Visiting Savile Row can be a daunting prospect (and not just for your wallet).
You’ve discovered your waistline is several inches wider than previously suspected, and your height half an inch shorter. You’ve tried to banish the memories of weird Uncle Jasper as the tailor carefully measures your inside leg. You’ve cursed yourself for not wearing matching socks.
All this done, you’ve entered a forest of fine tailoring and, miracle of miracles, almost immediately picked out the perfect jacket, a thing of transcendent beauty, a garment you never knew existed but now cannot live without. Unbelievable! You thought you’d be here for hours, umming and aahing, and yet you seem to be a man of purpose after all – A Man Who Knows His Suits.
“I’ll take this one!” you exclaim triumphantly.
The tailor’s smile is benign and empty. It’s the smile of Mrs Hunter, your primary school teacher, after she’d asked the class, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and you’d answered, “David Beckham.”
“That’s made from vicuna wool, sir,” says the tailor. “One of our finest. Quite expensive at made-to-measure, although there is the option of an off-the-rack purchase.”
You bristle. This is your birthday present to yourself, and if there’s one person in the world you’re willing to spend a little extra upon it’s the person who lives in the mirror.
“Let’s go made-to-measure,” you say. “What’s the damage?”
“We start at £20,000,” replies the tailor.
“£20,000?!” You make a sound like a freshly kicked chihuahua. “For a suit?”
“No, sir. For a jacket.”
The Casual Fitters store could easily pass for an art gallery with its Commercial Street location and bleached brickwork aesthetic
Three hours later and you’ve picked out something a little closer to your price point. You know more about suit fabrics than you do about your parents. You’re tired and hungry and overwhelmed and you want to go home, but at least the ordeal is almost over.
“So, sir,” says the tailor with the bracing authority of a village police officer, “now it’s time to pick out a colour.”
“Grey,” you tell him. This, at least, you know. You want a grey suit. You’ve wanted a grey suit for years.
The tailor nods. “What type of grey?”
“How many types of grey are there?”
“We offer 653. Not to worry, not to worry!” For the tailor has seen your expression, the tailor has produced a book no smaller than the Old Testament, “we have them all laid out here! For you, sir, I’d recommend Glaucous or Marengo. Maybe Xanadu at a push... Sir, sir! Try not to cry!”
It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s genuinely enjoyable – a centuries-old profession updated for the modern consumer
All of which is a roundabout way of saying, thank God for places such as Casual Fitters, offering made-to-measure tailoring at affordable prices and with a relatively streamlined selection of high-quality fabrics. (Don’t get me wrong: there are still loads of fabrics to choose from. You just have a decent chance of eventually making a choice.)
The Casual Fitters store could easily pass for an art gallery with its Commercial Street location and bleached brickwork aesthetic. You don’t know whether to browse the clothes rails or scrutinise them for a hidden comment on the futility of love.
There is plenty of fine tailoring here, but also chinos (a best seller), T-shirts, and even sunglasses – all very much putting the ‘casual’ in Casual Fitters.
If you’re after a suit, founder Julian Lloyd Jones will help you pick one out, take your measurements – the changing room is created by a white curtain; this is very much Savile Row x Shoreditch – and guide you through the fabric book, which is thankfully more of a novella. Then you pick various specifications on the computer; or in my case, I asked Julian his recommendation – “what type of button would you pick?” and we tended to go with that.
It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s genuinely enjoyable – a centuries-old profession updated for the modern consumer. I'll let Julian take it from here...
What made you create Casual Fitters?
I wanted a product that I would wear everyday; I'd be happy with the quality and I could actually afford! A £5,000 bespoke suit, or £400 bespoke trousers, I couldn't afford.Having made-to-measure trousers for £120, made in Portugal with Italian fabrics – it mightn't be in everyone's price point but if you go to a mid-tier brand you're spending the same amount of money for a product that's made in China and not tailored to you.
I found a gap and saw some cost-efficiencies to be able to deliver a product that's better for the same price point, and it's also tailored instead of just off-the-rack. You have input with fit, style details, and fabric as well.
What’s your USP?
Really good value product at a fairly reasonable price. We don't really compromise on quality at all. We buy from the fabric mills that every top tailor buys from. We construct with a full canvas in Portugal, so it's the highest level that you can do in a made-to-measure suit, at a really reasonable price.
Why the limited choice of fabrics?
So the reason for the limited fabric choice is twofold: it's reducing your options, so you don't get overwhelmed if you haven't been into a tailor before, and it's cost efficient. By buying our fabrics in bulk, storing them in the warehouse where the garments are constructed, it saves a lot of time and money, and ensures best value for the customer.
Who’s your typical customer?
We've got a real mix, from Shoreditch creative types who tend to wear trousers, chinos and a T-shirt to work, maybe a button-down, to City people who'll wear more traditional suiting. Saying that, people who work in the City are heading more casual these days, more towards a button-down shirt and chinos rather than a full suit every day of the week. There's a real mix between those demographics.
For more info, see casualfitters.co.uk