March 14, 2020 by Ville Raivio
BESNARD is a Dutch menswear company that has its roots back in 1878. That’s when a certain master tailor Albert Besnard set up a shop with a specialisation in court livery. A. Besnard Tailleur plied its trade in The Hague. In the beginning, most of the business came from the nearby Dutch Royal Palace, later on numerous servants and diplomats connected to the regime walked through the door. The times they were a-changin’, though, and Albert had no one to continue or buy the family business, so the store stopped trading after some four decades in business. Fast forward a century, and the master tailor’s great-great-grandson, Victor, found a suit made by the old store. Though Victor Besnard is not an artisan, and his trade is strategy consultancy, he has experience in the field of menswear and from a tailor shop. Thus, the grandson decided to revive the name and set up a business that caters to classic pieces.
As Victor puts it, “I started working in menswear when I was 17 and continued until I started my career as a strategy consultant after college. My time at a luxury multi-brand store sparked my passion for classic menswear, and working at a bespoke tailor resulted in a ‘healthy’ obsession for tailoring and craftsmanship. It wasn’t until long after I started working as a consultant that I missed working with clothing. It was around the same time that I found a bespoke suit made by my great-great-grandfather, at that moment I decided to revive Besnard. It is definitely my ambition to grow the brand to a level where I can make a living from it. Currently, I work 4 days per week in consulting to cover the investment for new products and pay the rent. The rest of my time is dedicated to Besnard.”
BESNARD is run by one man, with occasional help from his wife, and former colleagues in tailoring helped with patterns and samples in the development phase. The company’s target group are men aged 30 to 50 who appreciate craftsmanship or certain designs or details. Trust is an important value for Victor Besnard: in his mind, clothes should be simple in design, have a high quality, and last a long time. They shouldn’t change too much in model or fit from year to year. Countless startup clothing companies have risen up in the 2000s, and standing out from so many others is a challenge. One option is to produce RTW-pieces which take their inspiration and features from bespoke tailoring.
Says Victor: “movies and pictures from ’50s and ’60s are a tremendous inspiration for me. It is fascinating to observe how men dressed at those times. I am a big fan of the ’60s Ivy League look and the design of my button-down shirts was heavily inspired by vintage OCBDs. However, my fit is a bit slimmer to make it more contemporary. In addition, I am very passionate about classic menswear and tailoring. I noticed that the bespoke suits worn by movie stars such as Cary Grant and Sean Connery had a certain masculinity in them. One of the reasons is the higher waist of their trousers, which visually lengthens the legs and shortens the torso, leading to a more masculine sense of proportion. This is something I also wanted to achieve with my trousers. Finally, I am an admirer of the soft unconstructed Neapolitan tailoring. Developing a tailoring line is a time consuming and costly investment, so unfortunately that must wait. This month I am launching a line of untipped ties with hand-rolled edges, in grenadine, shantung and hand-printed silks.”
BESNARD has chosen its manufacturers according to their quality and specialisation. As an example, only some shirt factories use English seams (also known as single-needle tailoring) and some tie makers offer hand-rolled edges. The company also uses unique designs which limits the range of white label manufacturers. The fabrics and materials come from mills which also supply tailors and high-end factories. As for the designs and value, the designer opines: “I think that passion is an important part which makes BESNARD different. The devil is in the details, and I care about every detail. Because little things can make a huge difference; the position of the buttons to ensure a nice collar roll, the difference between the front rise and back rise of a trouser pattern or simply the balance of the width of a shirt placket and the amount of millimeters the stitching is from the edge.”