Oh boy. This article is one that I have been longing to write, for two particular reasons.
One - I can't emphasize more how this first commission with Steven Hitchcock is one of the best bespoke experiences I've had so far. The fitting process, the style and the technical details behind the jacket, and the quality of craftsmanship are on point. Just the thought that I could share my experience with all of you excites me.
Two - this write-up manifests a full circle I've finally come to with Tengri, namely from being on the fence about the pricing of the Tengri cloth to truly appreciating its quality and the mission behind the brand. This is a journey that lasted for almost a whole year.
And on this note, I'll jump straight to first reviewing matters related to the jacket and then the cloth, since we have quite a bit to go through today!
Let's begin by looking at the evolution of the fit of the jacket ― from when it was no more than 2 meters of cloth to its now gorgeous, complete form; all taken within 10 weeks.
As per usual, I would say having a good mutual understanding at the initial encounter is constructive for a smooth fitting process and a decent final product.
When I first went into the shop, it was clear to both of us that I want to try out Steven's interpretation of the drape cut. I have long admired it, as suggested in this write-up, for its many outstanding features. On top of that, I also wouldn't ask a tailor to make me something that is not their style as a first commission.
All of this allows Steven to focus on doing what he is best at, which ultimately contributes to an excellent first-fitting.
As you could see from the picture above, there aren't major flaws so to speak. The only small adjustments that were required are mostly on the length and the amount of drape we had.
For the former, both of the sleeves and the jacket length were a touch short. This is most likely because of the measurements Steven initially took were based on my Whitcomb & Shaftesbury ones, which are about 0.5 cm shorter on both ends.
What worths highlighting is that for a jacket that has more drape around the body, it also needs to be long enough in order to get the right balance and, if possible, elongate the silhouette. A jacket that features a too exaggerated, bulky chest and a tiny skirt is not for everyone after all.
Hence, we lengthened the jacket accordingly without compromising the look of it from being true to Steven's style.
As for the latter, as much as experimenting with more drape is always an exciting experience, Steven and I both agree that we could take in a tad of it. This way, the shape of the jacket would not overwhelm my natural silhouette, while the jacket is still comfortable to wear.
And for those of you who may be pondering that the sleeve pitch (the angle of the sleeves) seems a little bit off ― the sleeves would usually be taken out to be repositioned after the first-fitting regardless. I wouldn't be too concerned with that considering it could be easily fixed.
With everything having gone rather smoothly during the first-fitting, the second-fitting was just a mere check-up ensuring everything is correct before the interlining and the buttons are put in.
Moving onto the style and the technical details of the jacket.
In many ways, I would argue Steven's interpretation of the British drape is one that could transcend through time. You could put the jacket on the Duke of Windsor and only sharp eyes could tell it is not the same silhouette as the one created by the near-mythical Frederick Scholte, or you could put it on a Gen Z kid like me and the jacket would look just as relevant for contemporary standards.
Let me elaborate on this by looking at a few key features of the jacket.
The obvious one to start with would be the width of the lapels.
In contrast to some bespoke or MTM houses that place a strong emphasis on the lapel width and how it manifests their house style, Steven's approach to this is more practical and down-to-earth. He prefers to have the lapel width to be exactly half from the neck to the side. That way, it is perfectly-proportioned and never too stylized.
Needless to say, this is the most timeless approach to this subject matter in my opinion, considering lapel width in the fashion tailoring realm always swings towards the extremities. Perhaps, not being in style in any given moment and being just right in the proportions is the answer to ensuring longevity for tailoring.
Another key element to the style's timeless appeal is the jacket's comfortability, and this is best explained by looking at its sleeve.
If you look close enough (especially at the picture before), you may find the sleeve to be much wider than its contemporary counterparts even though the armhole is cut small and high, as Steven prefers. This makes a stark difference to, say, the Suitsupply jacket that I've posted recently on Instagram.
In practice, if you consider the ample room provided both around the chest and the sleeves (and the closeness between the coat collar and the armholes), you could get a sense of how this gives the wearer a lot more mobility to move their arms around without feeling restrained.
Ultimately, while it is essential to look sharp while standing upright in your tailored garment, it is equally important to be comfortable in it. And of course, as I said in a recent write-up, the generosity in the cut also allows the person to look more masculine.
Next, although not as apparent in the picture as the other points, the way Steven cuts the side of the jacket is also more suitable for contemporary circumstances.
One of the main differences between Anderson & Sheppard's interpretation of the British drape (where Steven was trained before he ventured off to start his own house) and his style was that he uses side-body panels as opposed to fish-cuts.
Now, there are two main advantages to this approach.
First of all, this allows Steven to cut more shape to the side. With the side-body technique, Steven could cut some shape into the coat wherever he sees fit, compared to the fish-cuts which only allows suppression to be taken in the waist. Some may argue this is also a safer approach, considering the fish-cut, if not done properly, often ends up with the front of the jacket floating away from the body.
On top of that, considering the drape around the chest adds bulk to the overall shape of the jacket, you need a more effective way to cut some shape to the waist, especially for a person who has similar chest to waist size like me. That way, you could still achieve an hourglass-shape silhouette, something that is heavily emphasized under contemporary aesthetics.
The second reason is that back when the original British drape cut was created, fabrics were generally heavier. In Steven's words, '100 years ago [when] there was no central heating, the weight of a suit would be around 18 oz for a heavy cloth and 13oz for a lightweight. Today 13oz is regarded heavy and 7oz is the lighter weight.'
Given lighter cloth of our times are generally harder to give a nice drape (let alone cotton suits that are incredibly popular at the moment but have zero drape), a more up-to-date technique is undoubtedly needed.
That being said, the use of side-body panels is not unique to Steven's jackets, considering it is being used by a number of British tailors as well.
Elsewhere, there are many other technical details that also demonstrate hallmarks of craftsmanship.
From the well-sewn buttonhole that is showcased in the picture above, to Steven's conscious choice for the amount of shoulder padding (which is minimal) and canvasses. With regards to the latter point on the canvasses, Steven only uses one layer of the finest Silesia, which allows the chest to look light and natural.
Needless to say, this adds to the conversation on British tailoring is also suitable to wear in warmer climates, as long as the amount and the lightness of shoulder padding and canvasses are done right.
Finally, this brings us to the quality of the Tengri cloth.
Having worn the coat almost twice a week since I picked it up in March (despite the current lockdown situation), I am now confident enough to provide feedback on this precious, ethically-made cloth that only a few have tried so far.
My first impression of the cloth is that it is a good balance between the delicacy of cashmere and the robustness of tweed, one that is suitable to be made as a transitional weather jacket (13c - 20c). I would also wear it in winter, especially if I am wearing a cardigan or a sweater underneath.
Nonetheless, I wouldn't wear the jacket as frequently as I have so far. With hard-wearing, the sleeves of the jacket start to crease a bit, even when they are cut with ample room on each side. In addition, it also gets more hairy over time.
It is a lightweight cloth for winter standards (12oz), however, so it is something you should expect if you are planning to acquire a cut length for yourself. On top of that, the cloth itself is quite breathable and is thermal-regulating. It is also water-resistant to a certain degree.
In other words, if I were to get the Tengri cloth, it would be because of these characteristics it has, apart from its phenomenal work in promoting social and environmental sustainability.
Overall speaking, I am quite satisfied with this commission with Steven Hitchock. I definitely would see myself getting something made by him again, where circumstances allow.
It is, after all, almost identical to the styles I've seen on old-school Esquire illustrations from the 30-40s, where I draw my inspirations from.
And on that note, this concludes my review for this Steven Hitchock Tengri jacket. I have attached more pictures below, if you are interested to look at other parts of the coat that have not been featured above.
Take care, and bye for now.
Photography: all by The Suitstainable Team