The Elements of Style: How to give your wardrobe some made-to-measure mojo
With a host of made-to-measure options for clothing and accessories, looking your best is a snap
by Robin Schroffel
Wouldn’t it be nice to have an army of professionals to help you look your best? While friends, family, personal trainers and hairstylists may all take positions on the matter, if your wardrobe could use a little something, it may be time to enlist a tailor.
From simple alterations on pieces bought off-the-rack to commissioning a custom-made suit, retaining the services of a tailor ensures you’ll get the best fit possible, no matter your body’s shape or size. “A person may not know what you do for a living or how much money you make, but they’ll know that you look good, and that’s a really good impression to make,” says Sam Abouhassan, the owner of Edmonton’s Sam Abouhassan Custom Clothiers.
Great tailors aren’t easy to come by, Abouhassan says.
After 34 years in business dressing some of the city’s most famous faces, he’s seen the number of what he calls “real” tailors in the province – those who’ve been doing it for years and take pride in their trade – dwindle. But they’re out there: find them by asking around, whether it’s querying your well-dressed colleagues or calling up a long-established, high-end clothing retailer like Henry Singer.
As with any professional, finding the right tailor can be a matter of trial and error. But luckily for consumers, it’s a very transparent trade: What you see and feel is what you get. After having something altered, judge the quality of the workmanship by examining the finishing, which should be clean and even. But more importantly, try the garment on and ask yourself if the results are what you were looking for. If so, stick with them, Abouhassan says. “If you go with a tailor and he does a very good job for you, he will always do a very good job for you.”
When it comes to bags, brand name isn’t always where it’s at. The talented artisans at Longview Leather, a leather supplier located near Okotoks, handcraft durable pieces that display their Prairie heritage in the classiest way imaginable. Longview’s gorgeous hand-dyed briefcases and messenger bags are made of full-grain saddle leather and include built-in compartments and pouches. With this kind of quality, you very well may never need to buy another.
Handmade Leather Messenger Bag
Since 1938, Alberta menswear pioneers Henry Singer have been offering customers the full made-to-measure experience. Whether you’re seeking a shirt, trousers, a vest, a jacket, an overcoat or a full suit, the process starts with an in-person fit consultation at one of the company’s four Edmonton and Calgary locations. They’ll walk you through all your options in fabric, detailing and tailoring in brands like Armani Collection, Pal Zileri, Canali, Ermenegildo Zegna, Coppley and Doriani. Best of all, when you’ve been measured once, ordering again is a breeze.
“Fit is paramount. It’s first and foremost. We start with fit and work towards the expression of colour or pattern to express personality. But without the right fit, there’s nothing else.”
Smithbilt may be known for its iconic white cowboy hats, but in addition to its westernwear styles, the company crafts a range of dress hats that’ll give both men and women a distinguished air. The fedora – a timeless style common up until the late ’50s – is one of the most popular: made of fur, wool felt, or even summery straw, it’s available in a variety of colours, complete with hatband and optional feather. All products are made in the company’s Calgary factory.
Cattleman in Natural Color
Designed in Edmonton by Sabrina Bharmal and crafted in a workshop in Jaipur, India, Saraswati’s cuff bracelets, earrings, rings and necklaces are very much inspired by the everyday of nature: leaves, twigs, Prairie wheat, even the breeze. Materials like sterling silver, brass and 22-karat rose gold complement gemstones like labradorite, moonstone and turquoise. Products from the line, named for a Hindu goddess, are stocked by shops throughout Alberta and available to order online.
Creation brass ring $39.00
Consignment boutiques can put luxury brands in your closet on the cheap, but those savings don’t come without risk. As soon as consumers leave the safety of a brand outpost or reputable department store they’re faced with a wide world of fakes, knockoffs and replicas. And while a reputable consignment shop goes to lengths protect its customers, it’s not an exact science. “The low-end knock offs are so cheaply made no one would think it was real, but the high-end knock offs can be difficult,” says Krista Hopfauf, owner of Calgary consignment shops Better On You and Rewind.
Hopfauf recommends visiting Holt Renfrew or a similarly reputable retailer and taking a good look at the types of products you’re interested in. Online guides to spotting fakes, such as fakesrevealed.com, also provide brand-specific details. While every brand will be a little different, there are a few universal things to keep in mind to protect yourself from falling victim to a forgery.
For handbags, the leather should feel heavy and not brittle or plastic-like. And the quality of the finishing stitching, whether it’s on a bag or on clothing, is a telltale sign: Fakes often have uneven stitching or hanging threads. Patterns on authentic items should line up properly, particularly with signature items or plaids.
Misspelled brand names, such as “Ray-Bans” instead of “Ray-Ban,” are a dead giveaway that you’re dealing with a fake. And on shirts with embroidered crests, get familiar with the real thing: Faux Burberry, for example, occasionally sports a misshapen equestrian knight.
Country of manufacture
While a “Made in China” label used to raise eyebrows, it doesn’t mean much anymore: many luxury brands are now manufacturing their products there. However, certain labels – such as Louis Vuitton – simply aren’t.
Most luxury brands will have signature buttons, with the brand name etched or silkscreened right onto them.
Luxury items are designed to last. If the leather on an older Louis Vuitton bag handle is cracking rather than acquiring a softness and deep patina from wear, it’s most definitely a fake.
Most high-end handbags will have a serial number that can help verify authenticity. It’s even better if you can match it with the number on the bag’s authenticity card. But beware, because these days, authenticity cards are being forged as well.