When high technology meets traditional tailoring
Meet The Nice Guys; Of Monsters and Men comes to town; the latest in sights and sounds
MICHAEL ROTH, MASTER TAILOR AT HUGO BOSS, grabs the jacket that I’m wearing by the nape and pulls it up. He’s not getting violent, but simply showing me how he wants my suit to fit when it’s completed. “This is how it should fit, after taking in a few centimetres,” he explains. I’ve had a few suits made to fit in my time, but this is new to me, and I point that out to Roth. Most tailors, even master tailors, focus on the shoulder blades. They’ll point out that the shoulder seams should be slanted, and that most people don’t have symmetrical bodies. He does another unusual measurement, the length between my clavicle and the top of my shoulder. According to Roth, “if you have a protruding clavicle that’s not accounted for when measuring the suit, it can stick out against the jacket, which further affects how the chest piece and rest of the canvas falls against the body”. That’s another titbit I never knew. But Roth, with his years of experience in developing Hugo Boss’ Made-to-Measure programme, has spent a lot of time figuring out these details. After all, the Germans do have a reputation for precision and detail, particularly in engineering and design. And a suit is as much a feat of science as it is a craft. He sighs a little when it comes to fitting me. “Slim people are more difficult to fit,” he comments by way of explanation. “I think you prefer your pants to be more tapered than usual?” without prompting. He continues, “You wear your jackets with the sleeves just on the wristbone, that’s shorter than usual but you have long limbs so it’s good. If you wanted, we could take in the length of the blazer so it’s trendier, but it might be odd since you have long limbs.” I nod my agreement. “Happy to keep it at the same length,” I comment. “Good!” He’s pleased. “You’re easier because you know what you like, what you want, you have an idea of what it is you want to have in your wardrobe to complement what you already own,” he says. “Some customers have no idea what they want and the first meeting takes a while as they decide.” Part of the reason why the first meeting takes so long is also because Hugo Boss has an extensive list of materials. This season alone, I’m looking at some 60 fabrics with a long list of impressive names that are designed to cause one to sigh with desire. Biella mills are aplenty, and in various hues and patterns. Whether it’s seersucker, broad pinstripes, windowpane checks or glen plaid, there’s something for everybody.
The programme is not designed for exclusivity, so if you’re expecting gold or platinum threads, or want your personalised pinstripe a la Modi style, you should look elsewhere. But for a well constructed, fully canvassed suit, either two or three pieces and with shirt offerings, the BOSS MTM programme is quite palatable. “We decided to create the MTM programme some seven years ago, and it took two years of development before it was realised,” he explains while purposefully sticking pins into my jacket sleeves and pants. “It was a drawn out process. We looked at how we wanted to build it, and how other companies had their MTM programmes. That led us to decide what we wanted and didn’t want to implement in our own style.” The process starts with looking at the material selection, though in my case, we begin with an explanation of the canvassing and the particular style of suiting that Hugo Boss has made. However, it’s during the material selection process that Roth engages with his customer and finds out more about them, thus allowing him to better judge what will be an interesting selection for him. As he points out, “we don’t want to make a suit that fits well, but the customer ends up not wearing because he’s uncomfortable with it, be it for aesthetic reasons or something else”. He points out that when we first met, he gleaned an idea of me just from a first glance, which further developed as I picked out the colours, patterns and textures that appealed to me. We sift through choices, separating them into ‘yes’ and ‘no’ piles and repeat this over and over until we’re down to a handful. Then we sort them based on colours. Finally, one is selected. This process is repeated with the shirt, and then the details. Buttons are the most important. “We have mother-of-pearl, bullhorn and more, and even threads are matched or deliberately contrasted.” He picks out a deep blue for my caramel-toned plaid suit with a deep blue lining, matched with brown bullhorn buttons on the suit. What’s humorous is the personalisation, which is on the shirt as well as just under the inner left pocket of the suit. BOSS allows you to select your actual signature, or really any design that they can re-create in stitching, using laser technology to
create the pattern that is then threaded. Fumbling for choice, I ended up with a part of a drawing my art director made for me several years ago. “Nothing too complicated,” is Roth’s polite reply to the glint in my eye when he explains this. What I do find interesting about the programme is its data-intensive design. BOSS’ German mindset is clearly at play here. Even the sheer number of measurements (anything between 40-odd to 60) is impressive, even if it’s taking in 0.2mm somewhere. “Materials, colours and patterns that you’ve rejected will never be presented to you again the next time you come in for a suit,” he points out. “While each season will see different materials released from the brand, if something is similar to a material you’ve rejected before, you won’t see it again unless you specifically request to see these choices.” The idea is to offer you something slightly new and perhaps a bit different, one suit at a time, a relationship that’s maintained with tailor and client. He notes one difference between Asian and European buyers. “European buyers tend to start with one suit. They’ll try it out, give it a feel and then come back for a couple more, and a couple more. Asian buyers tend to order five or 10 at a time. For them, it’s convenient.” But data aside, there’s also a lot of attention paid to personal habits. For instance, Roth once designed special armholes that offered greater ease of movement because the client liked to make great gestures with his arms. It’s things like that that he tries to impart to the BOSS MTM staff in countries where the programme is available (Singapore is one) when he trains them. He makes sure that they don’t just know how to take measurements, but also how to provide solutions for clients’ special needs as well as offer ideas for their next suit. Now that the programme is up and running across the world, Roth is spending his time researching new suit construction methods. I ask what he’s got up his sleeve, and he shows me a blazer that he’s been working on for the last six months or so ‒ something lightweight, comfortable and incredibly pliable. I ask when it’s coming out, but he comments that it’s still being studied. That’s data working with design in a smart way. Trust a German fashion label to think through the process so logically.
BOSS allows you to select your actual signature, or any design that they can re-create with thread
Some customers have no idea what they want and the first meeting takes a while as they decide