James Whitfield Bespoke — Part 4: The bespoke sporstscoat is finished
After two fittings and a final check of the finished jacket I collected my bespoke sportscoat. The pictures taken by Tommi Aittala speak for themselves. The jacket feels as good as it looks. Here’s the final review and a short interview with James Whitfield.
Is it alright to call James Whitfield a “Savile Row tailor”? After all he works in Berlin. I think the label is applicable. James was trained in Savile Row and he’s worked for one of it’s most famous houses. And let’s not forget that most tailoring houses in Savile Row use outworkers from all over London. Only very few shops make everything in house. Unless there is so much work that they cannot cope. Of course all these garments were at least cut in Savile Row and they are fitted there. I believe that a Savile Row trained cutter can cut and fit a suit anywhere in the world resulting in a “Savile Row suit”. Is the jacket that James made for me better than what I’d get in Savile Row? The answer is of course a matter of taste. If you put the quality of fit and making that James offers at his price into relation to what you get in Savile Row for the prices asked at most tailor shops he clearly offers the better deal.
Nothing that I could see or feel has changed after the final check of the finished garment. The chest fits snugly with just very little drape. The fit around the shoulder and over the back is excellent. My shoulderbones are discreetly covered with a thin pad. The coat is a bit longer than my recent orders from my tailor in Prague but not as long as the jackets that were made for me in Savile Row by Tobias Tailors. The sleeve lenghts are exactly as I want them. The armhole is smaller and slightly higher than I usually ask tailors to cut it but it feels comfortable. The coat has a slim silhouette and I believe the high waist slighty elongates my figure. The coat looks very british but not old-fashioned unlike many examples I have seen even from younger tailors in Savile Row. The workmanship is excellent, the “Milanese” buttonhole in the lapel couldn’t be done better by a good Italian tailor. As I had mentioned the outworkers of Savile Row I’d like to stress that the coat was completely tailored in James’s workshop.
As an addition of my personal impression of the coat I have conducted a short interview with James.
Feine Herr: The jacket you made for me looks so English, an Italian tailor could never cut it this way. What’s the recipe for an English looking bespoke jacket?
James Whitfield: I think something in both cut and construction gives a jacket that particularly English look. The longer length, the full chest, a more structured shoulder, all of these things contribute to that style.
How much Savile Row is in this jacket and how much James Whitfield?
It’s a mixture. I have maintained the traditional techniques of cut and construction that I learned there, with some adaptations of my own. I try not to be too high bound by it though, if I find a better way of doing some particular part of the process then I wouldn’t forsake that in the name of tradition necessarily.
Has your work been influenced by being in Berlin instead of London?
In a way it’s liberating to be here and not have to conform to a particular way of doing things, so in that respect I suppose Berlin has changed how I work. I’m also doing almost every aspect of the process myself, alongside Marie, (cutting, coat making, trouser making, etc) which would be unusual in Savile Row where the labour process is much more divided up. The benefit for my clients is that they know that I’ll be taking care of the whole thing at every stage.
Some big tailoring houses in London or Italy tend to make one style for everybody. How much are you willing to adapt to the customer’s ideas?
I’m willing to be flexible within reason. In the end, and I think this is true for all tailors, I’m best at what I know, which is a classic London cut. I have tried once or twice (at a clients request) to make a kind of Neapolitan type of coat, but it feels a little like a fraud to do so. You have to be true to yourself without being overly dogmatic.
Do you plan to do trunkshows other cities in Germany or abroad? Do you have long term goals for your business?
I hope next year that we’ll be able to start up a proper travel program, focusing first on some cities within Germany and then perhaps Switzerland.