When “custom-made” fails to impress, there is an alternative…
In July of 2017, when Conor McGregor showed up to promote his fight with Floyd Mayweather wearing a suit whose pinstripes were in actuality repetitions of the phrase “f—k you” in white letters, the world hailed it as the sartorial equivalent of mixed martial arts.
In fact, Conor’s move was nothing new; he was, as usual, just doing it more violently than anyone else. But such forays into “extreme bespoke,” where custom fabrics are merely the starting point for creating garments that are literally one of a kind, are rarely seen at press conferences.
Duncan Quinn, the British-born, New York–based lawyerturned- designer whose signature style was once described as “Savile Row meets rock ’n’ roll,” has made similar suits for well-heeled clients, though most of the messages woven into them “were not dreamt up by an ex-plumber’s apprentice who climbed to riches on the shoulders of defeated fellow pugilists,” he notes. One recent commission contained the more refined moniker “warlord.” McGregor’s suits, made by California’s tailor-to-the-stars David August for a reported US$4,000 to $10,000 apiece, were relatively inexpensive in a world where most truly bespoke creations begin at a minimum of at least twice the higher end of that range and spike sharply from there.
Of course, the very concept of “bespoke” has all but lost its meaning these days as the term gets slapped onto all kinds of clothing, and other, more pedestrian items, that aren’t even close to fully custom. The tailors of Savile Row have been trying to protect the phrase for years, much as the French fight sparkling wine at home and abroad that calls itself Champagne and isn’t from the illustrious region. It’s understandable, as true bespoke suits take about 50 hours each to cut and sew, and at least three fittings to perfect. “Being able to make something truly unique has become the realm of the rarefied atelier,” Quinn notes.
“It’s not ‘custom-fitted,’ assembled in China, or ‘made-to-measure’; you can’t order it online or have it done in a week. All true bespoke is extreme, but some is more extreme than others. It starts with designing your own fabric, and shutting down the entire mill — usually in England or Italy — for a day so that enough cloth can be woven for a single suit, after which it can never be made for anyone else. From there, if you can dream it up and afford it, we can create it, and probably have.”
Constructing everything from hidden compartments for items that are not usually carried in gentlemen’s pockets to near pornographic or Kevlar linings à la bulletproof vests, Quinn and a very few other tailors provide their services to the likes of real-life Kingsman characters; nondisclosure agreements are occasionally required. You’ve never heard of most of their clients, and they’ve gone to a lot of trouble to make sure you never do. “These are the kind of guys who buy vineyards, soccer clubs, and hypercars,” Quinn says. “They go to Monaco to have megayachts designed from the ground up. But they never advertise the fact. And they’d never dream of wearing something off the rack.”
Quinn makes a lot of suits for such men in the US$20,000 to $30,000 range. “That’s a car for most people,” he notes. “Or the down payment on a house. Special things. But you only have to buy them once. As Henry Royce [the cofounder of Rolls-Royce] once said, you’ll remember the quality long after you forget the price. We are not in the need market; we’re in the want market. And that is completely different. Yes, there are guys for whom money is as irrelevant as breathing air. But ultimately it’s not about cost; it’s about passion, and understanding that it makes you a better man — at everything.”
By the same token, while having diamonds for buttons might make your suit more expensive than anyone else’s, it certainly won’t make you better dressed. “Sartorially, that’s as subtle as driving a bright-purple Bugatti,” Quinn says. “We could find a way to do it tastefully, but we’d probably advise against it.” But if precious stones are your thing, for about US$16,000 or so Quinn will make you a two-piece suit crafted from a fabric specially made by Dormeuil, the French textile house established in 1842, which is blended with minute particles of crushed jade, resulting in a wool cloth that seems softer and smoother than any other on earth. Or perhaps, for more than US$28,000, you’d prefer a suit out of Guanashina, a combination of baby cashmere, kid pashmina and the wool of the guanaco, a relative of the llama from the Andes mountains whose hair was used for the coronation robes of royal Incas.
“Will anyone else know the fabric alone cost several thousand dollars a yard?” Quinn asks. “Of course not. And that’s the most ‘f—k you’ move there is.” ■
BY JARED PAUL STERN
PHOTOGRAPHED BY LUCAS NOONAN
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