A handcrafted suit takes time to create and evolves from a variety of traditional elements. Everything from yards of finest silk and cotton thread to bees-wax and horsehair stiffener, from canvas backing and cotton padding to the super-fine woollen cloth, and the Bemberg twill, silk or satin lining and buffalo horn buttons that finish it off. All these elements must be 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 50 hours of labour. Stretching over several months it is work that cannot be hurried, but is well worth the wait.
Expertise and Experience
John meticulously takes the basic measurements and his vast experience guides him in making 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 John develops 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 by John Cutler himself, 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. The master craftsman even occasionally runs his razor sharp shears through his own hair for that fine mist of natural oil that helps the blades slice more smoothly through the delicate cloth.
Specialist Tailoring Skills
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 John may alter the widths, lengths and balances, adjusting the pattern and remarking the garment before passing additional instructions back to his specialist craftsmen.
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. Particular attention is given to the shoulder line and collar position and John matches his sense of balance to the particular position of his client’s arms.
This is also a critical time for fitting the trousers, which are after all, the most worn part of the suit.
The Perfect Finish
When the jacket and trousers go back for their final detailing, allowance is always left in the seams for future alteration. The jacket maker completes the collar, the most delicate operation of the whole tailoring process. 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.