Archives: bespoke suit construction

How our finest suits are made

Earlier this month, Ron and I flew out to visit one of our vendors in New York state. We believe that it’s incredibly important to have a close professional relationship with our business partners. It’s also very important to all of us at Bespoke Edge that we understand how our products are manufactured. So, it was with great excitement that we flew out for a quick 36 hours to visit Adrian Jules, in Rochester. While there, we toured the factory floor and reconnected with some incredibly talented and kind people.

Personally, this was my very first trip to a suit factory. As a former engineer, I was particularly interested in the manufacturing process. The Adrian Jules leadership was kind enough to allow me to take some photos.

This article is what I would call a brief overview of suit manufacturing. It’s by no means exhaustive. It only begins to answer the question, how is a suit made? With around 280 parts that go into one suit, the process can be quite complex, but this article will show you a lot!

Pattern making

If you have had an appointment with us, you know that we are very thorough with our measurements. Over 20 measurements go into the creation of one suit. After each client appointment, there is a considerable amount of post processing that goes into each order. One to three days later, we’re ready to contact the factory.

For each of our Signature Line suits, or high-end offerings, Ron and Victor will connect on the phone and discuss the subtleties of how each individual suit will fit, per our client’s needs and desires. Shoulder slope and client posture are debated, fabric drape is discussed, and a bespoke suit pattern created.

Here’s Ron with Victor, the Adrian Jules Master Tailor. Victor, on the right, has over 40 years of experience in garment manufacturing, while Ron is just about to hit 40 years himself in menswear sales and service.

american made custom suits master tailor

Cutting

Once the patterns are created the design is off to the cutting room. The patterns for each piece of the suit are arranged as efficiently as possible (i.e. “nested”) on the stock fabric via a computer program. While software certainly helps, there is still a decent amount of oversight required. For instance, some fabrics need to be laid out in such a way that they match other parts. Complex patterns like plaids need to line up perfectly. Afterall, you can’t have a plaid chest pocket whose pattern doesn’t line up with the rest of the suit!

The completed layout is then sent to the cutter which uses a very small, and very sharp, reciprocating saw to cut the fabric to within the width of a human hair.

And even during the cutting process, small adjustments are sometimes made by hand to ensure proper alignment of parts and patterns.

Back in my engineering days, we would employ an almost identical process to cut out pieces of composite to build an aircraft. With composite sheets of graphite or fiberglass, we would pull a vacuum on the composite cloth to hold it in place while cutting. I was surprised to learn that the same technique was used with wool! But because wool is porous there needs to be a sheet of plastic on top such that a vacuum will hold.

how a suit pattern is cut

In the image above, you can see the cloth in navy, the paper backing, and the plastic top that will enable the vacuum to pull down and hold the cloth in place while it’s being cut to size.

The cut pieces are collected and then pressed. And in some cases, the corresponding canvas (more on this later) is pressed as well such that both the fabric and the canvas are a perfect match to one another. Ron and I loved seeing this attention to detail.

Sewing

Once the pieces are all cut out and appropriately pressed, they leave the cutting room floor and go out into the sewing room where the suit jacket will begin to take shape.

Personally, my favorite part of the tour was the lapel station. Here, the lapel is cut by hand to the desired pattern (notched, peaked, etc), but it’s so much more than that! The gentleman in charge of this station has many years of experience (he wouldn’t tell me exactly how many!). And on the wall behind him were dozens and dozens of lapel contours. I watched him as he worked and I was amazed at the care and attention to detail that went into each suit jacket lapel. It’s truly an art.

the lapel cutting station for how is a suit made

the suit lapel patterns

Meanwhile, other parts of the jacket are coming together a few stations over. Here, the pockets are carefully crafted. By the way, the gentleman in the photo below has over 30 years of experience in garment manufacturing.

pocket making in a custom suit

detail on pocket construction

Canvas construction

The following images show something very special. This is a full canvas assembly that will be joined with the chest pieces of a suit. You can read all about full canvas construction here, but the key thing to understand is that this horse hair material (hair from the mane and tail of a horse) will help the suit jacket shape to your body after repeated wearings, but will also help the jacket maintain rigidity and stiffness, something that a synthetic material just can’t provide. This specific canvas has a density of 21 threads per inch, the highest that’s available.

how are suits made with horse hair full canvas construction

I was pleased to see that the canvas had a shoulder pad cutout designed specifically for your clavicle, such that the pad will rest better.

At the risk of sounding clique, it’s the full canvas construction that takes a suit from ordinary to extraordinary.

Underpressing

You’ve probably heard of suits being pressed before. Most likely, it was when you took your jacket to the dry cleaner and it came back nice and pressed and wrinkle free. But pressing also takes place at the factory. It’s usually the final step before being boxed up and shipped to its final destination. However, at the Adrian Jules factory, in addition to final pressing, they are methodical about what they call underpressing. This is the technique of pressing certain subassemblies of the jacket to help form the jacket up in mid-production.

Here is an example of a press that is specifically designed to shape the shoulder section of a men’s custom suit.

pressing the shoulders of a suit

And here’s another press, but in the closed position (this is for a chest piece).

closed suit press

And not all of the presses are for large pieces, as several are specifically designed to press and form details of the jacket.

detail underpress

I want to note that in addition to this underpressing, there is a significant amount of hand molding and shaping that is ongoing throughout the build process.

Eventually, the different panels of the suit are joined together into larger assemblies and begin to look a lot more like a suit jacket.

how are suits made

From here, the sleeves are joined, any remaining basting thread removed, and the finishing touches applied to create a suit that you have probably seen me or Ron wearing!

How are suits made? Wrap up

This was an incredible trip for us. We spent around 7 hours in the factory asking questions and learning about the process. Ron also had ample time to chat with Victor and discovered new techniques for advanced measuring and tailoring that will further refine our process.

And from my perspective, there’s no doubt in my mind that we are offering the finest suits in the United States right now. Ron’s skill in measuring and fitting, combined with the talent and people at Adrian Jules, enable us to offer a very unique and truly one of a kind suit.

Make an appointment today and we’ll make a believer out of you too!

 

 

What is a full canvas suit? How is it different from fused?

fused construction sport coat

There’s a horse in your suit jacket, did you know that? Well, if your suit jacket is constructed with what’s called canvas, then the statement above is true to an extent. So, what is a full canvas suit?

This week, we’re talking suit construction. More specifically, we’re talking about what I would call the very foundation of a suit jacket – whether the suit has a fused or canvas-style construction.

This is important because the drape and “hang” of your suit will be directly impacted by its construction technique. This includes how the suit conforms to your body over time and how it will stand up to dry cleaning.

Is one method inherently better than the other? Well, it really depends on what your needs are.

Canvas construction

On our suits webpage you may have noticed that we offer what is called canvas horse hair construction. So, what exactly is that?

Horse hair canvas is springy, but strong and resilient, and is used to develop that “soft roll” when shaping garments. This is in stark contrast to a crease – something that is common in off-the-rack suits.

It’s actually made from horse hair that has been fused together to create a thin sheet. Much like your suit fabric, it’s cut to the appropriate pattern and then stitched with the fabric. Since we are a Colorado company, allow me to explain this further in terms of cold weather coats. When you buy a warm ski jacket, you’re generally going to have two parts – the outer shell (water and tear resistant) and the inner layer that is more about keeping you warm via insulation. Similarly, men’s suits typically have two layers – the outer wool fabric and the inner canvas. The job of the canvas is to keep the shape of the suit.

what is a full canvas suit

The takeaway is that horsehair canvas has some integrity. That it stands up on its own (say, when folded over) and will help give your suit jacket some life.

And at BE, our canvas construction is always treated with cold water to keep the canvas from shrinking.

Fused construction

Many manufacturers have gone the way of fused construction. This method involves fusing an interlining to the woolen shell. Early industry attempts at fused construction have led to mixed results. Critics like to point to “bubbling” in jackets – a phenomenon that occurs after repeated dry-cleaning where the fused material will delaminate (the glue losing its adhesion) resulting in an unsightly rippling of the fabric.

But like so many things in life, a fused jacket is not just a fused jacket. That is, some manufacturers have developed very adequate techniques for manufacturing fused jackets.

At BE, we are very pleased to say that our fused jackets have never shown any signs of bubbling. They have shown excellent shape and contour.

The difference

So, what does all of this really mean? If you’re in the market for a suit, you’re going to need to make a decision. If you’re on a budget, then a fused construction will save you some money and still serve as a great introduction to bespoke suiting.

However, to get the real experience of what a fine suit can be, we recommend opting for a full-canvas construction. The coat will have life, hold its shape superbly, and best of all, it will conform to your body after repeated wearings.

Wrap up, what is a full canvas suit?

If you’re looking for the best looking suit available, one that will conform to your body and last a very long time, then there’s no doubt that a full canvas suit is the best pick. There’s a lot of history behind horse hair canvas construction, and the fact that industry is still manufacturing men’s suits in this way, is a testament to the inherent quality behind a canvassed suit jacket.

Have more questions on this topic? Here’s how to get in touch with us.

Further information

Fused vs. canvas suits – The Art of Manliness