Bookster: Made to Measure Clothing

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January 18, 2020 by Ville Raivio

Bookster is an English company, founded by Michele and Peter King in 2007, dealing with men’s made to measure clothing. Its beginnings go back to the early 2000s when the owners started selling vintage and classic men’s clothing, specialising in tweed. Many times the customers were offered a serving of no-can-do because larger sizes are hard to come by used. Men were thinner and shorter decades ago. Thus the idea of making pieces to order and, as luck would have it, most men asked for tweedy things.

Bookster began as a humble eBay store in 2003, within a few years they got a bit of a reputation online as a tweed and country clothing specialist. In 2007, they set up their online custom tailoring site with a few permanent pieces, such as a hacking jacket, that could be customised with a set of options. Unlike most MTM-companies, Bookster has honed a long-distance process for measuring at home, with assistance through email or by phone when needed. There’s also a showroom in Newent, Gloucestershire, for those who’d like to make a reservation face-to-face. The company was on a hiatus for a year and finally sold in 2013 to Tattersall Tweed Ltd. Today both Kings continue with the updated Bookster.

To date, Bookster’s specialisation is in very British tweeds. The cloth selection is some 350 at the moment, around 60% of these are tweeds. The selection has been widened to suitings and coatings and cottons and such, but nearly all mills are British. Only one is Irish and loden cloth is imported from Austria. The customer can order fabric samples by mail before deciding anything else. The company has its orders made in Europe, in the UK if requested, and offers one of the largest selections for custom details I’ve seen. All jackets and coats feature a half-canvas with usually a strong shoulder structure, with the option for softer constructions by request. There is plenty of info to be read on the site about cloths, measuring, and details before deciding anything so Bookster is not really suitable for hasty chaps — unless they choose some of the set of off-the-peg pieces for men and women. Rather, those with very particular likes and enough time will return. The wait time is some 7 weeks from the order date.

The latest update from Bookster is a stand-alone sales point at Lidholm’s, a classic clothing store in Gothenburg, Sweden. Otherwise there is little info about the company online and few customer photos, so my tip for the reader is to search online for one Nicho Lowry. He is a long-standing Bookster customer and a thoroughly tweedy dresser.

Bookster’s cloth suppliers:

https://www.bookster.co.uk/


An Interview with Tailor Alan Cannon Jones

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January 5, 2020 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?
ACJ: Age 72 years. Occupation: Citizen and Merchant Taylor of London. My career has been as a tailor and a teacher, now I work part time.

VR: Your educational background?
ACJ: Secondary School to age 15. At age 15, I started a 5-year apprenticeship as a tailor attending the London College of Fashion part time whilst also working, and gained City & Guilds qualifications. Later in mid career, in 1985, I studied part time to gain a PG-Certificate in Education so I could start to teach tailoring. In 1995, I enrolled on a Master’s course, part time, to take an MSc in Technology Management, graduating in 1997. This enabled me to progress to teaching at Master’s level and to supervise Ph.D. students.

 

VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your tailoring enthusiasm)?
ACJ: Married 48 years, with three children who are a Mountaineer, a Teacher and  a Garment Technologist. So my youngest has followed into fashion in a technology role.

 

VR: …and your parents and siblings’ reactions back when you told them of your job goals?
ACJ: Always supportive and encouraging.

 

VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?
ACJ: Outdoor walking, Canal boating, theatre and music. Frequent concert attender, especially jazz, blues and rock music.

 

VR: How did you first become interested in style, and when did you turn your eyes towards more classic pieces? Why these instead of fast fashion?
ACJ: After I started my apprenticeship at age 16, I went into tailoring as a career to learn skills and my interest in style developed from that. I was aged 13 in 1960, so those formative years were through the 1960s for all my teenage years. The ’60s was an amazing period for both music and fashion.

At Chester Barrie‘s

VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of tailoring — from books, in-house apprenticeship or somewhere else?
ACJ: Through my apprenticeship, followed with reading books and magazines, talking with people and listening and learning from my masters (Master Tailors).

 

VR: You worked for Chester Barrie back in the days, first as a cutter. What was CB’s cut like?
ACJ: The CB cut was a mixture of American and Swedish. The company originally started in New York, then opened a factory in Crewe, England. The original cutting was American and then in the 1950s they took on a Swedish Designer who was technically trained, and he developed the classic cut and style. I worked alongside him for a year which was memorable. He was a very talented man and a good teacher.

The cutter-to-be

VR: How was Chester Barrie different from others, and why was it so influential?
ACJ: First of all, QUALITY. The quality of C.B. suits was at the same level as Bepoke Tailoring at Savile Row. The suits were partly hand made (sewn) but in a very engineered method ensuring consistent quality. Several Savile Row tailors stocked C.B. suits as a ready to wear option if customers required that service.  They led the world at that level, a comparison today would be Brioni, Cifonelli.  They were ahead of Hickey Freeman and Oxxford Clothes in those days.

 

VR: Your path led to the London College of Fashion after CB. How did you come to join the college and what was your position in its ranks?
ACJ: The industry started to go off shore and the Ackerman family decided to sell C.B. to a retail consortium, so I looked for a career move. I was speaking at an industry conference on tailoring and afterwards was approached by the Principal of the London College of Fashion, and asked to join them to lead and develop both Menswear and Tailoring at the college. I started as a Senior Lecturer rising later to Principal Lecturer and Director for Menswear and Bespoke Tailoring.

 

VR: How did you feel about the changes in men’s tailoring in the ’60s?
ACJ: The 1960s were very much about the Mod era with Tonik suits. Carnaby Street and the Kings Road in London revolutionised young fashion by breaking all the rules. People like Mary Quant, Mr Fish, Tommy Nutter and Edward Sexton really changed fashion whilst challenging it, and they kept a quality to their work.

 

VR: Do we have it better style-wise now than before? How do you view the future?
ACJ: Yes, we have much better insight into style and fashion than before from magazine, blogs and the Internet generally. It has to be said, though, that while it is there, it’s the people who have to choose to follow it. We see many fashion conscious people wearing style and quality, and others buying the cheapest on the high street. It has to be a choice. Currently there is a strong interest in good tailoring and it is affordable for the discerning customer. The future is good, simply because people have to wear clothes and want to be individual.

VR: Who or what inspires you?
ACJ: Always good tailoring, looking back to inspiring designers/tailors such as Hardy Amies. I respect Paul Smith for what he has done for fashion and the Antwerp Six. I currently follow the work of Joe Morgan on Savile Row and Boglioli, Cifonelli. Recent revivals have also been Tiger of Sweden. Many good Italian labels, such as Pal Zileri, Canali, Caruso. The current Caruso range is really strong. I also respect others such as John Smedley knitwear, Sunspel underwear and casual wear, plus Levi’s, Desiel et al. For shirts, I go for Thomas Pink and Paul Smith.

 

VR: What’s your definition of style?
ACJ: Classic quality which looks good and does not date. Details that are classic. My idea is that you can be wearing a garment for ten years and still get positive comments when wearing it. It is important to have a range of clothing and wear a different garment each day to let them relax. Don’t wear the same jacket and trouser on a number or repeat days. Even if you only have a few changes, keep changing them.


A Tour at the John Lobb St. James’s Workshop

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January 5, 2020 by Ville Raivio


An Interview with Tai Nguyen

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November 16, 2019 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?
TN: I am 29, been doing different things but right now working in the financial industry.

VR: Your educational background?
TN: I am a graduate of the Aalto University business school in Helsinki.

VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your style obsession)?
TN: No children as of yet, I have a spouse and she has been very understanding towards my obsession. We’ve been together for some time and she has observed my journey in this hobby with great tolerance.

VR: …how about your parents’ and siblings’ reactions when your style interest began?
TN: I don’t think that they are surprised by my interest in style, but rather the change in it as I have developed throughout the years since I left my home country. Since the time I was a kid, I have always been interested in style overall. Of course it was not the style that I have right now, but I remember always wanting to wear “uncommon” clothes, such as an odd vest or interesting shirts, when I was little. Many bad choices, but still something different.

I sometimes consider it a perk of living in Helsinki (maybe?), but no one really makes a fuss about your hobby and, in my case, what I wear everyday. I sometimes get compliments and questions regarding how I dress. I find out that simple reaction such as “Oh thank you” and “It’s one of my hobbies” work very well here. Over time you and people around you get used to it.

VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?
TN: I loved electric guitars (in a geeky way) since the time I was in high-school and university. Always been a mediocre player though, but I love everything that goes into the make and the nuances of all those things. Still have a Fender Telecaster and a small tube Marshall amp at home and take them out for a spin from time to time.

VR: How did you first become interested in clothing, and when did you turn your eyes towards the tailored look?
TN: As said, since I was a kid I have always wanted to wear “interesting” (not necessarily stylish…) stuff. My personal style might be vastly different at different phases of my life though: so from black rock-band-t-shirts to slim-preppy-red-chinos. I guess I have always been interested in expressing a little bit of myself through clothes. Around the time I got out of university, I saw a really cool video series from Putthison. I did some more research for a while, then classic menswear and tailoring got me hooked.

VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of clothing — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?
TN: Books and mostly the internet when I started, when Tumblr, written blogs and forums were still relevant and Instagram was not popular. I remember borrowing “Dressing the man” from the city library and felt sufficiently snobbish about it… But I humbly think that the most effective method of learning is from really trying (and failing) different things to see the differences in fit, in quality, and in style.

VR: How would you describe your style?
TN: Tough question since my style has gone through changes all the time; and the changes are getting more subtle but there still are some. I would say I am heavily influenced by the soft tailoring realms (maybe Southern Italy, but I love my Ring Jackets and can’t call them Southern Italian though) but with more subtle color palettes that recently lean more towards earth tones. One thing I’ve done lately is to keep my jackets’ silhouette a bit more classic but experiment more with different trouser cuts.

VR: Do you have a particular style or philosophy of cut behind your commissions?
TN: The more expensive the item I commission, the more subtle and “boring” (i.e. not loud and crazy) they are.

VR: Who or what inspires you?
TN: I am intrigued by the people who can take classic menswear items and give them a fresh spin and attitude but still retain the craftsmanship value. Even though they sometimes are not necessarily things I would try, I get huge inspiration from such people. Examples from recent memory are Saman Amel, S.E.H. Kelly, or Drake’s. And then there are the people who do not work in the menswear industry that have the best pieces of tailoring but wear them so discretely and simply that you can only notice if you are a nerd in classic menswear – I also take inspiration from them.

VR: What’s your definition of style?
TN: It’s already a cliché to say that style should be personal, comfortable, yet deliberate (important I think); but to me it’s still true. If someone can take the things they wear in their everyday life (taking partly into consideration social contexts) and infuse some of their intentional and conscious choices (put in thoughts and ideas on what make you look good to you) that make their outfits personal and interesting, then it’s a good thing. Not just tailored clothing or classic menswear, but with any different genres of styles.

VR: Finally, you decided to move to Finland some years ago. What was the motivation, and how would you describe the tailored styles of Finland compared to Vietnam?
TN: I moved here a long time ago, to pursue my studies. I think there is a similarity in which both Vietnam and Finland do not have our own tailoring styles, you can’t pinpoint what makes a Finnish tailored style or Vietnamese jacket cuts. To my eyes, the classic tailoring from Vietnam was influenced by the French in the past (think padded shoulders, closed quarters), then more recently the Korean pop culture swept away the youth’s dressing culture (short and tight-fitting jackets, shiny fabric).

There used to be less varieties there in terms of tailored styles, only maybe recently there are more Italian-style tailoring – it’s like a trend after all. In Finland, the people I’ve met who are interested in tailored / classic menswear styles are quite open, yet many tend to prefer southern-Italian-styled cuts (soft and close shoulders, slimmer fit) – I think we could do with a bit more variety ;-)
https://www.instagram.com/tai_tnt/

Unethical Working Conditions in the Italian Tanning Business

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November 11, 2019 by Ville Raivio




Copyright © 2013 Ville Raivio


Only a beautiful life is worth living.


"If John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed; but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable".
~ Beau Brummell