Do you feel the need – the need for speed-tweed? For a while now I’ve been pondering the possibilities of injecting a bit of sports technology into tailoring, to create pieces that stand up to outdoor rigours yet still retain that air of indoor elan. We’ve already tested the water, so to speak, with our cycling jackets for Rapha and Brooks, and now we’re developing a shooting range for a lady who happens to be the European game champion.
The problem they wanted to address – and it’s an age-old one – is that anything that’s ergonomic is not very elegant, and vice versa. We’ve been using tweed with nano-technology to make it showerproof; we’re also using Ventile, a densely woven, wind- and waterproof and breathable cotton fabric that was developed for military outerwear in World War 2, and GoreTex membranes for further protection from the elements.
We’re also doing a field coat for the writer Nick Foulkes in a US military-grade ripstop, which is a cotton/polyester mix woven in such a way that makes it extremely resistant to tearing, just as the troops use in action. It’s something a tailor wouldn’t ordinarily touch, but I think it’s fun to mix these things up.
What we’re aiming at eventually is producing a ready-to-wear version of these hybrids, particularly for cycling and shooting. Bespoke can’t compete with the sports-tech giants like Nike, obviously – I don’t think you’ll be seeing Usain Bolt in a bespoke 100 metres outfit any time soon – but we can work with the more elegant pursuits to produce garments that people could realistically wear. Getting involved with Woolmark was a real eye-opener in this regard, because we started working with things like tailored jersey and tailored sweatwear.
We’ve got a lot of younger customers who’ve come through the whole heritage thing and now want clean, modern design, so I think sportswear’s becoming very relevant, but with a kind of luxe twist – a sweat shirt with a bit of alpaca in it, for instance, or Storm System from Loro Piana, which pretty much gives you waterproof cashmere.
So bespoke can come in both from the top down, tech-ing up a trad look, or from the bottom up, tweaking the workaday or performance look into something much more individual. I suppose the ultimate expression of this direction would be the perfect tracksuit, cut as stringently as any bespoke suit in, say, a navy tailored jersey herringbone, modelled by some classic business type. I can’t see Sir Alan Sugar going for it, but Rupert Murdoch might well give it a go.