Head cutter John Byrne (left) goes over fabric samples with a client.Photo: Gabriel Bell
Select fans of Paul Smith’s
particular brand of Carnaby Street–via–Savile Row English flash have been stopping in to the second-floor showroom at the designer’s Greene Street boutique
for a limited series of fittings with his crack “bespoke team.” The seamsters flew in from London last weekend, swatches in tow, for their three-day stint. “You actually have seasons here in America,” quipped Christopher Tarling, head of bespoke services at Smith’s Westingborne House store, located in London’s expressly posh Notting Hill Gate. “We only have one season back home, so we had to bring quite a varied selection of fabrics,” he said, poring over heavy tweeds as the temperature climbed to 72 degrees outside.
For about £2,500 — $5,000 in the colonies — the team will construct a suit from scratch in the customer’s choice of chambray, mohair, or Loro Piana cashmere. Of course, having your tailor on the other side of the Atlantic does slow down the process somewhat. “Normally, we’d do two fittings for a new customer, but we’ll be back in September and February, so it could be a bit of wait. But it is for something … special,” explained Tarling. “I consider it an investment,” said one loitering customer, stroking the sleeve of a ten-year-old checked Smith suit for emphasis.
Across the room, head cutter John Byrne draped a yellow measuring tape around the waist of Ted,* a professional in his mid-thirties who arrived at the fitting wearing a blue version of Tarling’s pin-striped, silk-lined Smith suit. So, given the current exchange rate and tottering local economy, what species of New Yorker enters the showroom with sufficient fortune to purchase three suits including brace-button, flat-front trousers with zip flies? “I’m in … insurance,” Ted said with a wide smile. —Gabriel Bell
*Name changed by request, presumably because he was spending his morning getting fitted for a gorgeous suit rather than pushing paper at the office. Our type of guy, really.