Friday, July 29, 2011

Don Approves!

A little while back, a man named Don came into the store. I have to admit, I was a little intimidated by him. He had this stern voice and an authoritative attitude to go with. He also had sort of a half smile which made it confusing for me to judge whether he was genuinely in a good mood or it was just the way his lips were shaped.

His request was to have us tailor a shirt for him. Following his request, he said something like this, "You do this for me and if I like your work, I'll bring in more."

A couple weeks later, he showed up, tried on the shirt and we received a nod of approval.

In my head, I was like "YES!"...and "Phew."

The next time Don came in, I was able to smile without beads of perspiration tumbling down my forehead. I knew that since he had chosen to come back, that meant he liked our work.

To our surprise, Don had trusted us enough to ask us to make him a suit!

Although he gave me the jitters, I was confident that Balsam Tailors had the skills to make him look really good.

4 weeks later, he came and tried on his suit. To judge our success, I used the smile on Don's face... it went from a half smile to a full blown mile-long smile! We did it!

Don's a cool guy. He really is.

Lesson here: Never judge a book by its cover, but do judge a man by his smile ;)

Love the brown loafers!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Affordable "Custom Made" Suits Online. Is It Really Worth Your Money?

So I recently read an article featured in a free local weekly magazine (obtainable at one of those street newspaper dispensers) that enthusiastically praised a certain Vancouver-based online suit company for coming up with the brilliant idea of selling inexpensive men's "custom-made" suits and other custom apparel via the internet--making what used to be a luxury shopping experience now accessible to young men all over the world. The concept is brilliant, I have to agree.

But what I have to disagree with is how the author, Steven-something, (I will keep the anonymity of this particular writer because I believe in free speech and not slander) had to exaggerate--or worse, make up shortcomings in what is a normal, safe experience for a clothing-shopper.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

"Buying a suit, even for a man who loves to shop, can give rise to a certain level of anxiety. First, there’s the trying on of layered, woolen garments in cramped fitting rooms under dubious lighting. Then come the tape measure and the pins, wielded by a well-meaning stranger whose job requires a degree of proximity that could, at worst, be described as intimate and, at best, requires a loosening of the traditional Western rules relating to personal space. Meanwhile, you’re standing stock-still (remember, there are sharp, shiny pins involved) and second-guessing where exactly on your waist you wear your pants. Wavering in either direction means tripping over hems that are too long or evincing a Noah-like fear of an upcoming flood. Oh, and if the store in question also caters to women — even on a different floor — chances are this whole discomfiting operation is taking place in sauna-like conditions."

I think this Stephen-something guy got finger-tapping happy and his brain vomited an eloquent paragraph of BS?

I would like to ask this Stephen-something guy how much space he needs to take off and put on a pair of pants? Chances are, fitting rooms in clothing stores are up to building code standards and there is a reason why there are building codes: So that they ensure the safety and comfort of the customer who is using the fitting room?

Stephen-something also mentions the dubious lighting present in stores--that could possibly mislead a person into thinking that the black suit is a blue suit? Okay, he's got a point there. I give him props. But also, do keep in mind, dear shoppers, if you're going to go online and look at pictures of suits and order them, your computer screen isn't going to give you the best representation of the garment's true colour. So that's why I say, go look at the real thing. Make comparisons to other fabrics. Go stand by the window with the fabric. Go outside into broad daylight with it, accompanied by the sales/tailor of course.

Tape measures and pins are necessities during a fitting session. Yes, Stephen-something, the tape touches your body when you're being measured. And there's going to be the occasional finger-brushing-your-skin action. But no finger or hand will be going anywhere near your private areas if that is what you're concerned about. There are specific techniques to measuring a body for a suit or shirt so that the hand doesn't touch your privates--and that's why a trained tailor is required to do this. Not your friend. Not the salesperson helping you. A true tailor with 10+ years of experience. And nowadays, the real tailors you meet are most likely over 50 years old, who have been practicing this rare art of suit-making by hand for decades..longer than any young man has been a young man. So if you think having your measurements taken is the equivalent of having your comfort zone invaded, then I suggest you don't even think about getting a custom suit made nor should you ever go see the doctor. Also, pins go through the fabric, not the skin. Anybody who isn't trained probably shouldn't even be holding pins so close to a customer in the first place. And that's exactly why you go to a professional tailor or custom clothing specialist.

As for the fit, Mr. Steven-something, no real tailor guesses where the waist on a pair of pants should go or how long your pants should be. Common sense tells me, the tailor would ask the customer?

And where did you get the idea that you'd be trying clothes on in a "sauna-like condition"? If you're clueless enough to walk into a boiler room and get your suit made there, then maybe you'd be in this "sauna-like condition" you speak of?

Anyway, after reading this little nonsensical excerpt, it left me in complete awe that this Steven-something guy had the balls to write something so..uhhh, nonsensical?

SO, getting back to the main topic, is online "custom-made" menswear a good idea? I put "custom-made" in quotation marks because I have a pretty strict definition of what custom made really is:

A "custom-made" suit is a suit produced by having your body measurements accurately measured in accordance with your personal preference in fit and style. You would tell the tailor, for example, "I want a suit that is form-fitting but not snug," and immediately, the tailor will know exactly how many inches to add on to the actual body measurements to make that finished suit a "fitted suit" and not a "snug suit". The tailor will also take into consideration the drape and weight of the chosen fabric so that he can inform you what style is possible with that fabric and as well, what style looks best on your body type. A custom-made suit must include a fitting session at which then you get to make adjustments to the size and length before the suit is fully complete. That's how a genuine, traditional "custom-made" suit should be produced. You get the best in quality, fit and style if you go this route.

There are many pros and cons to ordering a "custom-made" suit online. Custom-made in this sense means you get your mommy dearest or your trusted old buddy to measure you, send those measurements to goodness knows who and you wait a few weeks for your suit to show up at your door. That will solve the "stranger-possibly-touching-your -privates issue" that the Steven-something guy brought up.

Hmm, doesn't sound very promising, does it? But wait, there are pros. Just wait.

So what happens when you get the suit and uh, it doesn't fit? Why--you take it to a local tailor and hope that you can get it fixed. Or, you pop that suit back into the mail along with new measurements and you hope, hope, hope that this time you get it right? If you're going to go this route, you better order your suit way WAY beforehand, way before your wedding or your interview.

OK, the cons are pretty obvious.

Nowadays, prices on clothing online can and have hit rock-bottom because of the HUGE garment producing industry in China and the competition here (referring to North America) and there (China). And the selection online is amazing.

But before you get excited, just keep in mind: You do get what you pay for. There's a reason why you pay an inexpensive price...corners are cut and quality is compromised.

Let me clearly illustrate my point:

In the picture above, two sets of shoulder pads are shown. The set on top is what traditional tailor shops use to make those handsome structured shoulders in your suit. They are firm, durable and shaped correctly. The set on the bottom is from a brand new "custom-made" suit, bought online for about CAN $300, that was brought into Balsam Tailors for a major fixing. It looks dingy, way too soft, cheap and mishaped. The owner of this suit complained that the suit gave him slumping shoulders. Hmm, not a surprise.

The grey shoulder pads are what we use at Balsam Tailors, referring to the above picture. It's thicker and firmer than the sad looking ones underneath them.

Okay, so what's so good about online "custom-made" suits and are they worth your money? I can think of two reasons that anybody would order online:

1. They are inexpensive.
2. Buying clothes online is a trend.

And if you ask me, (and...WHY on earth would you ask me if you should buy a cheap suit online because you know I'm biased) my answer would be:

Use your own judgement.

Happy shopping!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Is This Man Possibly The Happiest Man On Earth?

I smile a lot and I especially love when my photo subjects are smiley. When everybody is smiling, taking pictures is a breeze.

So, what made Jeremiah smile from ear to ear for these photos?

A. Could it be that he was wearing full cotton underwear that day?
B. Perhaps, the sun came out after the rain and he was able to get his daily dose of vitamin D?
C. He's getting married in the Philippines to his lovely fiance?
D. He's dressed from head to toe in woolen luxury doused with fitted perfection?

The answer?

Only JEREMIAH would know.. Haha!

Jeremiah's 3-piece custom suit: $1030 + HST

Monday, July 4, 2011

Our Seamstresses Sew And Can Kind Of Draw...

I must admit. Drawing is not one of our fort├ęs.

It made me chuckle when our seamstress produced her interpretation of a blouse that one of our customers requested. However terrible it is, the technical drawing served its purpose, which was to illustrate all the details on the said blouse.

The blouse to be made was actually based on a sample with only a minor change to the hem.

Our blouse:

Customer's sample: