A handcrafted suit takes time to create and evolves from a variety of traditional elements. Canvas backing, horse hair stiffener and cotton padding. Yards of the finest silk and cotton thread, strengthened with bees-wax. Super-fine cloth from precious natural fibres and Bemberg or silk lining, finished off with buffalo horn or mother of pearl buttons. All these elements are carefully stitched and moulded together, by hand, and with a sense of creative harmony.
Time is an essential ingredient – time to consult, to measure, to choose the most appropriate cloth, time for fitting, and time to consider the investment being made not only in elegance, but also in self-confidence and self-image. From initial consultation and measurement to when a client finally picks up his finished suit involves John Cutler and his team in more than 70 hours of labour. Stretching over several months it is work that cannot be hurried, but is well worth the wait.
The basic measurements are taken meticulously and guided by vast experience, to make allowances for a customer’s stance and balance. It takes immense skill to disguise the natural imperfections and highlight the positives.
Shoulders are rarely the same height but no customer wishes to look misshapen. Tall men tend to stoop, so the collar of their jacket must be carefully shaped to ensure that it doesn’t gape.
The personal relationship and mutual respect that we develop with each client plays a pivotal role in the whole process. The measurements are then translated into a working pattern. Every client has his own, carefully drafted and kept in strictest confidence for future reference.
It is at this stage that the cutter’s creativity, expertise and experience show through. A classic suit can never be created from a badly cut pattern. In tailoring each garment a number of different gauge needles, and the finest cotton and silk threads, often coated with a thin coating of beeswax for additional strength, are used.
The tension in the thread has to be perfect to avoid puckering or breakage, but at the same time the stitching must hold the canvasses in exactly the right place and to the correct shape. It is a most exacting and laborious task, but any shortcuts will detrimentally affect the quality of the final garment.
At the first fitting the widths, lengths and balances may be altered, adjusting the pattern and remarking the garment before specialist craftsmen apply the changes to a second, more advanced fitting.
During the second fitting a careful check is made of the balance, which is one of the features that gives a handcrafted suit its unique elegance.
As trousers are generally the most worn part of the suit, they're given special attention in both fittings to ensure the cut and balance provide the right level of comfort with a flattering silhouette.
Particular attention is given to the shoulder line and collar position and our sense of balance to the particular position of his client’s arms.
When the jacket and trousers go back for their final detailing, allowance is always left in the seams for future alteration. A 16-pound iron is used to stretch and then shrink the top collar, creating a perfectly rounded fit without any bubbling.
After the major seams are sewn, the basting stitching is taken out. The buttonholes are sewn by hand and the buttons are sewn on, again by hand, using four-cord beeswaxed thread.
Finally the heavy iron is once again used for the final pressing, prior to the finished garment being ready for collection by the client.
Whilst the initial outlay may seem high, the returns in terms of comfort, fit, status and style is incalculable. J. H. Cutler’s creations are designed to identify with their owners, and given the care they deserve, they can and often do, last a lifetime and give a lifetime of pleasure.