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Lessons from a Tailor

by Stevie Fellig

My grandfather, Joe, known as the “tailor of Vienna” taught me that some things in life will always remain as it has for thousands of years. The road to becoming a master in your field is only by learning from the masters that preceded you. If you attach yourself to a master, eventually, you too will become the master. Handmade clothing is my passion and Martin Greenfield is my master.

Each day, I work side by side with Martin, learning from his every move. This newsletter is about the lessons I have learned from America’s last great tailor.

At the start of a new season, fabric mills from Europe send us the new fabric bunch collections. Like a child in the candy store, all the young tailors gather around to thumb through the new cloth choices. Today more than ever before in history, more patterns, colors and weaves are available for men. As I flip through the bunches of cloth it becomes increasingly difficult to choose which cloth I want first. They are all so beautiful, how do I choose?

The New York Times reported the revenue in luxury apparel industry reached $240 billion dollars of which 40 percent is attributed to menswear. With growth comes competition and with competition comes choices. For men, choices can mean headaches.

Martin always taught me that a man cloaked in a fine cloth, dark in color, exudes confidence and elegance. No one has ever been accused for being over the top when wearing a classic navy or charcoal grey suit. Simple, understated elegance is commonly referred to as “classic” and the definition of the term “classic” is something that stands the test of time. It is as accepted today as it has been for years past.

One of the perks of being a tailor and working with Martin is that you have the opportunity to interact on a very personal level with highly successful people. Some of whom I would normally never have the opportunity to even meet. I make it a point to try and learn something first hand from my clients. I often ask what is the secret to their success. The most common response is “always consider what impact your decisions will have in 10 or 20 years”. The choices you make when choosing cloth for your wardrobe will impact the way you look and feel for several years. A loud plaid cloth will get you attention, there is no argument there, but for how long? How often can you wear a garment that grabs attention before it looks played out? Can we say the same for a navy pinstripe?

A good tailor should always educate you about cloth. Color, weave and weight all play an integral role in the performance of your suit. There are many types of wool, cashmere and blends, each one woven for a different purpose. Martin taught me to always ask my customers about the work they do, the climate they live in and what the customers’ expectations are. Based on each customers’ needs, the finest cloth that will serve his needs best is presented. Super 190’s is NOT necessarily better than a super 120’s, it is different and serves a different purpose.

A hand tailored suit is a work of art but it must function and perform properly. The finest suit in all the world remains worthless if it hangs on the wall; the same suit is priceless when it hangs properly on you.

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