If I were to make a new year's resolution for the blog, 2020 is going to be a year I continue to try out new tailors and artisans, and of course, with a recurring emphasis on sustainability.
This is exactly the theme for today's write-up — my latest bespoke commission with Steven Hitchcock using a very limited-run yak cloth from Tengri.
Steven Hitchcock is one of the tailors that I've always had on my bucket list.
For those of you who are unaware of Steven, he is perhaps best known as the son of John Hitchcock, former head cutter at Anderson & Sheppard.
He, of course, has previously been trained at A&S and developed his own interpretation of the drape cut, before venturing off to start his own business at the young age of 26.
Since then, he has made garments for some high profile clients, most remarkedly a beautiful vicuña coat for HRH Prince Charles, as well as sartorial geeks like me.
But what intrigues me the most is that he makes 150 suits per year. It may seem exclusive if you compared it to other large tailoring houses, but when you consider Steven is running a one-man-show by handling the client and doing the cutting himself, it all sounds very reasonable.
Needless to say, I think this works particularly well under the context of sustainability.
For the business, there is only a certain amount of garments that your tailor could make each year before compromising their quality. As for the clients, well, you would hardly be getting too many things made under such circumstances. In any case, it's quite a perfect equilibrium.
Anyway, there's a bit of a story behind the jacket as well.
Prior to visiting Steven, I spent quite a lot of time thinking about what style do I want the jacket to be in; and, somehow, this turns out to be way more challenging task than coming up with the design of the piece.
Truth be told, designing a jacket that is made using a very special cloth is fairly straightforward — you want to keep it as simple (and ordinary) as possible so that the attention would rest on the cloth.
So it's quite similar to what you would do with a navy blazer. You don't need to do much other than choosing the brass button since the texture of the cloth says it all already.
Hence, it didn't take me long until I've reached the conclusion that I would have it made in the 'simplest' configuration — two front buttons and patch pockets.
Meanwhile, it wasn't as easy at first to decide which tailor I should give the cloth to.
My initial thought is that since it is a precious cloth, it would be the best idea to give it to a tailor I've used before. After all, the general assumption is that your tailor is less likely to mess things up when there is an existing pattern/ jacket to reference to.
Or like in this case, you'll need to have a leap of faith and give it to someone that you think they are experienced enough. And this brings me to Steven.
Now, part of the reason is that I've always admired the drape cut.
It's sharp yet relaxed at the same time, chiefly because it relies on having more fabric around the chest than adding more paddings on the shoulder to size someone up. (More on that in a future article)
But the other reason, perhaps even more important, is that I want to work with an independent tailor as a part of this project.
Given the cloth is produced by a social enterprise that emphasizes improving the living condition of nomadic herders, it would only be natural that even the tailor I use is someone I can interact with directly. That way, I could be truly supportive of small businesses.
Anyway, going back to the jacket itself. For the interiors, I went with a design that Steven was truly passionate about.
Originally, Steven and I were experimenting with various styles — matching lining or something more flamboyant. However, none of these really speaks to my mind for being timeless yet personal.
Then, we came across this two-tone burnt orange lining, as shown above. It's no School of Athens (in case if you're wondering, I used that as a lining for a recent commission with Whitcomb & Shaftesbury), but this piece clearly shows depths and complexity.
In fact, since it reminds me so much of a similar lining that I've chosen for my brown Crispaire suit from The Anthology, I went with it right away.
But Steven and I didn't just stop right there.
Along with showing me the burnt-orange lining, Steven was also quick to fetch out a box filled with multiple linings in elegant patterns; in particular, this cream and burgundy paisley piece in the picture above.
Steven had the brilliant idea to use the piece for the swelted edges of the inner pockets, as it compliments the color of the cloth as well as the lining.
It's not usually a style that I go for, but since the color works seamlessly with each other, I went with Steven's suggestion.
On a side note, I did something rather interesting apart from getting measured by Steven during my visit.
Believe it or not, the jacket that you see me wearing in the picture above is actually a part of a 3-piece suit made for Mr Sheppard of A&S in 1935.
While it's not exactly my size (shoulders are a tad too extended, as well as having too much room around the waist), it's more intriguing to see how the piece could still be worn under today's circumstances; and not look out of context.
Also, if you think about it, that's even before Charlie Chaplin filmed his iconic movie, Modern Times. At the end of the day, as I have repeatedly suggested, if you invest in quality garments that are timeless, they could really last for years, if not decades to come.
In any case, I can't wait to start a similar legacy for this jacket made by Steven.
Alright, that's it for now. 'Til next time.
I am wearing a navy worsted flannel suit from Whitcomb & Shaftesbury, a contrasting collar blue-striped shirt from Luca Avitabile, a pink geometric tie from Turnbull & Asser, and a navy/ wine braces from Albert Thurston via The Armoury Hong Kong.
Photography by The Suitstainable Man Team