Whether it's a tailored or made-to-measure suit, Edmonton men are choosing to leave the rack behind
By Steven Sandor | December 29, 2017
Photography Colin Way
Hair/Makeup Amber Prepchuk
Tailor Sam Abouhassan and one of his clients, Oilers Great Craig Simpson
With the rise of national chains like Indochino – which opened a store in West Edmonton Mall in 2017 – the made-to-measure movement has gone mainstream. But, while the chain makes it possible to order a made-to-measure suit for less than $500, there are Edmonton mainstays who have been outfitting men for decades. As a consumer, it’s important to know what options are out there when it comes to shopping for suits.
It’s important to remember that made-to-measure and custom tailoring aren’t the same thing, even though the terms are sometimes (incorrectly) used interchangeably.
Made-to-measure suits are made off-site, usually in a factory. A customer tries on many template jackets and pants, and then the measurements are taken from there. Computers and photos can be used. A custom-tailored suit is produced after a customer is measured in the shop and picks the material. A tailor then makes the suit on-site.
Sam Abouhassan is the city’s most well-known custom tailor. He’s been in business for nearly four decades in downtown Edmonton at his eponymous shop. And, while he’s noted a surge in made-to-measure outlets, he laments that there aren’t more custom-tailor shops. While made-to-measure has soared, the custom tailor is dying out. Sam Abouhassan
“It takes years of experience to open up a tailor shop,” says Abouhassan. “There are a lot more traveling salesmen, a lot more new outfits, a lot more salesmen doing made-to-measure. But these people are not tailors. They are not tradesmen. If bespoke tailoring were simple, we’d see as many tailors as we see 7-Eleven stores.”
Abouhassan only carries fabrics from the top mills in England and Italy – names like Zegna, Scabal, Dormeuil and Vitale Barberis. They cost hundreds of dollars a yard. So, a custom-made Zegna jacket will cost around $3,000. But Abouhassan says that a suit that hangs in the closet is a bad buy, no matter the cost. A customer may get a lot more value out of a $3,000 jacket that lasts, looks good and is comfortable than a $400 suit that he wears only once or twice.
“Anyone can take measurements, but to be able to analyze a customer’s posture, the slope of the back, to mould clothes to his shape, you need years of experience,” he says.
Indochino is a Vancouver-based chain that is in the midst of a bold expansion plan, as the company added eight locations in North America in 2017.
Indochino keeps the price point low by introducing bespoke services: the staff takes your measurements, you pick the material, and the order is sent to China to be manufactured.
Ray Kagawa, the showroom manager for Indochino’s West Edmonton Mall location, took photos of my posture, both side and front profiles. I tried on several templates, which could be pinned and fitted the way I felt the most comfortable. There are choices of stitching, of material, of collars. The measurements and details are all sent to China, and then the suit and/or shirts come back in a few weeks. The measurements are kept on file, for when the customer returns to the store or shops online.
At Henry Singer, the staff have seen a large surge in demand for made-to-measure suits.
“The appetite for luxury is growing,” says Sonny Sekhon, manager at Henry Singer’s downtown location. “You can spend $10,000 on a Kiton suit and guys don’t bat an eyelash at that.”
The thing is, if you stay within about 10 pounds of your made-to-measure weight, you don’t have to do a lot of shopping. A salesperson can bring fabric samples to the customer and he can pick out new suits and shirts for the season.
One of the major draws of made-to-measure is the fact that a customer can get a suit that’s pretty unique. When a store like Henry Singer buys stock, it skews to more conservative choices. There will always be markets for blacks and navy blues and greys. For the man who wants a jacket that makes a loud fashion statement, that’s where made-to-measure works.
“In Edmonton you aren’t going to have the selection you would in New York or Milan,” says Sekhon. “Our store is not going to have a bright green dinner jacket in stock. But that’s an additional benefit of made to measure. You can get that jacket.”
Henry Singer can order suits from Coppley, Isaia and Kiton – the famed Italian suitmaker.
Coppley is a Hamilton, Ontario-based suitmaker, and Sekhon doesn’t think it gets appropriate credit for turning out high quality suits. “I don’t think Coppley gets the attention it deserves because it’s Canadian,” says Sekhon. Coppley has recently started a new made-to-measure line that drops the price of a suit below $1,000, which is a reaction to the disruption Indochino has brought to the business. Kiton is at the other end of the spectrum.
“When we looked at carrying Kiton, I didn’t think there was a market for it here in Edmonton,” says Sekhon. “I was proven wrong. And if a guy comes in and wants to spend $10,000 on a suit, we see that he won’t just buy one, he’ll buy five over the year.”
Kiton has a policy that it only makes a limited number of the same suit – worldwide. This ensures that those who spend five digits on a suit will – almost certainly – not run into another guy at a party wearing the same clothes.
Wedding Tip: Forget the boring, off-the-rack rental suit: your wedding is an opportunity to invest in a special piece made just for you. Personalize your look by choosing the fabric colours and textures, and look your best in a suit that’s made to fit. And, unlike a bride’s wedding dress, you can wear a custom suit more than once.
This article appears in the January 2018 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.