Bespoke clothing is the measure of a man

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 September, 2010, 12:00am

When it comes to fashion and style, there are not a lot of areas where men can truly indulge or express themselves. Sure, there are the watches, neckties that sometimes border on the comical and cufflinks that are more kitsch than statement makers. You can argue that there are men who manage to express themselves nonetheless, but they often veer towards the more flamboyant. But for the truly stylish and elegant gentleman, the type who wears impeccably cut grey suits, a discreet Cartier tank watch and well-polished shoes, he has very limited options to explore.

It is for this reason that men should look into made-to-measure clothing. Made-to-measure (MTM) means that a garment is made using a client's measurements and specifications based on an already existing house pattern.

I know this may sound like old news to men in Hong Kong, who are spoiled for choice due to the legion of local tailors. But having been to a number of tailors in Central, there hasn't been one that truly impressed me, except Ascot Chang.

I personally think that for a true made-to-measure experience one should seek out the English and Italian tailors, as they are the masters of this craft. While women go to Paris for haute couture, men go to Savile Row and Naples for custom-made suits. What gives the English and Italian tailors the edge is that they have a better understanding of modern fit - local tailors have yet to make the transition from boxy-shaped shirts and jackets and loose trouser legs. European tailors also have access to a better selection of fabrics. Some, such as Ermenegildo Zegna, even produce their own.

As it is Ermenegildo Zegna's centennial year, its MTM service now offers a reissue of the very first fabric produced in its mill, albeit in a lighter version, plus the other 450 fabrics it has in stock.

There are three suit styles in its MTM service: Roma - elegant and tailored with single pleated trousers; Milano - slim and fitted for the modern man; and Couture - something more traditional. A customised suit from Ermengildo Zegna takes about four to six weeks to complete and usually requires two fittings.

Until the end of September, the Italian label is offering customers a complimentary MTM shirt if a client orders a MTM coat or suit. Ermenegildo Zegna also offers the MTM service with leather goods such as belts and shoes.

At Lane Crawford, several expert tailors will be in town this month to accept MTM orders. Think of it as the sartorial equivalent of going to a car show where the trims are on display and you can have them produced whichever way you want. If you care enough to choose every detail that goes into your Bentley, why not do the same with your clothes? Tailors from Lanvin, Armani Collezioni, Pal Zileri, Canali, plus Savile Row labels Hart, Uman and Rake, will all be on hand to help you decide on collar shapes, cuff sizes, fabric selections, stitching techniques, monogram placements and all other minute but important details.

Alfred Dunhill has two suit styles to choose from. The St James is more traditional, with a nod to Savile Row shapes and techniques. The Belgravia (far left) is tailored and fitted, a shape that Jude Law, the house's ambassador, would favour. In terms of suiting, it offers travel-friendly light wools.

For shirts, there are high performance fabrics in hundreds of colours, weaves and patterns. A client who asks for an Alfred Dunhill shirt can choose from its selection of nine collars, five cuffs, two pockets, front and back styles and monograms.

Tom Ford's MTM service takes monogramming to a whole new level by offering five different fonts, six different placements and the choice of a colour that is either in contrast to the shirt or tone on tone. The service also offers a selection of nine collars, seven cuffs and three bodies. And that is just for its shirts.

Tom Ford offers two types of construction for the MTM suits: Top Construction means the entire suit is completely made by hand. The garment remains untouched by machine throughout the production process. The second method is called Sartorial, where modern technology and handcraft techniques are combined to produce a suit made more efficiently and cost-effectively. The latter will be available in Hong Kong starting on October 16, by appointment only.

A MTM Tom Ford suit is available from size 44-64 in fabrics that are already in the brand's catalogue as well as seasonal materials. The client's name will be embroidered in the inside pocket of the suit. A variety of silk linings can be substituted for the standard tone-on-tone lining. Natural horn, mother of pearl or metal buttons are also available. MTM garments take about four to eight weeks to complete and they are presented with personalised packaging.

Shopping List

Alfred Dunhill, Prince's Building, Central, tel: 2524 3663

Ermenegildo Zegna, 1 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 3417 3088

Rake at Lane Crawford IFC Mall, Central, tel: 2118 3388

Tom Ford, IFC Mall, Central, tel: 2234 7802