Interview: Gill Long of Cock of the Walk Tailors (part two)

by Modculture 21 September, 2016

Semi bespoke 2 piece from 2ply mohair.

Semi bespoke 2 piece from 2ply mohair.

The second part of our interview with Gill Long of Cock of the Walk Tailors, talking everything tailoring and why a growing number of mods are seeking out her skills. If you missed it, part one of the interview is here.

14. Has there ever been an instance where you have produced something that’s way off the mark from what the client wanted or does the easy-paced tailoring process avoid such a thing?

Definitely the latter. The process is so inclusive of the customer, and the suit can develop as fast or as steady as they wish, that that never happens. Sometimes during the process a customer may revise their order as a swatch of cloth is always hard to envisage until it is on the body. And body shape may also revise expectations, but on the whole the process is more a collaboration the whole way through.

Mr Davis, one of the Savile Row customers trying the soft tailored 1930s cut full bespoke 3-piece in city tweed.

Mr Davis, one of the Savile Row customers trying the soft tailored 1930s cut full bespoke 3-piece in city tweed.

15. Talking of the tailoring process, how many fittings and how much time should you put aside if someone reading this wanted something bespoke from you?

I would always recommend three to four months. It they are able to come to the workshop and we aren’t too busy, things can move a lot quicker, say 10 – 12 weeks. And I would always expect a minimum of four fittings; Plain baste, Pocket baste, Forward Fit, Finish. But like I say it does depend on how busy we are at the time. It is always worth checking with us first.

16. What is involved in a typical ‘fitting’ session?

In a fitting we have around an hour to gain the maximum amount of information we can, and get through the odd cup of tea. I would usually lead and make a note of corrections which are more tailoring specific than taste specific. We’ll then make the style decisions together. This allows us to double check we have a handle on what the customer is wanting, and make sure it is possible, flattering and cohesive.

Last we check the fit. At this stage the customer has been in the suit a while for it to warm up and for them to get used to it. We are mainly guided by the customer at this point, but there are also clues we can spot. We’ll run through all the things you will want to do in your suit like sitting down, having a drink and a smoke, and see how these activities feel at certain stress points. Most people comment on how thorough we are, which does surprise us as we hear stories of 10 minute fittings with no input. We want the suit to be exactly what the customer has in mind, so you need to put the work in in the fittings to get this result. That’s what bespoke means after all.

Full bespoke seersucker jacket. Shirt credit: Dan Groove

Full bespoke seersucker jacket. Shirt credit: DNA Groove

17. And without giving away any trade secrets, what kind of money is involved when it comes to having a suit made?

We are very competitive. For a full bespoke suit made by hand the Savile row way you will be spending around £1,500 give or take depending on cloth. And for those wanting our semi bespoke service, which involves more machine work and without the individual pattern or as much hand finishing prices start at £750 including cloth. We’ll always look after our mod customers on price though.

18. In terms of a bespoke suit, what are the differences between that and an of-the-peg suit or indeed, a suit that has been made for you by sending off your measurements?

That’s a huge question. In fact you could write a book on the differences there are so many.

In a nutshell, with a bespoke suit you are getting something made from the very finest raw material, by someone who has spent many years honing their craft and learning as much as there is to know about fit, cut, style, colour, shape, cloth, structure etc. Working alongside people who are also experts in their fields, practising techniques which have been refined over hundreds of years to what we feel is the best possible application of those.

Bespoke puts the customer and quality first, profit second. If you get the first one sorted the second will follow. The garment is then moulded and manipulated to your shape over a series of fittings, making you look the best version of you. Because of the techniques used in making a bespoke suit, and the ingredients which go inside, the suit will last an awful long time, and will be guaranteed to take you into old age with the odd nip and tuck a long the way. It’s more than just a product, but a life long service.

With the kind of tailoring that’s sent off, you may feel as if you’re still getting a lot of input, but you aren’t. The person measuring you up isn’t either. Once you have been measured up, the garment is made up most of the time on the other side of the world by people who have never met you, and only have a series of numbers to work from. I have seen some suit salesmen having a right nightmare when the suit they ordered comes in and the factory have made it in the wrong cloth or they have made a double breasted instead of a single breasted, and the now have to use their best sales patter to talk their customer into what they have ordered. They can’t correct it because they can’t even sew. And the customer hasn’t got a clue.

With off the peg, strangely I would say the quality is a little better than the sent out pretend bespoke. Some companies have done their homework to use the best manufacturers in Italy, with some OK raw materials. I have seen some shockers too though.

Bespoke ladies shirt, in candy pink/white poplin stripe.

Bespoke ladies shirt, in candy pink/white poplin stripe.

19. I know you have started making shirts now. In a similar vein, what are the benefits if having a shirt made by a tailor as opposed to just grabbing one from a retailer?

The main benefit will always be fit. You get a shirt that fits your sleeve length just right, perfect round the neck, and as fitted or as easy as you like around the chest and waist. Our ladies shirts also have the added advantage of not having that problem all us ladies are well aware of because we position the buttonholes in the exact position they should be for your chest.

2 piece full bespoke in city tweed.

2 piece full bespoke in city tweed.

20. Anything else that might enter your range in the near or far future?

As it’s approaching that time of year, we are currently sampling up patterns for bespoke raincoats. If we get the pattern efficient enough we’ll be able to offer the service for a really good price. We wouldn’t want to deviate too far from tailoring though, as I much prefer to do one thing very well, than many things OK. We may have quite an exciting offering in the near future, but all I can say at this point is watch this space.

21. I know you have a strong ‘mod’ clientele. Are they your most difficult customers to please or do you find they know pretty much what they want from the off?

I don’t know about difficult, but I would definitely say they are the most loyal. Our mod clients aren’t looking for a one-off for a wedding, but a constant subtle evolution of their wardrobe. the more you see your tailor, the more they understand your tastes, shape, expectations etc. When we have a mod client come in, in the main we know they will have a certain level of understanding of tailoring already and more of an interest in their clothes and what looks good on them. That helps us enormously from the start. They take their fittings more seriously too which we like.

22. Is there competition when it comes to clothing for the mod scene customers?

Not really at bespoke level. There’s only two other tailors I know of who genuinely make their own product in house, and serve the mod community. So we don’t see them as competition, but fellow professionals. People can see who they want for their tailoring. A lot of our guys use both us and DNA Groove. Each serving different needs. There’s the Leeds tailors, but frankly if people want to go there and are happy with that product then that’s all that matters.

Full bespoke 2 piece in medium weight flannel.

Full bespoke 2 piece in medium weight flannel.

23. How about competition between mods?

Absolutely. Our Mods are really bad for it. Some of our customers request their garments to be kept in garment bags when we aren’t working on it, so no one can walk in and see what they’re having. Some will find a reason to send you out the room, and when you come back you catch them flicking through the production rail, checking the suits against the names and see what everyone’s having. We’ve had mod customers who will not if their life depended on it, tell anyone who their tailor is, because they don’t want us to get busier, or tailor for their competitors. We are frequently asked if we can make something that we made for another mod, but give it an extra detail here and there so they have a better version. One thing we don’t do is use the same cloth twice for other mod customers. When you have a suit from us, no one, not even in Australia will be offered that cloth. It’s just our little guarantee to avoid any blushes. We also wait a month before publishing pictures of any suits, as we are well aware our mod customers in particular should be the ones to debut their new suit to the world.

24. If someone wanted their first ‘mod’ suit (for want of a better phrase), would you be able to talk them through it or would you prefer to have some kind of guide / pictures relating to what they wanted?

Pictures always go a long way. In fact we much prefer pictures when doing something against the norm. The mod style isn’t really unusual to us though. If someone came in specifically asking for a ‘mod suit’ and used those actual words, we would know it would very likely be having a 3 button front, high break, slim fit, slim lapels, slim trousers with none or half a break and frogmouth pockets. Possibly tunnel loops and handmade working buttonholes. But we collaborate, not dictate so people can have what they want really. More often we get mods coming in wanting to remain true to their look, but having it flatter their frame first and foremost, or with an exclusive detail we have never done for anyone else. It’s never boring when a mod walks through the door

25. Finally, in more general terms, what is the state of health of tailoring in the UK right now. Is it still in decline or are we seeing a resurgence in the profession and the demand for it?

It depends where you look. We have had a phenomenal year. We have doubled our staff from a year ago, and have been operating a waiting list for a big chunk of summer. But we are definitely bucking the trend. On the whole, bespoke tailoring is declining outside of London, and being replaced by suit sellers. The tricky thing with that, is they aren’t investing in the future of tailoring in their region, or even this country. Or even the future of tailoring. London however, Savile row is seeing a real influx of youth and talent now, and bespoke tailoring has never been more fashionable on the web which should see it go from strength to strength in the future.

Gill Long

Gill Long

Huge thanks to Gill for taking time out of her busy schedule.

If you want to know more about Cock of the Walk Tailoring, you can visit the website here. Alternatively, you can keep up with Gill on Facebook, which is also where you can get in touch intiially and get a general list of prices for items you require. Other places of note are Twitter and Instagram if you prefer those social networks.