Updated: Nov 20, 2022
Well, folks, the wait is finally over. I am delighted to present you the first ever The Suitstainable Man made-to-measure garment — the TSM Silk Dupion Jacket, a special for us by the Arkhé Collection.
Connecting ideas and discussions we've had throughout the years, from craftsmanship and sustainability to cultural relevance and unlearning prior knowledge, this creation is, to say the least, the embodiment of The Suitstainable Man's identity.
Without further ado, let's jump straight into the design process, technical details, and the styling of this piece.
One of the key attributes which first captivated me about bespoke tailoring is the dialectical process between the maker and the individual. There is something deeply sentimental, perhaps even escapist to a certain extent, that a material personification of your character and the artisan's technical capabilities is brought to life through this exchange.
Undeniably, this experience is limited to a very few, not only due to financial constraints but also geographical considerations and accessibility to skilled craftsmanship, which have only been exacerbated by two years of lockdowns.
What we intend to bring to the community with the TSM Silk Dupion Jacket is, therefore, a replication of this intimate experience, where the individual can choose his/ her own colorway, buttons, and lining through a garment that is made with quite possibly the highest level of handwork at this price point.
Speaking of handwork, I should mention the use of the phrase 'highest' is by no means an overstatement. Executed by a single pair of hands by an ex-Savile Row trained cutter for more than 80 hours, the TSM Silk Dupion Jacket features a fully hand-stitched floating canvas, hand pick-stitching at almost all edges, unstructured silhouette, one button stance, side vents, and is half-lined.
The cut is what I would describe as a deconstructed English jacket. We retain idiosyncratic features such as the more ample chest volume, slightly roped shoulders, as well as straight lapels and quarters while stripping away all cotton padding.
Much attention has been paid to perfecting the canvas. Specifically, we have also opted for a wool canvas rather than the more common horsehair variant which is seen on most English tailoring. This enhances the breathability of the jacket, on top of allowing it to drape equally elegantly without being heavy and stiff.
Another feature I have found myself often boasting about is the Edwardian shoulder.
You may notice that unlike most contemporary shoulder seams you come across that run parallel to the shoulder line, our shoulder seam curves backward and is cut diagonal to the grain of the fabric. This allows for a more natural stretch around the shoulder and hence more movement.
The shoulder seam then joins the back seam of the sleeve, thus forming one harmonious line. Achieving this is, of course, no mean feat, as it requires the tailor to get the sleeve pitch right from the start.
By now, you might have spotted the rather unusual shape of the welted chest pocket, which is neither straight, as seen predominantly on English jackets, nor the Neapolitan Barchetta. Needless to say, there is a whimsical backstory behind this.
As some of you may be aware, my Instagram handle, @iamshufaja, is an incorrectly-spelled Chinese pinyin, which translates into 'I am a caligrapher'. (The correct spelling would be shufajia.)
One way or another, considering this one-time mistake has now become intrinsic to my persona, it would only be a total missed opportunity if this signature was left out of this project. As a result, what we have here is an outbreast pocket shaped like the Chinese character 'one' written in a calligraphic manner.
Stylistically speaking, I have found this feature to be subtle enough for most to overlook, even during occasions like Pitti Uomo. Hence, if flashiness is what concerns you, I wouldn't be too worried about it.
Taking a rather utilitarian approach towards tailoring, as usual, it perhaps would not surprise you that the TSM silk dupion jacket comes with many internal pockets as well.
On the left side, you can find three pen pockets underneath your standard inbreast pocket, all lined with the shell fabric. The way I'd like to describe the function of each of these pen pockets is as follows — one for your ballpoint for receipt signing, another for a fountain pen for pleasure writing, and the last for a pencil for sketching.
Now, you may have noticed that there is also a slanted pocket at the top left. We positioned the pocket from this particular angle such that the item stored within could be hidden within the volume of the chest canvas. I have found it especially helpful in concealing bulkier items, such as Airpods.
Moving to the right side, underneath the standard inbreast pocket for your wallet, there is another pocket, again, lined with the shell fabric to avoid an overcrowded appearance. You can store anything from a ticket to your business cards there.
Sustainability is always a key consideration when it comes to our design. Hence, on the note of lining, I am pleased to say that we will be using Bemberg exclusively for this release.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this name, Bemberg is a unique cupro fiber with a circular economy footprint obtained from cotton linters through the manufacturing of cottonseed oil. It is made within a closed-loop system and is, of course, fully biodegradable and compostable. (See the process here.)
The material itself also sits very comfortably on the skin, given the fibers' uniform thickness and roundness. While being a tighter weave, its crystalline structure allows a well-controlled rate of moisture absorption and heat release.
Naturally, in honoring the tremendous properties of Bemberg, all the lining will be hand-attached to the jacket, a feature that even most bespoke garments at this pricepoint do not share.
Let's address the big elephant in the room — why the silk dupion?
As mentioned earlier, part of The Suitstainable Man's identity is about unlearning prior knowledge and examining the validity of certain stigmas. Now, silk, in general, tends to get a bad rap for being delicate and having a one-dimensional texture, yet the same could also be said for supers wool worsted. What captivated me about silk dupion is that it possesses none of these features.
Silk dupion, also commonly referred to as dupioni or douppioni, is a plain weave fabric that is only spun when two (or more) larvae cooperate to create a single cocoon. As the slubs cannot be unwound evenly during the reeling process, it leaves thicker spots in the filaments, thus allowing the cloth to have an uneven yet remarkably unique and tasteful appearance, simply to certain linen finishes. It differs from shantung in the sense that silk dupion is thicker, heavier, and has a greater slub count. Hence, while sitting only at 118 gsm/ 4 oz, the cloth still drapes and holds crease fairly well.
I personally also favor the slightly iridescent sheen, as opposed to the more matte finish of my sunflower yellow dupioni jacket from Holland and Sherry, as it creates more depth to the texture. That being said, the sheen is more muted in neutrals and darker colorways — it really comes down to what kind of effect you prefer.
As for color options, we are offering seven standard colorways — Marine, Bluebell, Emerald Green, Tartan Red, Espresso, Black, and Cream. Additionally, given our current selection of handwoven cloth from a highly-recognized, family-owned silk business based in the UK, we are able to offer more than 210 shades of silk dupion.
Kindly drop us a line at the product page or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a particular shade in mind, and we will revert shortly with several options.
So how should you style our silk dupion jacket? Paradoxically enough, I have found the jacket suitable for both formal and casual ensembles, despite the cloth's common formalwear association.
Pair yours with a nicely-pressed pearl grey high twist trousers and an unbuttoned shirt that has a pale undertone of the color of the silk dupion for a summertime business look, or swap them into a polo or open collar shirt and linen trouser or chinos for a friends' night out/ cocktail look.
Try to keep the texture of the rest of your outfit as matte as possible, however, as that helps balance the sheen of the silk dupion.
This particular model, the AUT-05, is single-jointed, wood-worked by hand, and composed of luxury European beechwood. Its contours are made to mimic the human neck and shoulder line, thus preserving the integrity of your silk dupion jacket even at rest.
Photography: Hanson Leatherby, Alexandru Leteanu, Arterton London, and The Suitstainable Man team