
The 6-foot-7 Boswell had to make his own clothing to look good for his William Morris mailroom job in the '90s, then realized his true calling. After more than a decade of sharing a Koreatown tailor's shop, he recently opened his solo showroom in a historic building in downtown L.A. From there he has launched made-to-measure and casual wear, thanks to a partnership with longtime client Chris Bosh (of the NBA's Miami Heat). "When I first came to Bos, about six years ago, I was tired of boxy suits and wanted to grow in my fashion sense," says Tyson Chandler, the New York Knicks center and one of Boswell's many pro-athlete bespoke customers. "He was very good at giving me European and Italian cuts, and we ran from there." Bespoke from $2,500; M2M from $950.
➻ ART LEWIN
112 W. Ninth St., Los Angeles
After buying the client list and web domain of Hollywood's late, great suitmaker Jack Taylor, Chile native Art Lewin expanded his business to four showrooms in the Western U.S. Josh Gad and William Shatner are customers. From $2,495.
➻ WOODY WILSON
8712 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills
A go-to for costume designers needing a quick turnaround, Woody Wilson has perfected three-week bespoke. But that doesn't mean that patrons Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel and Arsenio Hall are always in a hurry. Pick stitching and colorful Bemberg linings are hallmarks of the East Coast native's designs. "Once I started wearing Woody's clothes," says Rob Thomas, director of the upcoming Veronica Mars feature, "I realized that what I wore before didn't really fit. I see old pictures of my dress shirts billowing out of my slacks, and I think, 'Woody wouldn't let that happen.' " From $2,500.
9709 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills
Owner Harold Keleshian trained as a master tailor in Rome before immigrating to the U.S. and setting up this Beverly Hills stalwart. From $2,300.
➻ DISTRICT HOMME
817 S. Los Angeles St. #3N, L.A.
A rare woman on the bespoke scene, Deborah Sabet attracts a young base of actors and musicians new to the idea. Made-to-measure is the bulk of her business. From $1,500.
11755 Wilshire Blvd. #50, Los Angeles; 12437 Ventura Blvd., North Hollywood
A Hong Kong company with two L.A. showrooms and a fleet of U.S. agents sells tens of thousands of suits each year. From $550, though using Zegna or Loro Piana fabric will up the starting price to $1,250.
➻ SEIZE SUR VINGT
8618 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood
In the new West Hollywood boutique, a camera captures a client's fitting (against a grid) so tailors in Europe can match the numbers to the way the person stands and moves. Clients include Jeffrey Katzenberg, Paramount Film Group president Adam Goodman and WME partner Keith Sarkisian. From $2,850.
➻ MILLER'S OATH
510 Greenwich St., New York
Spearheading the modern made-in-America bespoke movement, the company uses a pickax logo from the Midwestern haberdashery roots of its owner's ancestors. Military details and canvas undercollars are sartorial signatures for this New York City-based house. From $3,850.
➻ DUNCAN QUINN
8234 W. Third St., Los Angeles
Adrian Grenier, Nigel Barker and the members of Green Day look to this former British lawyer for rock-inspired bespoke. From $2,500.
By appointment only; 140 S. Beverly Drive, Suite 205, Beverly Hills
The Torrance, Calif.-based company visited Savile Row to observe skills to use on suits for Pasht and Mandeville Films and Television co-owner Todd Lieberman. From $3,550.
➻ NEAPOLITAN MADE-TO-MEASURE
Orazio Luciano, Luigi Borelli -- via Shop the Finest, 2234 Purdue Ave., Los Angeles
These Naples bespoke houses offer made-to-measure suits and shirts through Ian Daniels, owner of West L.A.'s Shop the Finest. "A Neapolitan tailor is optimal for Los Angeles clients because the weather is similar," says Daniels, who outfitted Matt Jacobson in an Orazio Luciano wedding suit this year. "There's also a certain kind of freedom and color that Neapolitans embrace."