Whitcomb & Shaftesbury bespoke suit review - part 1 of 2 - consultation and commission
Not a shoe review, but I hope a topic with enough overlap that people will still find it of interest.
We had to delay our wedding last year for obvious reasons. With the extra time that became available I decided to upgrade the spending on my suit - having initially planned something in the Suit Supply price range (£700-ish), I thought about moving to the cheaper end of bespoke with Cad & Dandy (£1,300-ish).
I was still itching for a maker with a bit more prestige, but also knew I couldn't really justify the expense of an established Savile Row maker like Henry Poole, Huntsman or Dege & Skinner. Full bespoke prices for these makers are comfortably north of £5,000 and my need for tailoring just doesn't justify that.
And it seems I'm not the only one feeling this way - many Savile Row tailors are offering mid-priced ranges and options for customers that can't stomach the full expense. Broadly these services work in the same way - measurements, cloth selections and initial consultations, cutting and basting are done at the maker's main address, but the bulk of actual assembly is handled by workshops outside of London (or even outside of the country) to help mitigate costs.
Critics may scoff at the notion of the maker retaining the brand prestige while cutting back on the aspects that really make a Savile Row suit a Savile Row suit, but it certainly feels like Whitcomb & Shaftesbury have struck the right balance.
Whitcombe & Shaftesbury have risen in prominence in the last few years since being heavily featured (and recommended) on Permanent Style. According to the PS articles, the pricing was competitive, with options around the £2,500 mark, and Simon was very complimentary about the quality of work done. Much of their offshore work is handled by villagers in India, with skilled workers forming rehabilitation programmes.
The first and simplest step was of course booking an appointment - I had plenty of time in advance to note down any thoughts on styling. Turning up at the actual address, as with many central London businesses, is initially less than auspicious - the building is shared with a number of other tailors and businesses, and you need to make your way up a rather narrow and creaky staircase to the third floor to find W&S.
The premises are very welcoming once you're inside - wood panelling, attractive furniture and racks of other customer's clothes help to give confidence in what you're there for. The team were very friendly - after some intros, you'll start to outline what the suit will be for and discuss if you've had any style influences. Sian started jotting down styling notes, and then began bringing out fabric swatches.
In my case I had something specific in mind - a rather dramatic looking three-piece with single button, peak lapel jacket, strong shoulders, double-breasted waistcoat and high, rather comfortably spacious trousers.
I was initially thinking grey flannel, but this is an area that clearly benefits from the experience of the people serving you - there are a lot of fabric swatches available, and we quickly pivoted to a crisp charcoal grey fresco wool rather than a flannel. This would handle any hotter weather a bit more graciously.
The next step is being measured up, with one person wielding a tape and another noting the numbers down. Pretty much every possible dimension is recorded, with a particular focus on any discrepancies between left and right sides.
And finally, it's the ugly but necessary business of payment - traditionally it's 50% upfront, and 50% on delivery.
The total I paid for this suit was £3,600 - somewhat higher than the base price for a 2 piece in a cheaper fabric. I'll have a follow-up post reviewing the final article and reflecting on the value of the proposition.