Custom Tailoring - Interview with a Tailor

A well-fitting suit is to women what lingerie is to men...or so the saying goes. At The Henley House we subscribe to the thinking that a beautifully tailored suit is one of those luxuries in life that we all deserve, whether for a special occasion or daily wear.

Tailoring can be a full process from design through to construction and the finishing of a fully bespoke suit, or it may entail tweaking an off the peg piece to get that perfect fit. We were pleased to have Tailor and stylist extraordinaire, Rob Mitchell, visit The Henley House to chat all things tailoring. This is what he had to say…

The Interview:

HH - Hi Rob, Thanks for coming and speaking with us today. You’ve been in the industry for many years and have some great insights into the world of tailored suits, what is your favourite part of the tailoring process?

RM - That’s a really interesting question Tom. Each tailoring experience is unique, so there are highlights and challenges with every project, but I think the one constant that is always a favourite for me is that initial consultation. Meeting with a client and learning about the things they like and dislike gets me inspired, and then choosing and advising on patterns and colours is great. I especially like clients who are open to discussing styling from that initial point as well so we can chat about mix and matching, for example a plain jacket with checked trousers. So yeah, I think that creative process of designing the pieces and choosing a look that the client will love.

HH - I bet you get a real mix of styles and tastes! On that note, are there any fabrics that you particularly like working with?

RM - Variety is the spice of life and all that! In terms of fabrics, there are loads of really great fabrics out there these days and when it comes to suits there are classics and some limitations with certain cuts, you know? But on the whole, there are so many fabrics which are great in tailoring. At the moment i'm really enjoying Flannel as it brings a different element to the piece and is soft, warm and durable. It's a great one for layering. But also, as we start to think about spring and summer looks I've been working with different types of cotton too. It’s light and breathable and great for injecting brighter colours.

HH - Being in this industry, I see a stark difference between a well fitting suit and one that may be a great suit in and of itself but the fit lets it down. At The Henley House we spend a lot of time talking about fit and adjustments and whatnot, What is your key advice for a great fitting suit?

RM - That's a great point, it's a bugbear of mine to see people wearing the wrong size or suits which just don't fit. Ultimately it’s pretty simple, a suit - no matter the style - should hang with a little shape with no tight creases and it should flow throughout the body. For some people they can achieve this to some extent from off-the-peg suits but some form of adjustment is always needed. Bodies are all completely unique so even if you do buy off-the-peg, a hem here or a tuck there can make all the difference. 

HH - I completely agree! You mentioned that fit is important no matter the style, what do you see as the style trends for 2020?

RM - Well, we see many of the classics making a return for 2020, Tweed will never go out of style for example, heritage styling in general will still be popular in 2020. What I am seeing more of though is bold checks in suits and lots of mix & match styling - which i'm a big fan of in general. Not only because it adds an interesting dynamic to a suit but also because it means your suits can work harder for you and you can wear things in lots of different ways. Another trend that will be big in spring/summer this year will be bright colours. Not just with shirts and linings, but with whole pieces. 

Hardy -  Double Breasted Navy Suit At The Henley House

HH - Love it! We have found bold checks to be really popular so far and also the re-emergence of double breasted styles which nod to the 1920’s. It can be really challenging when we are looking at styles and trends to stock at The Henley House, finding a great balance of classics and fashion forward looks. For you, what’s the hardest part of the job?

RM - Oh that's's the sustained levels of concentration that are required when measuring. It is so important to get those measurements right that any mistake can be catastrophic when it comes to construction -  to the point where you could end up wasting lots of time and fabric. Luckily this is something I've mastered over the years simply by learning my own limitations when it comes to maintaining extreme concentration for extended lengths of time. You should never be afraid of taking a short break.

HH - Good advice! I guess something that I always ask people in this industry is who are peoples favourite designers? Who is your go-to designer or stylist?

RM -  For me I would say there are some incredible emerging designers but one of my current favourites is Jeremy Hackett. The brand as a whole and the way looks are styled brings together traditional English cloths with modern cuts in a brilliant way. Also, and i know this sounds egotistical but I am my own inspiration. That's really important in this industry, you have to believe in your own vision. As I've grown and developed as a Tailor and stylist I have become more and more confident in myself and having worked with so many happy clients, i guess I've seen the power of taking inspiration from my own experience with cloth and cut as well as the interpretation of trends and classic styling in a way that is unique to me.

Image courtesy of: Jeremy Hackett

HHThat covers the kind of style you like but what style trends you would be happy to see left behind?

RM - That's pretty tough because fashions and trends are circular and go in and out of style over time. Perhaps controversially I would say that skinny ties have had their moment. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a skinny time but i feel like I've seen so much of it its become a bit blah if you get what i mean. Oh and on that note, pre-tied bow ties shouldn't be a thing!  There are so many online tutorials or you can speak to your tailor for help learning to tie a bow tie. I'm not a massive fan of overly thin lapels as well, they have a tendency to disrupt the balance and flow of a suit and are not generally very flattering.

Image credit: Pintrest

 HH - You have a great deal of experience in tailoring, what mistakes do you see people making?

RM - The most frustrating thing I come across all the time is the belief that off the peg should fit as well as tailor made. It's just absolutely impossible! Off the peg is constructed from set patterns so there is no way that a mass produced suit will fit you as well as custom made or tailored suit. That being said, there are some great suits on the market and i'm very pro people buying off the peg but equally, the small investment in time and money to get that suit tailored to fit you perfectly will not only elevate the look of that suit but will also make it far more comfortable and complimentary to your shape. I think it's a myth that custom suiting and tailoring is a luxury for the elite only. Of course there is a cost to designing and constructing a suit from scratch but people would be surprised at how accessible a service like this is. It doesn't matter if you wear a suit only for special occasions or you wear a suit daily, getting the perfect fit is the difference between a Peugeot and a Porche...both get you from A-to-B, but which would you enjoy more? 

Image Credit: The Session - Pinterest

HH - I couldn't agree more! I want to put you on the spot now...I'm going to throw some quick fire questions at you, don't think too much about your answer just respond. Ready?

RM - I hope so !

HH- Okay, Notch or Peak Lapel?
RM - Peak
HH - British or Italian?
RM - Italian Cut
HH - Two Piece or Three Piece?
RM - ooh, um, two piece or a separate jacket and trousers
HH - Belt or no Belt?
RM - Always a belt, unless you're wearing a waistcoat
HH - Penny round or button down?
RM - Button down

HH - Finally, what advice would you give someone who is on the fence about visiting a tailor? What can they expect and is there anything they should do in preparation?

RM - It's more affordable than you think. On average, a custom suit would be 50% more expensive than an off the peg tailored to fit. Installments are available too so don't be put off….it can't hurt to find out can it! Plus there are so many benefits to a custom suit, not just the fit and design but also longevity and quality so it's a great investment. There isn't really anything to prepare except perhaps thinking about the kind of thing you may want -  and remembering to wear pants. The whole process is really easy and convenient too. When someone gets in contact we basically invite them to a free 90 minute consultation, either at their place of work, home or at the workshop. At that appointment we take all the measurements and have a conversation about cloths, linings, stitches, monograms, buttons and what not. We then go away and create a pattern based on your measurements and the styling you want and we construct the suit. We then arrange for a fitting to make any final tweaks and adjustments, then once this is all complete we deliver the final piece to you. It couldn't be simpler! 

Cross Tailoring at The Henley House

Rob will become more of a familiar face at The Henley House as he will be heading up Cross Tailoring, the travelling Tailors launched by The Henley House in March 2020. 

With 13 years experience as a tailor as a men's outfitter, Rob has not only been tailoring but has also dabbled in the world of high end fashion styling. The route Rob took in his career is not the usual path, he went straight into the industry after school, learning his trade under the tutelage of some of the finest tailors in the Midlands - as well as a great deal of hard graft and self education. Rob forged an impressive career with a huge variety of experience, which he is now bringing to Cross Tailoring and The Henley House. 

Custom suits are perfect for special events, daily wear or to add a touch of luxury. We will visit you wherever you choose - home or away, in the office or wherever… appointments can also take place at The Henley House in the beautiful shop, with a coffee or a little something stronger in hand!

We will soon also be offering a travelling barber service to compliment Cross Tailoring, perfect for some ‘me’ time or in preparation for special events like weddings. 

To find out more, visit Cross Tailoring, The Henley House or pop in store and have a chat.