Traditional ways of the artisan must never disappear from view or the mass manufactured will change from a default choice to the only choice.
A burning desire when I created www.escapement.uk.com was to champion the finest, tradition, craftsmanship and the artisans wish to create perfection in everything they hone.
Sadly some traditions and skills are perilously close to extinction as the frivolous, the perfunctory and transient fashion seem to have ever widespread kudos due to the huge expenditure on branding.
As labels are now created which extoll a brand through the imagery of models wearing suits and photographed in wonderful settings there is a risk that the perception of “the best” is based on the magnitude of marketing budgets not the thirst for detail, exemplified by the greatest artisans.
With little new talent attracted to the traditional craftsmanship I hold so dear, there is a danger of the skills learned over generations, evaporating into the ether.
Thankfully, this is not the case in Manchester where the bespoke community of artisans is flourishing. Richard Smith is a young gentleman who is fanatical about detail and tradition.
He owns a bijoux boutique, nestling in Manchester with a post code synonymous with the “finer things in life”.
Richard Smith is an enthusiastic exponent of bespoke tailoring and the quintessential details traditionally found on Saville Row and Jermyn Street.
A jacket has functional buttons on the cuffs, silk linings adorning the interior and carries a thread below the buttonhole on the back of the lapel to secure your boutonniere.
I recall casually chatting to Richard, making a brief foray into the world of bespoke tailoring. His responses were friendly, considered and informed. Enthusiastic dialogue ensued between myself and a man who clearly wishes to be true to the British traditions admired worldwide.
The talk is validated with a close inspection of the work. No spin, bravado or hyperbole required, just an Artisan at work, celebrating tradition in everything he does.
A man in his twenties, Richard is not reticent to stamp his own personality on the garments with small flourishes of detail which add to the pleasure of ownership and never devalue the traditions I clearly hold dear.
A shirt is needed.
An important event on my calendar requires a shirt which conveys the gravitas of the moment.
Richard makes us both an Espresso and the consultation process begins.
Firstly, the event is described in detail and notes are jotted down. A brief trip to rear of the shop and three lengths of Egyptian cotton in various shades of white are brought for me to appraise. Spoilt for choice, I selected white diagonal twill Dobby 120/2.
I then have to select a collar type; Windors, Kent, London, King to name but a few. The Kent with 2 buttons appealed as it was not as spread as the Windsor and not as narrow as the London.
Straight cuff, Bevelled cuff, Round Cuff in either single of double cuff form. Single cuffs could be specified with one button hole or two. Decisions, decisions …. I eventually settle on the button bevel with red button hole sewing and the ESCAPEMENT monogram in red block lettering. In addition I had red twill cotton 120’s inlay contrasting inside the cuff.
4. The front of the shirt
I chose a double gusset feature with red silk ribbon running down the inside of the button gusset.
5. Measuring up
Richard carefully took 9 individual body measurements prior to making a pattern.
The details are personal to me and repeatedly delight
“ESCAPEMENT” is to be embroidered on one cuff, a few centimetres above where my watch will reside. A shorter sleave length on the left arm can be specified to reveal more of the timepiece whilst it sits on the wrist.
A red thread is selected to match one of the three colours of text which form the ESCAPEMENT brand. The same colour thread is repeated for the button hole detail on the collar and cuffs.
The inside of the collar is trimmed in a white and red diagonal twill cotton 120/2.
Red silk ribbon is selected which shares the same hue as the words “FINER THINGS IN LIFE” which adorn my business cards.
A tape measure is wielded around my upper torso, recording the large numbers which alas are accompanied with the mantra, “the diet starts tomorrow”.
The wait commences.
The wait commences and the anticipation builds as you dream of the day when you sport your bespoke shirt.
I was not to be disappointed, a return visit and a fitting took place. A few subtle tweeks made, whilst I indulged at a nearby restaurant and the shirt was ready for collection.
A bespoke shirt is a wonderful thing to behold and affords the wearer confidence that the garment fits correctly around the neck , shoulders and chest.
The meeting could take place, knowing that my shirt makes a subtle statement of intent and provides a quiet feeling of warmth, knowing that I won’t see another shirt quite the same.
Further visits are planned
I have already diarised time for a bespoke suit and a bespoke pair of trousers to be crafted by Richard and intend to write about the experience for the enjoyment of readers in the near future.
Shirts from Richard Smith Bespoke
Richard’s prices start from £130 for made to measure and £150 for bespoke. My shirt was £175 but I felt it represented excellent value based on the craftsmanship clearly visible to all.
Richard can be contacted at his Manchester store by clicking on the link below.