Few bespoke tailors specialize in casualwear – and for good reasons. Casualwear is a lot more forgiving in terms of fit, and with thousands of ready-to-wear labels on the market, consumers are hardly at a loss for options. Also, most tailors are better thought of as technicians, rather than designers. In the clothing trade, designing and making a garment are two very different skills. Nigel Cabourn probably can’t make you a jacket, but he can design the hell out of one – and it’ll be a lot better than what a tailor can come up with.
There are exceptions though. Alabama-born Savannah Yarborough is one of the few tailors with design experience. She studied menswear at London’s Central Saint Martins, then returned home in 2010 to work as the senior menswear designer for Billy Reid (you may have heard of the label). In 2011, she also designed one of the best-selling women’s jackets for the brand – a cropped double rider made out of a crinkly tobacco leather. Then, earlier this year, she struck out on her own to start Atelier Savas, a new bespoke tailoring company for unconventional leather outerwear.
The process of making a bespoke leather jacket isn’t too different from what happens with a suit or sport coat. Measurements are taken; paper patterns are drafted; materials are cut; and the garment is then sewn. The two biggest differences: since leather will show holes from where a needle has passed, Yarborough conducts her fittings using toile (a cheap, unbleached cloth used to make sample garments). You occasionally see it used to make bespoke men’s shirts, although it’s much more common in women’s haute couture.
The design process is also different. There are a million ways you can design a leather jacket, whereas – with the exception of maybe Cifonelli – most traditional tailors stick to pretty standard templates (single vs. double breasted; notch vs. peak lapels; patched vs. welted pockets, etc). Yabourgh, on the other hand, takes a lot more liberty with her work, playing with proportions here and there for her unconventional designs (notice the heavily dropped front balance, where the hems angle down). She also incorporates washing and distressing into her finishings, which is something you’d never see on Savile Row.
Of course, as with anything bespoke, prices aren’t cheap, but dang – the only thing preventing me from stopping by Atelier Savas’ workshop, even if only to browse Yarborough’s past creations, is 2,300 mile distance from here to Nashville, Tennessee.