New Color Palette
For 2008/2009 Season
Most popular - naturally aside from the standard
Charcoal/Navy/Brown traditionals - are purples,
oranges, and exciting new shades of brown. The
Purple family runs the gamut from light lavenders to
darks. Oranges vary from mediums to burnt orange
but not as light as peach. Browns tend away from the
really darks and lean towards coffees, vicunas and
their compliments such as khaki and natural.
These new Zimmerli extrafine merino sweaters
highlight some of the new colors:
Here are the colors again, this time with a
radiant burnt orange:
Many exciting coordinates for these can be
found in our new Fall sock collection. Here are a few
And for the ladies ...
Of Shirt & Sock
On the valet you'll see many colors of Sea
Island cotton socks. I have annotated a few
of the more popular colors with sample shirt
color/pattern swatches to give you a few
ideas upon which to build.
A Word About
Luxury Gift Selection
We know how difficult and
time-consuming it can be to select the right
from our vast range of fine luxury clothing
and accessories. It doesn't have to be such.
We know our wares from top to bottom. Let us
How? On every page of CustomShirt1.com,
you'll see a link to our Gift Center where
you'll find a very short questionnaire to
fill out for each intended gift recipient.
We'll take it from there, assembling unique
treasure boxes for your loved ones and
sending them to you by email for your
approval or revision.
Zimmerli's ExtraFine Merino Sweater
in Six Styles, Eight Colors!
take care of the wrapping! When you remove
your presents from their outer package,
they'll be all ready to hand out. Well ...
almost. You'll have to sign the gift card.
Zimmerli for Women MicroLyocell
here and put us to work on your list!
In The Next
Caveat Emptor Cheap High-Count
Part II of the Custom Clothing Article
100% Organic Cotton Naturally Dyed Socks!
After more than 30 years as a custom clothier and
haberdasher, I've grown ever-increasingly annoyed at
meritless bandying about of the age-old
terms "custom-made" and "bespoke". These terms,
synonymous really, have specific
As so many of you have sought definition from
Joelle or I over the
years, I've penned A Treatise on Custom-Made
Clothing from my point-of-view as a traditionalist
and supposed expert in
the field. Part I appears below; Part II is set for our next
issue. Take me to task: Write back to me with your
thoughts, positive or not. I'll answer them
(anonymously, of course)
in our upcoming issues.
By the way, the first wave of our new 2008/2009
Fall/Winter items have arrived. A bit of a look-see at
the new color palette is over there on the left.
A Treatise on Custom-Made Clothing
by Alexander S.
Kabbaz, Master Shirtmaker
Copyright © 2003-2008 Alexander S. Kabbaz, All
Take a piece of fabric six feet long and three feet wide.
Cut a one foot circle from the center. Place this hole
over your head. Take a stapler and staple the sides
together below your arms. Voila! You've made a shirt!
Now that you are a qualified shirtmaker, realize that
anything beyond those simple basics involves more
than just a knowledge of patternmaking, cutting, and
sewing. It requires a philosophy, some modicum of
pride in one's work, a widely varying degree of
knowledge of the art and the craft, and the intangible
ability to translate clients' verbal descriptions into
visually pleasing realities.
As you learned in the first paragraph, making
a shirt can be extremely simple. Making a shirt that
fits, not only as well as it can but especially the way
the client wants it to, can be extremely difficult.
of Bespoke Clothing
A bespoke maker can
adhere to one of two goals with every new client:
Most have a simple goal which I term the First
a] Establish a minimum order which guarantees that
you will make a profit.
b] Make a shirt pattern which does not deviate too far
from the norms: stay within 'acceptable' parameters of
fit, styling, quality and price.
c] That way, if the client doesn't like the results of your
work, you can claim you 'followed the traditional
bespoke methods' and, especially, you haven't lost
The First Philosophy is wonderful. It opens you to no
accusations, leaves no possibility of grave error, and
guarantees your bottom line. Seems ideal, and that is
why it is the Majority Philosophy.
Others adhere to a riskier concept, the
a] Establish a hefty minimum order to determine
whether the client is serious or not. Once that is out of
the way, forget about money and begin the fitting
process ... and continue it until you, the maker, are
satisfied with the fit.
b] Have a serious initial interview with the potential
client. Are they interested in getting their shirts
Do they "not really
time for fittings"?
Is 'the wife in charge' of
the fit and styling? Awful!
So what do you do with the first, second, third, etc.
fitting samples? Every January 1, you buy a very large,
empty box. Every December 1, you telephone the
Salvation Army for a pickup.
- Why should it be the maker and not the client
determines if the fit is correct? Well, hell!
- a] Who knows more about shirts? You, the
shirtmaker ... or the client? The client should have
been satisfied at least one fitting sample before the
- b] Who is being advertised when other potential
clients view a shirtmakers product?
- c] A modicum of pride...
- Isn't this "best fit possible" idea an anathema to
the concept of
running a profitable business?
running the New Millennium Corporation
only measure of success is the quarterly report.
Yes ... if your reputation isn't good enough to
steady stream of potential new clients coming to your
door. No ... if you are trying to live up to your
and realize that somewhere down the line all satisfied
clients return for more ... and that when they do the
fitting process has already been finished. Not only do
they return ... they are forced to return. You have their
pattern ... and only you know how you assembled the
- Do you take the first shirt apart and alter it for
You really shouldn't.
disassembly is called) can alter (stretch, pucker,
distort) the fabric in many ways. An adjusted first
sample is not nearly the same as making a new
second sample ... unless all future shirts are going to
be made, ripped, re-sewn, and delivered. And if that's
the case, perhaps you should become a Sanitation
Engineer so that your title truly relates to your
In this treatise, I propose various
conceptual themes and procedures. At times I'll
interject as examples my own parameters which apply
to those themes and procedures.
Here is the first of such.
As regards Philosophy, the First or the Second: I am
partial to the Second Philosophy.
- My minimum first order is $6000 of which half is
deposited at our initial meeting - that equates to
roughly six shirts.
- Don't cause me to have to do "collections". I
want my mental faculties - such as they may be -
concentrating upon styling and fit, not worrying about
whether I am going to get paid.
- Offer me at least half of the respect I'll offer you.
- Treat my shirts - and me - with the dignity we
That finishes Philosophy. So where does the
Pride enter into it? Same as it does in any
Here are a few telltale signs:
- Is the shirtmaker or tailor trying to make
the "process" seem too mysterious and complicated
for even the most astute client to understand? Or is he
willing to spend as much time as necessary to make
sure that you understand as much about what he is
doing as you want to?
- Alternatively, is he being pushy in some areas ...
such as insisting that you learn the difference
between 100's 2x2 and 170's 2x2? The differences
among broadcloths, voiles, twills, and oxfords? The
advantages and disadvantages of placket vs. plain
centers? ...even if you don't want to? If so, that's a
- What is his definition of "custom" or "bespoke"? If
he gives you two definitions, you've been had. Ask to
see the "house style". If it is shown to you, then you
are not in the hands of a true custom maker. True
bespoke artisans do not have a "house style". The
acceptable definition of a custom garment is that "It Is
What The Client Wants It To Be". And the only reason
there is a difference between the words custom and
bespoke is because somebody, somewhere, wanted
to cut corners and needed to have a name for his
- Finally, how many fittings should there be? The
answer is the similar to the number of buttons on the
shirt front - as many as necessary until the shirt front
ends. If you take me as an example, I've done it in two
fittings ... with the second being perfect. I've done it in
21 - and I still wasn't totally happy. My average is three.
If you get one fitting and then an alteration of that first
fitting ... move on. You are not in a custom house.
the Second Philosophy:
Attire speaks before you utter a single word. Your
appearance is the window through which your are first
viewed. The most important result of our initial
consultation lies not in the extensive series of
measures we place in your file, but in what we garner
about your personality, your profession, your taste,
and your station in life. Important is not that particular
fabric which offers us the greatest profit. Important is
the suitability of your wardrobe. This can be
considered only if we gain a comprehensive
understanding of who you are. Important lies not only
in our complimenting your wiser selections and in
offering you others from which to choose, but also in
having the temerity to suggest that something you
might want would be entirely inappropriate for you.
In short, the image you should portray is the
responsibility we wish to accept.
simplified, as I see it ... and written as if
you were my client ...
On your first visit, we'll chat for a while in order that I
might gain a proper sense of your needs and who you
are. Then we'll discuss styling and fit while I take
some 35 measures and notes.
Later, I'll design, strike, and cut your individual basic
pattern. This will incorporate the styling details we
discussed and is the springboard from which we'll
develop your wardrobe during ensuing years.
I'll use this pattern to cut, stitch, and launder your first
sample which tests my ideas and measures. We use
2x2 120's or 2x2 170's, based on our discussion of
your preferences. (Others begin with muslin which is
acceptable for the first try-on).
One week later, faster if circumstances dictate, you
return to try on this laundered sample. You criticize, we
criticize and pin-fit. We alter your pattern, cut and
launder a new shirt, and
you return for a second fitting.
Then we again revise your pattern and, a short while
later, send you a third sample. This you wear for a day
or two thusly insuring that you are completely aware of
your likes and dislikes.
These steps are repeated as often as necessary.
Once your pattern has been finalized in this manner -
to my satisfaction - we cut your first order which is both
a minimum and maximum of six shirts. The styles
need not all be the same; every fabric may be different.
After this initial order, you may order in any quantity
desired from one and up. This entire process can be
collapsed into two intensive days. This is
accomplished by your staying locally near
our East Hampton studios for two days and one or two
nights. Each day begins and ends with a fitting with
beach or shopping in-between. At the end of the two
day stint, your pattern is finalized ... and your tan is
This is an oyster shell, about 50 years of age
in New Zealand. Its actual size is
about 10" across and, at its thickest point, the shell is
about 3/8" thick.
Again as if you were my client ... What will a good
custom shirtmaker do ... and how?
As far as shirts, blouses, or furnishings, virtually
anything. We will design originals (our preference),
copy styling details of your old favorites, or work from
photos or sketches of styling preferences you might
like. We can, if necessary, work initially from your
measurements and conference video of you. Delivery
varies seasonally and depends (the first time only) on
your availability for fittings. Quality should not be
rushed. Monograms, if desired, are additional. They
are done by hand and require extra time. All of our
work is done here on the premises.
Each shirt is slightly different. In a process where
everything is hand-done and every shirt considered as
a unique entity, this is as it must be. Our promise,
therefore, is quite simple. If it is not perfect, we shall
make it so ... without question.
Our charges are set from a viewpoint which allows us
to concentrate our efforts solely on the caliber of our
work. Truthfully, pricing is the easy part and one we
choose not to discuss. Difficult is when we sit down
and carefully consider each one of the thousands of
individual stitches we make in some 12 miles of
Egyptian-grown, European-woven long staple cotton
yarn, to which we hand-sew 14-20 New Zealand-
grown Mother-of-Pearl buttons. Add eight to 12 hours
of tailoring, a hefty dose of creativity, a lifetime of pride
and you get...one shirt!
I could go on for pages about the complete
individual pattern, an entirely hand-cut garment, the
magnifying loupe through which we inspect the fabric
we shrink as necessary before cutting, and the many
hundreds of other techniques we use to insure the
perfection of our craft. However, we consider this not
only proprietary but also firmly believe that this is our
responsibility. Suffice it to say, thanks to our many
loyal clients, we are happy to have the ability to direct
our skill and attention solely toward the quality of our
Before you place a subsequent order, I must see you
in a few of the shirts you've found most pleasing. Fine
woven cotton will, over time, shape and adapt itself to
the wearer. It is only after that has been accomplished
that I can make the final little nips and tucks to your
permanent pattern. This, by the way, remains an
ongoing process. Additionally, should more than four
or five years pass between your actual visits to our
shop, I'll most probably refuse to make any more
shirts until I see you in a recent creation. After all, our
only advertising is the answer you give to the
question, "Where did you get that shirt?"
Fitting new clients is our responsibility - solely our
responsibility. Should your measurements change or
should you desire any alteration in fit at a later date, it
is solely your responsibility to so inform us!
Otherwise, lack of this knowledge will obviously cause
us to cut your order without alteration of your
permanent pattern ... and cause you to pay for ill-fitting
work! Should we for any reason make changes to your
pattern, we shall normally cut one shirt from your order
and send it for your approval. Once you approve the
change, we'll then proceed with the remainder. Should
you decide later on that you want further changes,
such alterations will be charged at our prevailing
That is The Process as I see it.
Next Issue: Coming in Part II
Oft-Asked Shirtmaking Questions and (Opinionated)
Thank you for reading.
- The "Correct Collar for Me" Rules
- Split-Yoke vs. One-Piece Yoke
- Hand Sewing vs. Machine Sewing
- Hem Gussets - Pro or Con
- Darts: Bespoke Hallmark or Shortcut?
- Fused vs. Traditional Collar Construction
- The Ethical Considerations of Pricing
|A Quick Look:
The New Cashmere & Silk Windowpane!
Marcoliani's Incomparable Cashmere &
socks, this season in a stunning, sophisticated
windowpane. If you've never tried the cashmere and
silk, you'll certainly not understand why I continually
say, they are the finest socks we offer.
Excellence News to
a friend. Email
they order you'll
receive a $100 Gift Certificate.