Our guest writer, Aleks Cvetkovic, reflects on Benson & Clegg’s tailoring philosophy, and what it means to be a contemporary bespoke tailor today.
Tailoring is a personal business and it’s always seemed logical to me that it should be a personable business too.
One of the enduring hurdles to visiting any kind of craft business (particularly in London) is that some can unintentionally come across as a little stuffy. Of course, time-honoured tradition is hugely important to businesses that are often several-hundred years old, but to me, as late-twenty-something, there’s nothing less appealing than a tailor, shirtmaker or shoemaker that seems unwilling to try new things.
I’m pleased to report, then, when I first visited Benson & Clegg a couple of years ago I was welcomed with beaming smiles by a team who quickly became firm friends and (in Oli’s case) a great source of man-hugs in the West End. B&C prides itself on its down-to-earth, warm and reassuringly approachable take on a time-honoured craft – and I think it’s worth its weight in gold.
If you’re an existing customer, you’ll know this already. Mark approaches the business of bespoke with a fresh eye and Oli is passionate about treating every client as an individual; keen to understand his own tastes and preferences. Sometimes, I’ve popped in to catch-up with the team and seen imposing overcoats with broad full-bellied lapels and strong roped shoulders on display, and at other times, lightly-canvassed sports coats that pull off the ultimate trick in British tailoring: combining a sleek silhouette with an easy, effortless feel on the body.
This openness to different cuts and constructions – and willingness to experiment in-line with clients’ expectations – sets Benson & Clegg apart. It’s naive to ignore the reality that tailoring is changing and COVID-19 has accelerated this process. Sadly, navy and grey battle armour, heavily canvassed and weighty of cloth, has seldom seemed less relevant to our dressed-down ‘work from home’ society. As a young cutter with a broad pool of cultural references, ranging from ‘70s rock to mid-century Western style, Oli can turn his Savile Row training in almost any direction to suit his clients.
Perhaps it helps that the blazer is a key component of the house’s DNA, thanks to Benson & Clegg’s Royal Warrant for blazer buttons. When you think about it, the blazer is the most rugged of tailored garments – 19th century sportswear worn by university rowers and rugby players to keep them warm on their way down to the river, or the playing field. Today there are few jackets more easy to wear in plain navy fresco with brass buttons; and Benson & Clegg also take pride in kitting out their customers with blazers that will become the backbone of their tailored wardrobe – whether something very formal, or more low-key and casual is required.
A word should also go to how Benson & Clegg has structured the different tailoring services it offers. The team offers Made-To-Measure tailoring for entry level clients, and Offshore Bespoke as a competitive alternative to London Bespoke suits made entirely in-house. This service simply outsources some of the making process to a specialist atelier overseas, while still offering a bespoke pattern, baste and fittings in-house. To be able to offer a handmade bespoke suit in a pattern cut by Oli for around half the price of something made entirely in-house is a great achievement – one that younger clients will doubtless appreciate.
All this, in my view, makes Benson & Clegg a thoroughly modern bespoke tailor. The house’s combined warmth and flexibility is its greatest asset. It might be a thoroughbred West End tailor, but B&C’s West End house style isn’t set in stone.
By Aleks Cvetkovic