Brand Feature: Agva
A couple of days ago I was contacted by my friend Álvaro, founder of portuguese bespoke menswear brand Agva, to check a few of his recent pieces before he delivered them to clients. Bet on creating unique items according to the client’s specifications, nothing is overlooked during the manufacturing process which takes place entirely in Portugal. Having nothing short of perfection in mind, their offerings range from shirts to full suits and even shoes. The final pieces I had access to included several shirt models and a 2 button blazer with an outstanding attention to detail. Here’s one of my favourites, more to come…
Houndstooth widespread collar shirt with french cuffs and mother of pearl buttons
Urban Menswear Myths #5
Long goes the time when men relied solely on their trustworthy tailors to keep up to date with the fashion demands of their social agenda. Garments were crafted according to each customer’s needs and liking. Nowadays, a massified fashion industry is hell-bent on delivering a never ending stock of ready-to-wear alternatives at the lowest price: after all, it’s just business…
Thankfully, the tailoring tradition has managed not only to withstand against all odds, but actually thrive in adversity due to the current “retro revival” moment we’re experiencing and the fact people are looking for better quality, unique items. Apart from this, there are those who despite the global change remained faithful to custom made garments, and not necessarily because they’re wealthy. I believe there’s a common misconception where people inherently associate custom made to hefty price tags, which isn’t entirely true.
The price tag depends on a variety of factors such as the item itself, fabric and of course, the craftsman behind it. World renowned tailors may charge you absurd amounts, but then again so do their designers counterparts. As with so many other things in life the key is balance: finding a quality/price ratio that suits you is crucial. Once you do, you’ll see that pieces tailored to your liking may perfectly compete with similar RTW alternatives, with the perk of being unique and perfect fitting. Say you choose a Thomas Mason fabric for a shirt or a Zegna for a suit, the end result may very well be cheaper than the same versions purchased at a retailer.
If you haven’t done so already give it a try, you might be in for a pleasant surprise…
Ermenegildo Zegna Fabrics SS11
Last week, while I was at Gentleman getting my herringbone overcoat measured for tailoring (expect a post once I pick it up), they were kind enough to let me go through the new SS11 Zegna Cloth Catalogue.
Zegna fabrics are known for their quality and elegance, assuming a leading role as the choice of excellence for tailors worldwide, when it comes to made to measure or bespoke garments. Their array of options is suited to cater to your every need, presenting fabrics for every occasion, all of which bear the brand’s renowned quality.
Whenever I get the chance to see and feel these types of fabrics, I get overwhelmed with ideas and enthusiasm…the turning of each page is accompanied by a constant brainstorming of potential garments in the making. I easily get sucked into that sartorial universe, becoming completely immersed in the variety of shades, patterns and textures, only to be brought back to reality when the answer to my inevitable question is given: - “a blazer will cost you around 1000€, suits start at 1500€”…
Store Info: Gentleman
Located in the building of one of Porto’s most famous and iconic markets, Bolhão, lies a store with more than a century of tailoring/bespoking history. Founded in 1936, Gentleman has been delivering high end custom clothing to gentlemen ever since. What started as a small business based on traditional tailoring techniques, has grown into a reputed store aimed at exporting items for such renowned brands as Tommy Hilfiger, Carolina Herrera or David Spade. So much so, that their own factory employs around 40 professionals, all of which with years of experience. The result? Every piece they produce is a manifestation of years of accumulated knowledge and love for tailored clothing.
Unfortunately, it was only when I started Beyond Fabric that I learned about them…needless to say I’m a loyal customer since the first time I set foot indoors. After a recent business makeover, the store is now 5-storey high, taking full advantage of the building space. An interesting side note, all the walls are decorated with one of their own suit fabrics, in plaid grey.
At the entrance level you might think this is your usual store: a ready-to-wear section filled with shirts, sweaters, coats, slacks, chinos, blazers…the works. However, as you make your way up, you begin to realize how far from the truth your first perception was…
The second floor holds the bespoking essence of the store. As you enter the oval room, you are greeted by a variety of shirts, suits and most importantly, fabrics. This is where Gentleman shines…you are no longer tied to whatever options are lying on the shelves, you can “design” your own pieces. Apart from suits and shirts, you’ll be able to have made to your liking virtually any item…I’m talking vests, pocket squares, ties, sweaters, everything you can think of. Regarding fabrics, choices range from Ermenegildo Zegna, Belfast, Holland and Sherry to Thomas Mason, among others. This makes choosing just one all the more difficult, especially since you can’t see the finished piece, you have to envision it. A word of advice: research thoroughly prior to your visit and define your objectives, otherwise it’s easy to get lost among all the offerings.
Once you’ve made your choice, you’ll be guided by the in-house tailor, who will take your measures and accompany you throughout several fittings and adjustments until the final result. This whole experience makes your custom pieces all the more interesting and unique. Moreover, you’ll notice that contrary to common belief, bespoke items can be affordable (even more so than some ready-to-wear options).
The third and fourth floors are used as storage for the items in stock and the fifth floor houses an amazing wooden dome.
If you love exceptional one of a kind fitted clothing, or simply well made off-the-rack garments, be sure to pay them a visit!
The ground floor
The second floor
The dome on the 5th floor
Have it your way: the custom shirt
If you’ve been following me from the start, you know I have a thing for custom made/made to measure items. Luckily for me, Portugal has a strong textile industry, especially here in the north, and is well known for its specialized workforce in the area (it’s not a coincidence that major players such as Paul Smith or Our Legacy have their items produced here).
I was pleased to find out that Porto still maintains its tradition in what regards the tailoring business, with several stores and ateliers still being frequently visited by loyal customers. Apart from the traditional bespoke suit (usually the most sought after item at tailors), you should broaden your horizons as what you can have made to your liking. One of the best items, in terms of quality/price ratio, is shirts. Chances are, you’ve already considered this while browsing retailers for that specific shirt you envisioned: the fit is wrong, the pattern isn’t quite what you wished for and likewise for detailing and fabric. What if you could have exactly what you pictured, and more (since it would be unique and designed for your body), for the same or a fraction of the price of ready-to-wear options? Sounds appealing right?
I’ve been wanting to get one of a kind shirts for a while, something you won’t easily find on major retailers, and my wishes were granted by a local store with more than a century of bespoke/tailoring history. I payed them a visit and ordered a club collar oxford shirt in light blue, with contrasting white collar and cuffs (it will definitely make an impression). After carefully going through the multitude of available fabrics, I made my choice as regards the tone of blue and weight of the oxford cloth: I was aiming for something in between a dress shirt and your usual oxford button down.
I then tried on one of their slim fit shirts in order to evaluate the fit, and luckily enough the Medium size was spot on: usually, the shirt would be crafted according to my measurements, but in this case, they just had to adapt their own model to my requests.
A week after, my shirt was ready:
Atelier des Createurs
I’m always on the look for interesting brands or stores able to provide quality items marked by great construction and fit. On my never-ending quest, I come across several brands which I share with all of you: many of them are considered luxury labels, but price and reputation alone do not assure quality. Learning how to spot those features in every item you try on is key, as it enables you to find the best value for your money.
One of the things I’ve been enjoying the most since I started this blog, is to wander the streets of downtown Porto, carefully looking for local stores. The findings are outstanding as the city is famous for its tailors and fabric stores. So it comes to no surprise that several brands and manufacturers are choosing to open business here.
One of my latest findings was Atelier des Createurs, a semi-industrial tailoring/bespoking establishment, located in Rua José Falcão in the city centre. A project of two entrepeneurs (one French, the other Spanish), this amazing three-storey building is the workplace of several local craftsmen and women (seamstresses, tailors, etc.). The sheer scale and beauty of the architecture (an amazing work of rehabilitation) will make your jaw drop. The building is organized as follows:
- Ground Floor: as soon as you enter a massive stairway greets you; a door on the right gives access to the fabric storeroom, staff facilities and the “cutting room” where computer controlled machinery applies the desired cut for each of the nearly 200 pieces that go into making a suit. A once handmade process is now optimized through the use of technology, but still requires the art of skilled artisans on occasion;
- First Floor: here you’ll find the administration offices and an amazing room with around 40 professionals fully committed to providing top notch suits, through a sequential manufacturing process;
- Second Floor: a room entirely dedicated to suit pants awaits you, along with the area where finishing touches are added: hand sewn buttons and steaming and pressing of suits;
- Top Floor: this floor houses the showroom where you’ll be able to see all available fabrics for your suit, as well as a few finished models to give you an idea of what to expect. Also, you can try on the so called “canvas” which are pre-finished models (with all the seams and stitched parts), aimed at giving you a sense of fit and size. One of the things that absolutely blew me away was their collection of antique books and magazines, the likes of Adam Chemisier and Esquire, dating as old as 1940. Next to the showroom lies a fitting room and a private space where clients can try on their suits and express their opinion to tailors, in order to have them altered accordingly;
The whole establishment transpires professionalism and after trying their “canvas” and getting a feel of some final products, I can attest to their quality: they’ve got themselves a new client. An average price tag of 600€ seems appropriate when talking about a fully customized bespoke suit, especially when compared to other options out there. I’m a sucker for the art of bespoking and strongly recommend you give it a try. Drop by their atelier and check their blog here!
The ground floor: fabric storeroom, cutting room and staff lounge.
The sewing room on the first floor.
Second Floor: the areas dedicated to suit pants and steaming.
Top floor: the showroom, book collection, the “canvas” suit jackets and a few fabric samples.