SUITED IN ALL CASES
IN THE INTERESTS OF TRAVELLING LIGHT, DAVID MEAGHER TRIED OUT THE NEW TRAVEL TAILORING SUIT FROM BURBERRY ON HIS VISIT TO HONG KONG LATE LAST YEAR. AFTER WEARING THE LIGHTWEIGHT, PARED-BACK WOOL SUIT FOR THE ENTIRE TRIP, THE WISH EDITOR DECLARED IT SIMPLY
Packing light is an art form and one that, until recently, I have failed to master. Last year I made10 overseas trips and for nine of those I packed a suitcase — plural in some instances — that made full use of the baggage allowance included with my ticket. I will never be one of those people who checks in for an international flight with nothing but hand luggage, and I don’t want to be. If you take only hand luggage then you need to take a sizeable amount of it and I find it tedious roaming through airports and getting up and down stairs and escalators with a trolley case and an overnight bag. I would rather check in a suitcase and carry the bare minimum with me.
However, for my final trip last year — to Hong Kong to produce this issue — I decided that I’d had enough of packing for every eventuality and then some. I wanted to travel with the minimum amount of luggage. I was faced with a four-night trip to Hong Kong with back-to-back meetings, interviews and dinners to attend. I knew I would need a suit and tie for most of those, so I wondered if I could wear the same suit for the entire trip. It was an exercise in reduction rather than elimination but also about taking the fuss out of what to wear on the road. The good news is, it can be done. The bad news: it takes a lot of planning and preparation — stuffing a suitcase with your entire wardrobe is certainly quicker. THE PERFECT SUIT. If you’re going to wear the same suit for a few days running it needs to be up to the job. The idea for my travelling light experiment was sparked by the launch of Burberry’s Travel Tailoring collection of men’s suits. As the name implies, the suits have been designed for people who travel a lot. They are made in a lightweight wool fabric designed specifically to allow for freedom of movement, which means that you can wear the suit on the plane if you want and still feel comfortable. Many people make the mistake of thinking that if you’re going to a warm climate you need a cotton or linen-blend suit. Those fabrics, however, have almost no natural stretch, crush easily and you can only wear them once or twice before they need to be brought back to life through professional pressing.
Burberry’s travel suit collection is made from 100 per cent merino wool cloth developed in Biella in northern Italy, a district that has been producing wool and silk fabrics for centuries. The British fashion company calls it “memory fabric”, which means it has natural stretch (the yarn is woven on an oversized loom to produce increased stretch) and won’t lose its shape if crushed or crumpled.
The right fabric is only part of what you need. If you’ve ever picked apart a suit jacket, you’ll notice that its construction is almost as complicated as the engine of a car. The construction of Burberry’s Travel Tailoring has been pared back and has fewer internal components. In particular, the shoulders and the chest have no wadding, just a lightweight horsehair canvas. Why is this important? First, the more components in a suit construction, the more things there are to get crushed and forced out of shape and, second, the more “stuff” around the chest and shoulders of the jacket, the more restrictive it is for the wearer and the more the suit weighs.
Getting creases out of trousers or the body of a jacket is one thing but getting them out of the shoulders — the most complicated component of a suit — is quite another; once the padding in the shoulder is damaged, no amount of pressing will bring it back into shape. The removal of most of the padding in the shoulders of Burberry’s Travel Tailoring means the jacket has a softer, more rounded appearance on the shoulders. Simplifying the shoulder construction also makes it easier to pack. The suit has been designed to be folded, squashed and crumpled and then bounce back into shape with relative ease. WHAT TO WEAR IT WITH. The Burberry Travel Tailoring collection comes in a relatively small palette of colours to make choosing what to wear it with easier. If you stick with navy, mid grey or dark grey, there is almost no shirt or tie you can’t wear with it. ( I opted for a midgrey Prince of Wales check.) I always pack enough shirts to get through the trip without having to launder them (I avoid hotel laundries as much as possible because of the cost and the damage they can wreak on your clothes).
Pack an assortment of plain white, light blue or blue check or striped shirts and a different tie for every day. Ties take up little room in a suitcase and if you keep them simple and wear plain coloured shirts, then you don’t have to put too much thought into what you wear each day. HOW TO PACK. Don’t bother with a suit bag. They’re cumbersome and, as they have to be carried, can be murder on your back when stuffed full. There is often limited space in the cabin of an aircraft to hang them up so they frequently end up in the cargo hold or the overhead locker, which defeats their purpose. Regardless, they are one of the great myths of travel. As they are soft, your clothes get crushed anyway and in my experience do more damage to a suit jacket than folding it carefully in a suitcase. Fold your jacket in half vertically (along the seam that runs up the middle of the back) and then fold it in half again. Fold the trousers just once if you can, or in thirds if not.
Unpack as soon as you get there. I hate unpacking, but no matter how tired I am I will at least take out the items that need hanging and put them in the wardrobe. Just hanging a suit jacket up overnight can be enough to get the packing creases out of it. For the trousers, use one of the clip hangers in the wardrobe that are meant for women’s skirts. Clip the trousers at the cuffs and hang them up (upside down). Depending on the fabric, the weight of the trousers can be enough to pull the packing creases out overnight. IRON BEFORE YOU PACK. Have your shirts ironed and folded before you pack them. Yes, they will get crushed but if you arrive at a hotel with no iron, or don’t have time to send your shirts to the laundry before your first appointment, you will have a shirt that was recently ironed and just has a few packing creases. And if there is an iron in your room, you can give it a quick once-over and you’re good to go.
Use the hotel iron with caution. The first thing I do when I check into a hotel is ask for an iron and ironing board. More often than not, hotel irons are rubbish. They’re cheap, they’re never cleaned and they often spit water and dirt at your clothes rather than a shot of clean steam. No matter how good the iron is, always use a handkerchief (or pillowcase) between your trousers and the iron so you don’t get a nasty sheen on the fabric. Test the iron on an inconspicuous part of your shirt before you iron it. THE FINAL ANALYSIS. I travel with a small portable clothes steamer, which is excellent for getting a jacket back into ship shape. I could have left it at home on this trip as I never used it. Just hanging up the Burberry travel suit was enough to get it back into ship shape. Hong Kong is known for its tailors and many businessmen buy a suit when on a work trip. On day three of our Hong Kong adventure I was catching the Star Ferry across the harbour to a meeting when I was stopped by a well-dressed businessman who asked me where I had my suit made. I took it as proof the travel tailoring concept works, as surely no one would compliment someone on a crushed suit?