This is the (long awaited and long overdue) second part to my second experience buying a bespoke suit from Michael Andrews Bespoke. Read the first part here.
Six weeks passed since I had ordered anothersuit from Michael Andrews Bespoke. Being an impatient man, the entire wait was painful. Six weeks on the dot, I got an email informing me that my suit had arrived. Finally.
I went to the Michael Andrews Bespoke studio and tried on my suit. I was rather antsy about the thing for the entire time that I was waiting for it. I had never worn a gray suit before, and I wasn’t quite sure how it would look on me. The cut of it would be fine, I was sure. After all, it’d be based on my existing pattern. But I’ve always dressed in dark colors. Okay, fine, I’ve always dressed in black. Gray just seemed so…bright.
So after I slid the trousers up to my waist and fastened them and then buttoned up my new shirt and then put on my waistcoat and then finally put on my jacket, I stepped out of the nice dressing rooms (which felt so much more secure and private now that they were proper rooms rather than just a designated spot with a curtain) and planted myself in front of the mirror.The gray was only bright in my mind’s eye. I was relieved that the gray English wool was more than suitable. But the truth of it was that I was not thrilled. It was by no fault of Alex or Michael though. The fact was that I knew that I would have to get used to the new color. As a man of loyalty, I am also a man of habit, sticking with what I know and like; of course it would follow that it would take time for the suit to grow on me, both mentally and physically.Michael checked the fit for me, tugging here and there to make sure everything was in it proper place. From an aesthetic perspective, it was perfectly fine. But in terms of fit, there was something just a bit off with the right shoulder: it was an issue on the first suit, and it was altered then. I was a little disappointed that they (presumably) did not alter my pattern to account for the past alteration. I didn’t mention the slight snugness I felt in my new suit though; I chalked it up to the fact that it was brand new and that I was merely accustomed to the worn-in looseness of my old suit.
Instead, I mentioned the issue with the shoulder to Michael who proceeded to work his magic. Some chalk marks later, I removed my jacket only to notice that it was fully lined. I had told Alex that I wanted it half-lined on account of my being more prone to feeling hot than cold. I made a note of this to Michael, who seemingly noted it down along with the rest of the alterations to be made. As I made my way home, I began to wonder about the oversight: what else did they miss?
My confidence in Michael Andrews Bespoke dropped like a rock. I had placed my faith in them. Was I wrong to do so? I became slightly worried for my one and only custom tailor. Would I be able to recommend everyone to them anymore? I certainly didn’t feel like I could: I’d have to say, “Sure, Michael Andrews Bespoke is awesome, but make sure you write down everything you tell them about what you want, their liable to leave out the little details.”
These worries made me lose an immense amount of faith in them. I was reminded of my inquiry into overcoats from the previous year, before they moved to the new location. I had asked about having oversized patch pockets like the ones on the tan camelhair jacket on a mannequin, but Clark discouraged such special details on account of the fact that they were not a standard offering.
That to me was a major violation of the spirit of bespoke clothing. One of the major reasons I would choose a bespoke tailor over made-to-measure is because of the ability to customize ones clothing as much as one’s heart desired. I didn’t want a coat or a suit that looked just like something off the rack at Brooks Brothers. If I wanted “standard” things, I’d just go to Brooks Brothers. The way I figured, I paid for the privilege of having things made my way, in my vision.
An uneasy and unfamiliar distrust began growing in me. I didn’t like it, not one bit. I have a trusting heart, but once that trust has been breached, it is hard to win back. I was sorely disappointed at the lack of attention to detail.
I had requested that my alterations – which I felt should’ve been unnecessary in the first place – be ready in four days. Michael said that it’d be quite difficult, so we compromised on a week. I was surprised then (and quite happily so) when it was ready two days early. I expected it to be good to go, ready to wear. Alas, that was not the case. There was still something wrong with the right shoulder. After bringing out one of the tailors to examine the fit of my jacket, we determined that the scye (or armhole, in vernacular vocabulary) was set too far out. That is, the shoulder of the suit extended past my own shoulder a bit too much. And so we had the jacket altered yet again. This time, I emphasized that I had, at the very onset, requested a half-lining. At least they got the inside pockets right: there were pen pockets on both sides, something Michael noted down on account of how the specification of a pen pocket on the right side (I’m left-handed) might be confusing to the worker. Having pen pockets on both sides would serve as a simple solution to ensure that there would be no mistakes.
On the way home, I realized that I was being quite a hassle. I hated being picky and imposing on others. But I couldn’t help but be a well-informed consumer. WIth that knowledge, I was also well aware of the limitations of not going up to the highest level of bespoke suit making. After all, I only ordered a Platinum Collection suit: a level of suit construction that would not entail the truest traditions of bespoke tailoring, like a basted fitting and further fittings to ensure the absolute best fit, as well as on-site work done completely by hand. And so there was a dissonance between my desire to have a nearly perfect suit and my understanding of the resources I was taking up.
The truth is, it’s difficult enough to find a bespoke tailor in the United States, let alone one you can trust and would like to maintain a lifelong relationship with. My humble and modest means preclude me from visiting Savile Row whenever I wish to have a suit made. In fact, my means preclude me from even commissioning a Savile Row suit as often I would like. I aspire to some day own a suit made on Savile Row. But until that day, I must settle for someone on this side of the pond. With the mentions of awful customer service and questionable quality at other custom tailors that I had read online, I am, to be honest, grateful that I found Michael Andrews Bespoke.
Yes, I am grateful for the haberdashery. But on the other hand, I felt that if they had made the small effort to alter my pattern to begin with, I would not have to be sending the jacket back for alterations. Not only would that reduce the added labor (and thus added cost and burden on their bottom line), I would be happier with both the time before it was completely ready to wear and the quality of it. The fact is that alterations will never feel quitethesame as something that was done right the first time around.
Some weeks later, my alterations were completed. I checked to see that the lining was reduced to a half-lining, and it was. Of course, the quality of the workmanship would be higher (or so I’ve been told by a tailor) if it had been originally constructed as half-lined, but it wasn’t much of a big deal. The right shoulder felt much better. Somehow, it didn’t feel as unfettered as the left shoulder, but I was satisfied nonetheless. I took the jacket home and wore it for the next couple of weeks to break it in. It certainly felt different. But it also looked quite different: it was gray for crying out loud. Not charcoal, but a medium gray.
As I adjusted to the new color, I began to notice a difference between the jacket and my old one. It was a stiffer, tougher wool compared to the black Italian wool my old jacket was made of; that was to be expected. But perhaps because of the brightness of gray wool, I also picked up on things that I hadn’t seen before. The lapel did not conform to my chest as well as it could have: there was a slight break half way down. I also noticed that the waist wasn’t as suppressed as I thought it should be: the brightness of the cloth showed me that it wasn’t tailored enough to avoid looking boxy, with a straight line dropping down to the skirt. The first suit, my black one, did not seem to have such deficiencies aside from the issue with the shoulder. Michael very gracefully offered to fix the waist suppression when I mentioned it.
At the end of this second major visit to Michael Andrews Bespoke, I felt that there were far more hiccups than there were the first time around. Whether my first suit’s transaction went more smoothly due to my lesser education (and lesser choosiness) in suits, or to the difficulties of business expansion, I do not know. But I believe that, at these prices, one can argue that a smooth experience should be expected.
Perhaps my sentiments towards the haberdasher have changed because of the seemingly less intimate experience: with a larger space and the presumably larger client base (in other words, more people who spend more money than I do), it felt as if I weren’t being taken care of as well as I should have. I did not feel as though my vision was being understood completely. Or perhaps it is a reality of having my suit made in some anonymous factory in Qingdao, China: I feel as though the consistency of the suits is questionable. The truth is that the second suit had many issues that I did not encounter with the first one. Not only was the button stance higher by a good three to four inches—something that I didn’t notice until I compared it to my first suit, four months later—the fit seemed to be a little tighter at the waist than the first. I certainly considered weight gain as an issue, but I tried on my first suit and didn’t have any issues whatsoever. Of course, they did fix it by moving the button; but I do also have issues with the jacket pulling slightly to the right. I thought that perhaps it had something to do with the way I wore it or the way I moved, but again, I checked to see what my first suit was like. Lo and behold, I could not replicate the issues with the first suit that I saw in the new one. To be fair, the fit was fine; however there were issues that, while unnoticeable by most people who aren’t enthusiasts, detract from the suit a great deal, at least for a perfectionist like me.
As for my overcoat, they had failed to accommodate my request for a larger collar – a request I made at the very onset. The shoulders also seem a little too square (not to say that it is misshapen: all overcoats I’ve worn have relatively square shoulders on account of my own body), and the pocket openings are a little narrower than I expected. Aside from these small details, the overcoat is beautiful and fits quite well and is rather dashing, if I say so myself. Finally, two buttonholes on my Canclini shirt (a new favorite of mine: a white shirt with light blue pencil stripes) tore from the outside edge of the hole (no, I didn’t have a gut busting feast or anything of that nature). It should be noted though that none of my other shirts (one of which was also a Canclini) experienced this issue.
All in all, it would seem that Michael Andrews Bespoke would do well to take better notes and to ensure the quality of the work done in China. It would be a shame for their reputation for high quality suits at what seems to me to be extremely reasonable prices to become tarnished, leaving the quality and consistency to be something of a gamble. Of course, I am aware that having the work done in China makes for difficult quality assurance. But even so, there’s no excuse for selling a sub-par product. Michael, who first impressed me as a detail-oriented man of integrity, should do something about these issues. I had spoken to him briefly about it, so I suppose that only time will tell the fate of the Platinum Collection suits at Michael Andrews Bespoke.
I want to leave as a lasting impression that I am still largely pleased with Michael Andrews Bespoke. Ultimately, I like my second suit: it just could’ve gone smoother is all. The truth is that I’m a very picky customer, especially when I’m well-informed. I would still recommend them to anyone (and have done many times already). But I do worry about the quality of their Platinum Collection suits. I won’t presume to spread any misinformed speculations on my part. All I can say is that is that the haberdasher has my business for at the very least one more suit, so that I can gauge for myself how the quality of their work is holding up over the years. I am, after all, a man of loyalty and charitable patience and forgiveness. In fact, I sometimes wish I had a background in fashion so that I could work for them as a salesman; my natural enthusiasm and passion for bespoke suits has led me to convert several random people to the bespoke cult, quite possibly leading to some new clients at Michael Andrews Bespoke. Alas, I don’t see how my skills—limited to sales and the written word—would fit into their world.
Now that I have taken a step up from the suits that came off the rack at Macy’s and entered into the world of bespoke, now that my eyes have been opened to the tiny sartorial details that differentiate the pedigree of different suits, I aspire to the full bespoke suit. I have no doubts that my very un-average body would benefit from multiple fittings and a more tailored fit than I am getting from the Platinum Collection. I wonder now if I will graduate to the Signature Collection at Michael Andrews Bespoke, or if I will simply opt for the true tradition at Savile Row. ¶
The author would like to also disclose that he is a far cry from an expert on bespoke suits; he can only speak from his own limited experiences and does not presume to present this as a definitive review. He only wishes to shed some light into his personal experience at this fine establishment.