When high tech­nol­ogy meets tra­di­tional tai­lor­ing

Augustman - - Contents - WORDS DAR­REN HO PHO­TOS HUGO BOSS

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

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