Made To Measure

Part 1

image

Billy Reid Made To Measure director Brandon Capps confers with client Laura Brown, executive editor of Harper’s Bazaar. Photos by Chad Davis

Billy is passionate about creating heirlooms – clothing and accessories so well made and timeless in design that they can easily be passed down from generation to generation. Though every piece we manufacture is made to last the long haul, our Made To Measure custom tailoring service takes the idea of heritage clothing to another level. It’s a way for Billy Reid aficionados to become involved in the actual design process, by connecting them to the experience in a very direct way.

Since 2009, Billy Reid has employed artisans at some of the finest factories in the United States to afford our guests the singular experience of having a garment made to their exact specifications. Whether it’s a classic three-piece business suit or a formal tuxedo, our collaborators consistently turn out immaculately constructed garments designed to fit any taste, body, or lifestyle.

As a way to share the technique with our readers, the Journal will highlight Billy Reid’s  Made To Measure service through a series of posts that follow the progress of an order recently placed by Laura Brown, executive editor of Harper’s Bazaar. Laura collaborated with Brandon Capps, the director of our MTM program, based in our Bond Street store in New York City. For the next month, he’ll be our guide, demystifying the process on the way to the creation of one very special suit.


I came to Billy Reid in early 2009, after moving to New York from Nashville. I had quite a bit of experience in retail before joining the company, and was ready for a new challenge. The major task of leading our Made To Measure program presented itself as I became more familiar with our tailors in New York, and began working with them on sampling, production and sales. I visited the factories where our orders are produced and learned the ins and outs of cloth and construction. At the time, it was very exciting for me to see this whole new world. It’s still very thrilling.

Working with a Made To Measure client typically begins with a consultation. In our New York, Houston and Dallas shops, we have MTM specialists on staff that can take walk-in appointments. In those cases, if the guest is ready to go, we can help them right then and there.

When I’m working with a new MTM guest, the relationship typically starts with me asking a lot of questions and getting to know them - it’s important that we know how to communicate from the start. First and foremost, I find out what kind of suiting they want to order – a suit, an overcoat, a dinner jacket. (Some clients come to us because they want to replace a favorite piece, which is something we’re happy to do.) Then I try to learn how, when and where the garment they order will be worn. I ask about their lifestyle – what they do, what their hobbies are, where and when they travel. We talk about ways the garment might fit into that picture. At that point, I may also ask them to send me photo references or to bring in pieces from their closet that they appreciate for us to study in order to best understand the style and fit they desire.

image

Meeting Laura Brown for the first time was a real treat. She’s an unbelievably captivating and exciting person to work with. Our first meeting turned into a hilarious hour or so of fun. Through our initial conversation, I found out that she was looking for an “event” suit to wear to cocktail parties and galas. Her job doesn’t require her to wear a suit on a daily basis, so making it office-appropriate wasn’t something we needed to worry about. This was an opportunity for her to be creative.

I always want to know as many details as possible before we place the order. Knowing the style is important, but so is figuring out fit, proportion and working out all the details, all the way down to the width of the stitches. Regardless of what we’re making, I take at least 30 measurements to start the process. This includes the measurements I take of the guest’s body during our first meeting and then those of the finished garment. (This helps us note changes in their pattern, and becomes a record for future commissions.)

image

Women don’t place as many MTM orders from us as men. That’s changing, which is great because collaborating with female clients is something I very much enjoy. Working with women’s garments is a completely different world; there are so many new ideas to explore both in terms of tailoring and style. Also, women tend to make orders that are more fashion-forward. Laura wanted a very clean but drapey navy double-breasted suit - think the Windsors meet a 1980s Italian fashion house. From the onset, I was very excited to see this suit begin to take shape.

image

The cloth we use for MTM is from some of the finest mills in England and Italy, including Harrison’s, Holland & Sherry, W. Bill and Loro Piana. The fabrics we work with range from very lightweight cotton, linen and fresco for warmer climates to office-appropriate mid-weight wools to robust tweed, flannel, and cashmere to keep warm in the chilly months. Laura’s project called for a heavier cloth in order to achieve a beautiful drape. She travels a lot for her job and wanted a suit that could be worn comfortably in many climates, so we chose a 13-ounce from Harrison’s Premier Cru collection. This fabric wears well in different temperatures and has a tiny bit of cashmere in the blend that gives it a really wonderful hand.

After our initial conference, I get together with the guest two or three more times over the 12-week period it usually takes to complete a custom suit. At our next appointment, we’ll have the first fitting, during which we perfect the pattern and make sure that the piece meets our initial desires. Depending on the client’s location and the complexity of the construction, that takes six to ten weeks.

When our first meeting is over, I share all the detailed information I’ve collected with our tailors, who use it to create a one-of-a-kind pattern that will be adjusted several times during the process, based on changes in size and preference. Laura decided to go with a pocketless jacket and a trouser with a fuller draped cut. The tailors particularly enjoy this sort of project, as it ends in a very elegant fit. This isn’t a typical order, so it’s going to be an especially interesting process to observe.

In the second installment of the Journal’s Made To Measure series, we’ll follow Laura’s suit to the Long Island City factory where it will be patterned, cut and sewn.

For more information about Billy Reid’s Made To Measure program, please visit our website or email Brandon Capps at brandon.capps@billyreid.com.