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.