This is Part Two of the series about my journey towards finding a bespoke suit. If you missed the first part, read it here.
I just want to start off by saying that this is one hell of a long read.It’s written to document my experience. I don’t expect anyone to really read this. Not unless you want to come along for my journey getting a bespoke suit at Michael Andrews Bespoke.
The Michael Andrews Bespoke website is a simple, understated, and elegant design set on a black canvas. Taking in page after page of their site, I was quite impressed with whoever wrote the copy for them. Everything certainly inspired a calm confidence. I set my hopes high for the tailor and took the plunge.
Dressed in my occasionally complimented Calvin Klein suit and coming from a fresh overpriced haircut that failed to deliver the results I wanted, I made my way to the Lower East Side where Michael Andrews Bespoke was located. Unfamiliar with the neighborhood, the wildly inaccurate compass on my iPhone only served to delay my arrival. My eyes were glued to Google Maps as I walked from street to street. I finally found Clinton Street. However, the hunt was not over. Though I was in the vicinity of the place, I had to find the actual door itself in order to enter this promised land of custom tailored clothing. This was no small feat. Try as I might, I could not find the black gate that was described on the website. I paced up and down the street, trying my very best not to look like an obvious lost tourist. Despite my efforts to be discreet, I wasn’t fooling anybody. A Hispanic man with a beer belly dressed in a wifebeater looked at me with curiosity and a hint of suspicion as I passed by him for the sixth time. So did most other people loitering on the block.The address listed on the website was quite misleading. Should one arrive at that address, one would be greeted by a closed down clothing shop of some sort, with a big red ‘two-zero’ emblazoned on a glass door that serves as a mocking riddle: where is Michael Andrews Bespoke, if not here, at 20 Clinton Street? I peered in through the dusty glass panes. Nothing was there but an empty echo of darkness.Feeling at a loss, I finally dug up the phone number and gave the studio a call. Luckily, they were able to guide me to the little black gate. I was buzzed in. I walked down four steps into a blue maze of hallways whose origins might’ve been that of maintenance. The clickety clack of leather heels on the concrete floor bounced off the walls, and I was shortly greeted by a young lady. She introduced herself as Marian as I shook her hand. Dressed professionally in a black shirt adorned with frills and a gray flannel skirt, she led me through the confusing twist of lefts and rights, right into Michael Andrews Bespoke.
I had entered the promised land. This was the place where I would create a new facade. Finally I would be able to bring into reality the images floating in my mind. I could find a cure for the ill-fitting suit that came off the rack. I didn’t care that nobody noticed that my suit was not actually that great. All I cared about was the fact that I knew that it wasn’t all that great.
From the articles and reviews that I had read about Michael Andrews Bespoke, I had conjured up images of a room that was warmly lit by sconces, with dark walnut paneling on the walls. I imagined that the bar would be one that exuded the essence of the old school, made of some dark and robust wood. I expected a more private and exclusive environment that hearkened back to the old days, where older gentlemen drank whisky and smoked cigars in luxurious leather armchairs.
But as I stepped in through those doors, those overly romanticized images were whisked away. In its place was reality: bright lights and bare walls surrounded me. In the place of a plush leather armchair was a contemporary couch with fabric upholstery. The bar was a modern looking refrigerator with sliding glass doors and white lights on the inside.
None of this concerned me though. Marian invited to have a seat on the couch. Another young lady by the name of Samantha, who I estimated to be closer to my age, graciously offered me a drink. I politely declined as I was covertly chewing on a fresh piece of gum. Not knowing what the process was,Isat there idly, poking various fashion books around and flipping through them aimlessly. Samantha returned with a form for me to fill out. I completed the form and after a brief wait, a well-dressed man introduced himself to me as Mike.
We sat down at the round table and began the process of starting a relationship. Mike shot question after question at me, to which I gladly obliged. He apologized for the seeming abruptness of the questions and the interview-like process, but I assured him that I did not mind in the least: the more information that he has about me, the better informed he will be in designing my clothing. As I like to say, there can never be a thing as too much information. The devil is in the details.
With the questionnaire out of the way, we began the process of designing my suit. Using the various helpful visual aids that displayed different lapel types and collar types, I was introduced to the many options I had in constructing my suit. Michael explained to me the various pricing levels. I was of course intrigued by the most expensive line. And with a greatly appreciated honesty and humility, Michael explained that there really wasn’t all that much of a difference. The exorbitant cost of that line was due to the fact that the labor was done in New York. He told me very frankly that the difference in quality would be unnoticeable. With refreshing candor, he told me outright that it was essentially for people with too much money. I was rather pleased with the lack of salesmanship. Michael did not run an unsavory ship with a pushy sales staff. True to his word as posted on the website, integrity and honesty was the standing order at Michael Andrews Bespoke.
The phone was beckoning Michael though. I gladly told him that he should take the call, apparently from his accountant. Marian stepped in and showed me the various fabrics that were available. I went through the books of fabric swatches, passing on the many fabrics that did not suit me. She asked me if I was getting a summertime jacket or one for the winter, and I replied that I was looking for versatility.
Some moments later, I had arrived at two black fabrics. Marian and I discussed the differences. One’s lines were wider than the other, and I wondered how that would look. It was difficult for me to envision this fabric draping over me in the form of a suit: all I had was a little four-inch square of it to look at. After much deliberation, with much time spent on comparing the two very similar fabrics, I settled on the black fabric with very subtle herringbone stripes, the one that was narrower. I found it to be formal, expressing an understated elegance. The stripes would break up any large and dark expanses of material, yet it would be quiet enough to appear solid from far away.
Michael Andrews Bespoke prides itself on having linings with much more pizazz than your average suit. I certainly agreed: when Marian showed me the linings, quite a many of them forcefully grabbed my attention. However, conservative fashion was what I was looking for. I had hoped for more solid linings, but had to settle on one with a striped design.
With the fabrics out of the way, various details had to be attended to. There were many options to customize the garment. I expressed my concerns about the large appearance of my shoulders on the current Calvin Klein jacket that I was wearing. Marian had considered going for a semi notch lapel, but after consulting Michael we settled on a traditional notch lapel to better suit the width of my shoulders.
As for the style, Marian said that they usually do a two button jacket with double vents. I was hesitant. I had tried on a two button double vent jacket at a Sears, and it was entirely unflattering. It didn’t fit right, and made my already large posterior look comically enormous, like that of a duck. Luckily for me, a customer had also ordered a suit that was quite similar to mine. Marian went to get it for me so that I could envision what it would look like. I tried it on, and though it was clear that the man it was made for was easily taller than me and slightly larger, I could see that this could work. My worries were assuaged.
Tune in tomorrow for part three of this series about our Wistful Writer getting his bespoke suit!