“How to Go Bespoke”–An Interview with Jon Green, Bespoke Orchestrator (Part 2)

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This is the second installment of our two part interview with Jon Green, owner of Jon Green Bespoke. Jon caters to an exclusive clientele from his Madison Avenue altelier in New York City. He’s been in the custom tailoring business for over 25 years.

In this post, you’ll get advice and coaching from a master orchestrator of the bespoke process and key considerations for “going bespoke.”

I recommend watching this video filmed by LVMH in conjunction with the Parson’s School of Design to get an idea of what Jon is all about, then read the rest of the interview.

Tailored and Styled: “Can you describe the Jon Green bespoke process? What could we expect if we were a Jon Green client?”

Jon Green:

We begin with a meeting to discuss your clothing needs and preferences. It is necessary that clients understand that having hand-tailored clothing made especially for them is a process that initially requires time to establish a paper pattern for their first order, which is used to expedite future orders.

The complete process for first-time clients takes approximately 8 to 12 weeks, depending on a client’s availability for fittings. With a viable paper pattern established, subsequent orders can move directly to the second, or even the third fitting thereby reducing the number of fittings to 2, or possibly one, and the time required to approximately 4 weeks.

Following the third fitting, the garments can be delivered or shipped.

The Initial Consultation: The usual time for the initial consultation is usually between one to two hours. When you step into our atelier on Madison Avenue for our private meeting, you enter a world where fit is just the beginning. We work to create an authentic personal expression by considering your build, coloring, taste, personality, and lifestyle when selecting fabrics and creating your pattern and styling.

The First Fitting: The usual time required to the first fitting is approximately 4 weeks after the initial consultation. This provides time for the fabric to be received and the cutting and basting of the jacket and trousers. In order to develop a proper paper pattern this fitting is a try-on sewn with basting stitches, i.e., loose, temporary stitches.

The Second Fitting: The usual time to the second fitting is approximately 3 to 4 weeks after the first fitting. At this fitting the alterations to your first fitting and your pattern have been made and the suit jacket and trousers are in an advanced fitting stage.

The Third Fitting: The usual time to the third fitting is approximately 4 weeks after the second fitting. At this time the jacket is finished except for buttonholes. The trousers are finished except for bottoms.

“Patience is bitter, but its Fruits are Sweet!” Jean-Jacques Rosseau

Tailored and Styled: “Do you have a ‘house style’?”

Jon Green:

I think of what we offer as a House Aesthetic, instead of a House Style.

Our House Aesthetic is built on a foundation of classic English and Italian styling that can be combined with American practicality and comfort, if a client requests it.

For me, custom suits made in a fixed house style are better fitting versions of ready-to-wear. This approach is more about the tailor rather than the client.

Clients of establishments who work within a House Style have only limited options, such as an extra pocket or a fancy lining. Perhaps it is a lack of confidence that makes affiliation attractive to those who want clothes made by those with a recognizable House Style. Or, it could be that they do not know there is another option.

At JGB we are known for working with clients who want more than to affiliate with brands, they want their own look. This is different that seeking a status symbol that is recognized only by those who know what it is. For example, the ‘Polo Pony’ of Ralph Lauren or the ‘drape’ of Anderson and Shepherd.

We have opinions but find an inclusive approach is more effective in providing long-term satisfaction for clients. We get to know them so we can design a unique style by taking into consideration their personality, their coloring, their body type, their values, where they live, what they do, and how they wear their clothes.

In order to differentiate, however subtly, we choose a combination of 5 different shoulder pads, three different canvases, and we will shape lapels and top collars for the individual taste and body of clients, if they wish.

After all, what’s the point of a bespoke suit if it reflects the tailor’s aesthetic instead of yours?

Tailored and Styled: “In your view, what are the advantages of going custom-made?”

Jon Green:

Fit, personalization, comfort, durability, and value.

Going custom-made has numerous advantages depending on how you do it – “Bespoke,” “Custom,” or “Made-to-Measure.”

Bespoke clothing: While widespread in the United Kingdom since it’s origination in the 17th century, the term has only recently been used in the United States by tailors attempting to distinguish this kind of construction in a country where “made-to-measure,” “custom,” and “bench” are often incorrectly used interchangeably.

The term bespoke in fashion is reserved for individually patterned and crafted men’s clothing, analogous to women’s ‘haute couture’ in contrast with mass manufactured ready-to-wear (also called off-the-peg or off-the-rack).

Bespoke versus made-to-measure: Since the end of the nineteenth century, there has existed between the extremes of bespoke and ready-to-wear, a “grey area of garments for which the customer was measured, but that were then made up to the closest standard size, often, but by no means always, in a factory.”

The distinction made here is between bespoke, created without use of a pre-existing pattern, and made-to-measure, which alters a standard-sized pattern to fit the customer.

Technological change makes this distinction more subtle since “fittings are increasingly required for both bespoke and made-to-measure; a bespoke service requires an individually-cut pattern, which is then kept should further suits be required, and now made-to-measure measurements are often stored too, on a computer.

Even hand-work, often cited as a benchmark of bespoke, is now increasingly found in visible areas of made-to-measure garments, while machine-making of straight seams, for strength and smoothness, plays some part in the creation of most bespoke suits.”

Savile Row Bespoke: The Savile Row Bespoke Association is a group of Savile Row tailors that has attempted to set a standard by providing minimum requirements for a garment to be allowed to use its trademark.

These standards particularly stress:

- Hand work used almost entirely on all garments, including the “individual cut of a paper pattern”;

- Personal service, such as qualified advice, a large selection of fabrics, or the keeping of all records for future orders;

- Involvement by participating houses in an approved training scheme.

The association has also specified twenty-one points addressing specific parts of a suit, each dictating some detail such as the length of inlays, or which seams must be hand stitched.Yet the association has not successfully established bespoke as a protected label, comparable to haute couture.

The Jon Green Bespoke Approach: Our bespoke clothing is made to the standards of over 100 years ago. We use the finest, most costly techniques, fabrics, and trims. I know of no other tailors in the U.S. who go to these lengths in making their clothing.

Yet a suit from us costs less than ‘luxury’ brand made-to-measure suits from factories in Italy which are sold in boutiques, stores, malls, and airports around the world. Over many years, our cost-benefit analyses shows that the cost/wearing of our garments, clothing and shirts, is actually less than factory made-to-measure merchandise.

Bespoke has the highest price/value relationship of any construction. It remains the most effective, satisfying solution to getting dressed everyday – a need superbly met.

Tailored and Styled: “What coaching advice would you give to someone wanting to step into the bespoke world for the first time?”

Jon Green:

An American friend and teacher at Juilliard who lived in Paris for many years immediately following WWII once told me that during her time in Europe most men’s and women’s clothes were made by tailors because there was no other option.

A lot has changed since the end of WWII, but the superiority and value of clothes custom made for you has not. Investment clothing pays off for years.

In those days it was clear who was a tailor. Today that distinction is not so clear.

Most of the traditional functions of a tailor, i.e., designing, pattern making, sewing, fitting, busheling (old German word for altering and mending), selling, guidance, customer care, etc., have been appropriated by direct sellers, designers, stylists, factories, machine operators, needle workers, salesmen, retail stores, and the media.

If you are looking for a custom tailor today you’ve got to know what you are doing. As you go through the process of finding a tailor, you will have the obvious questions of price, fabric, style, and time. But if you don’t know if the quality is there, whether the design and color are right for you, or if it fits properly, the answers you get may be meaningless.

Caveat Emptor!

Having clothes made isn’t “off-the-rack” handy and convenient. Given the time and the cost required, the first person to question is you.

Consider what you want from a custom suit, jacket, or trousers that you cannot get with ready-to-wear or made-to-measure garments from a retail men’s clothing department or store. Many off-the-peg garments are well made and will fit fairly well when you find the right make and model for you. Made-to-measure clothing today can be as costly as custom and not nearly as desirable.

After your self-inventory, if you are still convinced that custom is for you, gather information from magazines, books, and the web. Also, ask those you know who have their clothes made to get their recommendations.  Some have been known to walk up to strangers wearing a garment they liked and asked, “Where did you get that?”

Don’t be afraid of bespoke tailors. Most enjoy talking with those who share a love of beautiful, hand made clothing. Approach tailors whose work you respect to see if there is a match. Listen, listen, listen, and you will get your answers.

Tailored and Styled: What criteria should someone use when choosing a tailor?

Jon Green:

Your evaluation should include several, if not all, of the following considerations: quality, price, fit, style, self-expression, solutions, services and benefits, trust, coaching, and value.

QUALITY: Tailors are craftsmen and some are better than others; rarely do you find one person who does it all well. He may be great at sewing but not at styling, pattern making or fitting. Beware of the tailor who passes off made-to-measure factory garment as his “custom suit.” Do your homework so you can recognize what you want when you see it. Look, look, look. Develop your “eye.”

PRICE: If your idea of a good time is searching for the perfect bespoke suit at the lowest price, then go for it. However, when price is paramount you can end up paying what you want, but not getting the suit you want. In the long run you will be better off waiting and saving for the best suit as you learn.

Many of our bespoke clients buy one or two garments a year and steadily build their wardrobes. You can use this learning curve to your benefit by applying what you have learned to each subsequent commission.

Your satisfaction will grow exponentially. Remember, you are not shopping for a widget; you are entering into a long term relationship.

The price of a bespoke suit varies but for the level we are talking about here it should start above $6000. (Kiton’s factory made to measure suits start at $7500.)

STYLE: “You can tell a lot about a man by the cut of his clothes.” Timeless style, not temporary fashion, is what high quality custom and bespoke clothing is all about. It is your personal expression rather than being dressed in a selection of wardrobe components, however attractive.

Bespoke clothing gets better with wear if you take care of it. It will give pleasure and service for years, so consider the style.

FIT: By definition, a bespoke suit should fit you, but again, who’s the judge? If you aren’t qualified to tell, you must trust your tailor.

SELF-EXPRESSION: An authentic self-expression is a powerful communication. It answers the questions of what is meant by being expressed by the clothes you wear and why it’s important?

Authenticity in your personal presentation speaks louder than words when your clothes fit your body, enhance your coloring, and compliment your personality and body type so others notice you instead of whose clothes you are wearing.

Numerous studies have shown that as much as 87% of a presentation is visual. Indeed, ‘seeing is believing’ for the pre-language human brain.

The question for you to ask yourself is will your tailor’s clothes help you to achieve personal authenticity or will they be his expression grafted on to you?

SOLUTIONS, SERVICES & BENEFITS: Wearing a selection of ready-to-wear clothing components, regardless of their beauty and quality, is not the same as dressing well.

When a wardrobe is created to function within your personal context, fewer pieces are needed and all garments and accessories work together. Responding in emergencies for specialty garments, teaching you how to tie your tie, answering your questions about what to wear for different occasions, and saving you time and money by valeting your clothes and protecting your investment, are the solutions you should expect from your tailor.

COACHING: Coaching clients in the art of dressing well is what makes having a tailor you trust so useful and satisfying.

I understand what Babe Ruth meant when, after being told that the Boston Red Socks had offered him a contract, replied, “You mean they’re going to pay me to play baseball?!”

That is how I feel about what I do. I love it and it helps others. Find a tailor/clothier with the expertise who is willing to help you with more than just a suit. Then, your needs will be superbly met.

TRUST: There is an intimacy to the relationship with your tailor, as with your doctor, in that both deal with the body and the mind. You will be working together closely, so it is important that you respect each other and are comfortable working together.

The right tailor can help you realize a dream.

VALUE: There are “Value Added” benefits to consider when purchasing a great bespoke suit.  Don’t allow yourself to get focused on price.

You want to work with a tailor who will listen to you and who will make what you want rather than defaulting to his “house style.”

Bespoke tailoring should be about getting what you want. A client once said to me, “I will happily pay what is required, if it’s what I want!” If it’s what you want, the pay off will last for years.

‘Bespoke’ is not for everyone.  However, when the time and the tailor are right, you will know it. And you might just love it. Go prepared to have fun!

Tailored and Styled: “Are you seeing a resurgence in the desire of men to dress well? If so, what do you think is driving this?”

Jon Green:

Yes, we are. Clients in their 50s and 60s are always good for us. However, our biggest increases so far this year are coming from clients in their 40s.

Clients who have been out of the market the previous few years are coming back and buying.

I think what is driving this is also the awareness that in a tight economy, presentation matters more and more.

Tailored and Styled: “You get the final word. Anything you want to leave us with?”

Jon Green:

In her very interesting and provocative book, Sex and Suits – The Evolution of Modern Dress, the renowned art historian Anne Hollander says it best, “(the) male tailored costume sets the standard. It is universally flattering, because it does not insist on specific bodily detail. It reflects the modern esthetic principles that were conceived out of Neo-classic impulses, (while it) proposes an ideal of self-perpetuating order, flexible and almost infinitely variable.”

Hollander helps us read our own sartorial desires and reminds us that in our highly visual world, appearance is always significant – clothes do make the man.

Go for it and enjoy yourself!

Joe, Thank you for your interest in what we do. I hope you and your readers will find my insights useful.

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Jon works by appointment to expose those interested to the possibilities of ‘Bespoke.’ Call 212-861-9611 or email jon@jongreenbespoke.com to arrange an appointment, or, visit his website: jongreenbespoke.com and on Facebook. His atelier is located at 509 Madison Avenue (53rd Street) in Suite #1112, New York, NY 10022.

By Joe Scherrer | Tailored and Styled

(Tailored and Styled receives no affiliate or advertising benefit from Jon Green Bespoke)

Comments

  1. Jan Miller says:

    Who actually makes Jon Green suits?

    • Jon has a team of experienced tailors who construct the garments. Check out the video in part 2 of the interview for more detail on this from Jon.

    • Jon has a team of experienced tailors who construct the garments. Check out the video in part 2 of the interview for more detail on this from Jon.

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