Handmade tailored clothes—what might correctly be called bespoke had that term not been hijacked and diluted by scores of mediocre, machine-made startups—are not immune to trends. Presumably, some creative soul, bored with harmonizing linings, one day conceived of lining his suits with exuberant silk, the trickle down effect of which is plainly evident in the increasingly garish innards of much of today’s ready-to-wear market. The same could be said of contrasting buttonhole thread, or clever under-collar felt. And what about the regional whims of Italian artisans? Should we at all be surprised to see details like pick-stitching and spalla camicia (shirt shoulder), however clumsily executed, right down to the level of fast-fashion? There is an irony buried deeply within all that scarlet lining and turquoise thread—a hilarious, cosmic joke between the whims of the bespoke client and the received desires of the ordinary consumer.
Conversely, I have discovered, the greatest pleasure in conceiving of and having made a garment is in eliminating the gimmicks and reducing the special effects. The hallmarks that I have grown to appreciate in the truly handmade are equal opportunity; one might have knowledge of tailoring or none whatsoever—either way the appeal is one of balance and shape in motion rather than flash. These are clothes that are not just jacket- or trouser-shaped, but purposeful garments the shapes of which are dictated equally by beauty and necessity. But the truest, lightest mark of the handmade garment is found in deriving the former from the latter.
This is especially the case with a bold pattern. My loudest garment to date is a large glen plaid jacket in rusty brown, cream and slate-blue tweed. The scale is almost double that of any other pattern I own. While I am always fascinated by the transformation of flat cloth into three-dimensional form, I was especially impressed with how Chris Despos fashioned this jacket. One might think of a bold pattern as something like elevation for the master chef; the ordinary cook might not give the matter much thought, but in the pursuit of excellence, every variable must be expertly considered and accounted for.
But Despos’ work is not mere pattern-matching. Today’s best computerized machines can approximate some matching with simple stripes and checks, but would likely spark and catch fire if programmed to execute the miracle that has been achieved with this cloth. The patch pockets are virtually invisible; the boldest part of the check is centered to the millimeter on the lapels; the shoulders join at an ideal pitch; darts through the front body of the jacket barely warp the check, like a singularity invisibly bends the fabric of space to the naked eye. My jacket fits, but it does so without disrupting even for a moment the spirit of the pattern—the effect of which is a bold cloth made more wearable by the minimizing of the points at which the pattern fractures.
Nevertheless, wearing a larger pattern presents some challenges. Bold shirts are out, and, as of this writing, I can only envision a solid or textured tie. This is perhaps why bolder jackets and suits have largely been ignored by the ready-to-wear market; they limit the ability of the retailer to sell complimentary accessories. As of late, though, I have noticed louder offerings. I wonder: like the bright linings and flash details of the past, are bold patterns slowly being drawn into the wider market?