In an airy suite on the 16th floor of the Mark Hopkins hotel, a few hundred fabric samples littered a small table. There was no fanfare, no media release, no press party with free booze to celebrate the arrival of these fabric swatches. Unlike the noise that seems to accompany traveling made-to-measure tailors, Edwin and Matthew DeBoise of Steed visited San Francisco with a bit more subtlety. These bespoke tailors already had plenty of fittings scheduled for their two-day visit, so there was no need to make any more of it.
When I saw that Steed tailors were visiting San Francisco I sheepishly sent them an email, asking if I could stop in and learn more about what they do (even though I have no ability to commission something). Matthew was kind enough to accept, so on Monday I headed over to have my first face-to-face meeting with a bespoke tailor.
The world of bespoke clothing is a bit of an elite club; the cost generally makes it prohibitive to most men that don’t have a large income or aren’t willing to invest thousands of dollars into a single garment. That being said, there is still value in understanding the bespoke process, whether you are a potential customer or not. After all, there is no better way to understand what quality looks like in a garment than to see the best there is to offer.
Edwin DeBoise founded Steed in 1995, after spending years under the legendary cutter Edward Sexton and then the famous bespoke house Anderson & Sheppard. Both of these names carry significant gravitas in the world of bespoke clothing and are definitely worth familiarizing yourself with. Edward Sexton joined forces with Tommy Nutter in the late 1960’s, and helped revitalize the Savile Row tailors by injecting a bit of rock n’ roll and celebrity into the old traditions. Familiar names like Mick Jagger, Elton John, and the Beatles were among the elite list of clients that frequented Nutter’s shop. On the other side of the coin, Anderson & Sheppard have been prominent Savile Row tailors for over 100 years, and they have developed a house style that has become almost synonymous with their name.
Both of these companies, while wildly different in style, have influenced the way that Edwin cuts cloth for his suits; the result is something that is inherently British but also unlike any other tailoring house. The Steed silhouette is often referred to as a “drape cut” – this includes details like a sculpted, fuller chest, softly structured shoulders with trim neck and armholes, and a slim waist. The result of these details is a masculine look that is probably impossible to achieve outside of bespoke tailoring. It’s not for everyone, but it is hard to argue that the silhouette is striking.
As impressive as the end result is, the bespoke process itself is something to behold; it begins, like any other custom experience, with body measurements, fabric selection, and garment customization decisions. Of course, the difference is already apparent, because these measurements are taken by a Savile Row tailor with decades of experience. After that, Edwin cuts the pattern and cloth himself, and passes it on to a small team of professionals for assembly. After construction and trimming are complete, the second fitting is scheduled and any necessary changes are made. The finishings are then completed, and the garment is sent out for its final round of adjustments.
Of course, all of this skill, time, and incredible cloth comes at a price; bespoke suits and sportcoats are exceptionally expensive and are not for the faint of heart. Be that as it may, it is worth noting that Steed is now offering a made-to-measure “semi-bespoke” option for their garments. Like with most MTM clothing, the key differences are that a unique pattern is not created (rather, an existing one is adjusted) and there are presumably less fittings completed before the final garment is shipped. Even so, this process has the distinct advantage of being led by a skilled Savile Row tailor. As I have said before, the quality of a MTM commission is only as good as the person measuring you, and in this case you have access to the very best. Prices for bespoke and MTM options are outlined on Steed’s website.
Edwin and Matthew plan on visiting San Francisco at least three times per year, so if you are interested in setting up a fitting you can send them an email to find out when they will be here next. I snapped a few photos below, but many more examples of finished Steed suits are available on their website. I’d like to thank Edwin and Matthew for putting aside some time to chat with me and show me what they do; they’re charming gents and it was a great way to spend an afternoon.
Matthew in a MTM Steed suit made from Minnis fresco
A sampling of the many fabric options, mostly from the United Kingdom.
Edwin demonstrates his measuring techniques on his son Matthew
Examining some swatches from Moonbeam