Tag Archives: UK

Wool: the Cloth of Kings

As part of “Throwback Thursday”, we thought it was timely to revive this piece, written by Henry Herbert founder Charlie Baker-Collingwood on Wool: the Cloth of Kings.

Wool Suitings Wools1 Wool: the Cloth of KingsI felt extremely privileged to attend the Society of Dyers & Colourists conference at the magnificent Clothworkers’ Hall in London. We were treated to a fascinating group of speakers – including the Scottish weaver Malcolm Campbell who gave a truly gripping talk about wools. Wool is an extremely important textile in so many ways and indeed the cause has been taken up by HRH Prince of Wales with the Campaign for Wool. I  tried to scribble down as much of what he said as possible,

“In 1792, James MacArthur arrived in an inhabited Australia with eight yews and two rams. The Australian wool industry grew from that and today the country, as a result, has over one hundred million sheep. Indeed the global population of over six billion people live amongst a global sheep population of over one billion….56 million of those sheep living in Iran alone (the UK has a sheep population of about 25 million).

Wool can come from a variety of sources including camels, buffalos, sheep and many other animals and they can be spun to accommodate local preferences – buffalo wool for suits in America, cashmere wool for the Indian market and camel wool for the Sheiks of the Middle East. Indeed the tennis balls at Wimbledon are made from wool and the versatility of the fibre means it can be used from carpets to lingerie….and of course for suits.

Wool is a bacteria preventing, temperature cooling, water absorbing, and protecting fibre – all qualities that provide an excellent foundation for suiting. It keeps you warm when it is cold and cool when it is too hot. Master craftsmen and finishers today can add technical applications to wools including stain resisters, water resisters or a silver shield to give this fabric an even more hi-tech touch. Only wool can offer the variety of colours, provide the drape and guaranteed durability that every good suit needs. We must accept that wool is an expensive and valuable fibre, not only to preserve the quality of great looking suits but just as importantly to preserve the livelihoods of the wool farmers themselves. There have been reports of some wool farmers turning to growing grapes, or even marijuana plants (where it is legal for medicinal purposes) because the competitive pressures of producing wool have been too great. By purchasing a tailored suit with the finest wools, you are not only treating yourself to a glorious garment – you are supporting a precious industry.”

~ By Charlie Baker-Collingwood of Henry Herbert, October 2010

Just when is bespoke, well, bespoke?…..

 Just when is bespoke, well, bespoke?.....

Just what does bespoke mean?

It is a term that our industry is constantly challenged by. To many people it can mean many different things. It can range from the absurd arguments – something being made in the Far East versus in the United Kingdom, to a battle between theorists about the number of hand stitches that go into every garment. Very respected tailors have offered their thoughts before, suggesting the word bespoke comes from the word bespoken (to be-speak your cloth).

However, a qualified tailor in China can be just as good as a tailor on Savile Row. And what if the tailor on Savile Row is Chinese? And the tailor in China is British? As strange as it may seem, it happens. Where does the argument about garments being made overseas conclude in those circumstances?

Similarly, there are tailors who insist on a minimum of five, six or even seven fittings for every suit they make. But what if the customer doesn’t need it? Surely the process is there to serve the customer, not the tailor. Similarly, what if a tailoring house has only one house style….is that really a bespoke service for the customer? There are some fabulous tailors, but they may only offer one house style cut, albeit in any size and figuration you may wish. But is that truly bespoke?

Cutting the cloth and who cuts the cloth is often the crucible of many arguments.  And what if a machine cuts the cloth from measurements the cutter has decided?  A laser machine cuts much more finely than garments which are hand cut. Hand cutting leaves lots of loose threads and room for many complaints from a customer, but some prefer it. So why not let the customer – with guidance – cut some of his own cloth. Surely a customer cutting his own cloth would be truly bespoke?

Additionally, but just as importantly, I firmly believe that a bespoke garment is not just about providing a unique pattern and size to each and every customer. It is about providing a truly bespoke service. Is  bespoke when a customer is expected to meet a tailor between 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday and at just one location: the tailor’s shop? Is it a truly bespoke service when a garment is being sent to a customer, that the customer cannot choose the exact hour and even minute they want it delivered? Should a customer not have the mobile telephone number of their tailor, so that when something does go wrong – a split hem or a loose thread – that the tailor can have it fixed in an instant for that all important meeting or cocktail party?

A truly bespoke suit or shirt can only so called, I believe, when it is complemented by a truly bespoke service.

Please do email me your thoughts at cc@henryherbert.com

Written by Charlie Baker-Collingwood, Proprietor of Henry Herbert Tailors


Henry Herbert Waistcoats

As bespoke tailors, Henry Herbert can offer any cut and style of waistcoat you wish. However, we have found that the styles below tend to be the most popular.

Wristwatch 150x150 Henry Herbert Waistcoats

The Pocketwatch Waistcoat

The Pocketwatch Waistcoat is very similar to the Oscar Lafontaine Waistcoat (see below) with the exception of its pockets, which were originally designed to accommodate a pocketwatch or a stopwatch.

 

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Edwardian Line 150x150 Henry Herbert Waistcoats

The Edwardian Line

The Edwardian Line was a reaction to King Edward’s Waistcoat. Both
waistcoats have clean symmetrical lines defining their shape, but the Edwardian Line has a sharp line punching through the area around the tummy – a provocative but subtle style reaction to the King’s favourite.

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Evening Waistcoat 150x150 Henry Herbert Waistcoats

The Horse Shoe Sccop Waistcoat

The horse shoe sccop waistcoat is designed to be worn with a black tie. The low slung body hides it discreetly behind a buttoned dinner jacket and tuxedo shirt, but quickly reveals itself when the jacket is unbuttoned. It should be worn without a cummerbund and the waistcoat buttons should remain fastened throughout the evening.

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Lounge 150x150 Henry Herbert Waistcoats

The Lounge Waistcoat

The Lounge waistcoat was once always a key characteristic of the three piece suit, but today it has been adopted as a popular choice amongst the youth of Britain, such as the style icon Kate Moss and the members of indie band Razorlight who wear them over casual shirts and jeans for a day-to-day fashionable look.

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Oscar 150x150 Henry Herbert Waistcoats

The Oskar Lafontaine Waistcoat

Oskar Lafontaine is a German politician and former German Finance Minister. During his short tenure as Minister of Finance, Lafontaine was a major bogeyman of UK Eurosceptics. He is famed for always wearing a waistcoat, with two large, front pockets and five buttons, thus the Oscar Lafontaine Waistcoat.

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