26 January 2012

Custom Suit Blitz

Being the clothes horse that I am, I've managed to compile an indecent collection over the years. I've gathered everything from the most basic of basics to the downright outlandish. And yet, the one garment which continues to elude me is the perfect charcoal grey suit. I thought I'd have this situation remedied when I ordered one online last Fall, but that endeavour ended badly. Round two sees Imparali Custom Tailors of New York throwing their hat in the ring. They have graciously offered to make a suit for me, and so I visited them in blitzkrieg fashion Tuesday.

7:50 a.m. saw me dashing through South Station, wishing I was getting on a train instead of racing to catch the 8:00 bus, but for $26 round trip, you learn to put up with some minor discomfort.By 12:30, Tin Tin and I were prowling around Brooks Brothers and Paul Stuart, killing time before my appointment later in the afternoon. A very British lunch of fish and chips with a pint of Old Speckled Hen (a real treat if you can find it on draft and nitrogenated) and we were off to the tailor.

608 5th avenue greets one with a stunning Art Deco interior.I'm already feeling better about this than my last attempt at custom.
An unassuming sign beside an unassuming door at the end of an unassuming hallway.

Inside, we're greeted by Matt Harpalani, the affable young fellow in charge. Matt comes to tailoring in the foot steps of his father, also a tailor. His full story can be read here. He knows his stuff, and approaches it in a conversational and friendly manner that puts the customer quickly at ease. No stuffiness here, and that's good. I like nice things, but I have no time for stuffy people.
Matt begins by showing me some completed goods awaiting pick up so I can see up close the level of quality we're dealing with. This double breasted glen check with open patch pockets was a particular knock-out...

...while this purple velvet number piped in gold shows that he'll go to any lengths to meet any request.
Swatch books with fabrics from mills in England and Italy are piled atop a large table. After much deliberation, I settled on a dark grey super 120s Italian worsted. As I waited for Matt to finish up with his previous customer, I notice some very encouraging things around this small room.
Bemeberg linings available in every imaginable color....
...a book of formal wear swatches from Holland and Sherry, which included tartans, velvet, and striped fabrics for morning dress....
...and on the dressing form, a beautifully executed 3/2 roll. I'm getting excited. Now for the measurements...

photo: the Trad
I get a full and thorough once over with the tape. Certain of the numbers, such as the one being taken here, may have been disturbingly large, but hopefully the resulting garment will de-emphasize that.
photo: the Trad
And I never knew how things like slope of the shoulder and arch of the back were accounted for, but now I do. With the help of wonderfully archaic devices like this. Right up my alley.

We discussed every detail, and my own personal style preferences. Fortunately, I managed to avoid the over blown silly detail trap that rubes like me tend to indulge with custom made things. The suit will be a three piece. The jacket will have a natural shoulder, 3/2 front, 3 inch lapels, no darts, but some shaping through the sides. The trousers will have buckle side tabs, brace buttons, no belt loops, and forward pleats. The vest is a standard five button single breasted. Can't wait.

Imparali is a full service operation, offering custom shirts and cashmere topcoats, and specializing in outfitting wedding parties.The suit I ordered in the fabric I chose would have cost around $900 or so. The clothes are made in a factory in China, but the factory has been owned by Matt's family since 1967. That's something right there. It will be ready in about five weeks. Of course we have to wait for the suit to arrive before we make the final call, but so far so good. Finished goods can be picked up at Imparali, or shipped to you. I'm planning a trip back to pick mine up. Alterations are free for life, so if tweaks are needed Matt will do them there. If I manage to get those disturbingly large measurements down a bit, he'll fix that too.

By midnight the same day, I was home in bed. Brutal, but hopefully worth it. Look for the conclusion sometime in late February or early March.


Roger v.d. Velde said...

Indeed. Thrifting the perfect (or near-perfect) grey suit really is a challenge. One I've not managed to overcome either.

I suppose nothing beats the feeling of being measured up for a suit of one's own, yet I'm concerned about the factory in China.
Yes, his family have owned it since 1967, but why? This will never help reinvigorate the lack of tailors in the U.S., just train up more in China. And clearly it's a cost issue.

New Tailor in Holland send a lot of their suits to be made in England (apparently Savile Row, or off-Row, though I don't believe them). A little closer, but does nothing for Dutch tailoring.

However, ignore my tedious distractions. I hope the suit works out for you; you've done a lot of good blogging and you've earned it.

Main Line Sportsman said...

Your best post in a while...were the Fish n Chips the ones that upset poor John's tummy as he mentioned in his Elmore leonard post?
And yes Old Speckled on draught is excellent!

LLP said...

Sounds like you had fun. Hope it works out to your liking.

Anonymous said...

Okay, totally living vicariously through your custom suit order. I don't get the attraction of "Designer suits" that cost $1,000 +++ and for $900 you are getting a custom-made suit made to your exact specifications and preferences. Oh wait, we are living in an instant gratification culture and custom garments take time. Some things are (hopefully) worth waiting for.

Kingstonian said...

Old Speckled Hen is a rather stronger beer than I usually take. However, I would never have it 'nitrogenated'. Draught - from a handpump, or gravity dispense.

Some Assembly Required said...

I've made that same-day round-trip bus trek to NYC, and it is exhausting. Good luck with the suit, looking forward to seeing the results.

Scale Worm said...

What fun, and terrific company! I look forward to the outcome (I am sad it has to be made offshore though). Thank you both!

CD said...


Check this guy out. Mentioned on Ivy Style. You can get a H. Freeman Suit made-to-measure, for $700+
Also carries Southwick and a few other brands.
Turnover is two weeks or so. Also a hole-in-the-wall place, but very glad I know they're there (lets hope they don't go the way the rest of the industry has gone).

bostonhud said...

Haha MainLine Sports-
I was playing blog connect the dots, too.
Guess those fish n chips settled the wrong way.

SUM said...

Spot on Kinsgtonian.

Giuseppe said...

Kigstonian and SUM,

Beers served from a keg using nitrogen dioxide, rather than carbon dioxide, have a rich, creamy head, like draught Guinness. In many cases, as with Old Speckled Hen, it makes all the difference in the enjoyment of the beer. Certainly, a hand pump is best, but we're a long way from England over here, so nitrogen dioxide will have to do. In any case, its a rare treat to find on draught in an American bar.

As for strength, Hen is less than 5%alcohol. Hardly what I'd call a strong pint.

JKG said...

$900 suits? Palling around with Tinseth?

Boy, you just can't keep them down on the farm once they've had a taste of new flannel. Its buttery hand, still slightly redolent of the midlands -- you just can't find *that* in any old thrift store.

Keep living the dream, G.

Zach said...

Interested to see how it turns out. Chinese manufacturers are getting very good at catering to updated western tastes; I've seen plenty of Chinese-made Italian-style sport coats that were well executed.

Taking out of account the fact that it is free (BTW no judgement, I would totally take a free MTM suit), commenter CD is right, you can do an H.Freeman for around 850 for suit, and they do Ivy deets like lapped seams and hooked vents, or Drinkwaters in Cambridge does Southwick MTM starting around 1000.

Philip said...


This link has a list of places in the US that serve real cask-conditioned ale. http://www.cask-ale.co.uk/us/cask-beer-finder-america.html

However, I agree that when you can't get that, nitrogenated on tap is the way to go.

Also, I'd be envious of the suit if I hadn't just scored a nice charcoal from a long-gone local men's shop.

Mike said...

G, I wonder: Do you know women's wear as good as men's wear? I mean, do you thrift for the rest of your family as well?

Young Fogey said...

Nearly a dozen years ago I bought my charcoal gray suit. American-made Hart Schaffner Marx, it cost around $600 new.

Worth every penny. It still makes me look great.

And no, I haven't seen a decent one in the thrift stores, either.

Here's hoping that Imparali does a bang-up job for you.

SUM said...

G - Methinks you can get the old hen in a bottle these days, imported from good old Blighty. Try Marty's in Newton (although I don't particularly like going there). That, with a pickled egg and the latest Hollighurst, is quite the treat.

SUM said...

And oh, quite right in that the old hen is not particularly strong.

Kingstonian said...


Old Speckled Hen is over 5% strength in the UK bottle version and similar on draught.

I normally seek a session beer that I can drink all night. I look for something around 3.8%

ernie els said...

Matt's family has owned the factory in China since 1967. '67? In China, you say? As in Chairman Mao's People's Republic of China and the Cultural Revolution started in '66. That China? The one in 1967 that went to war with India, the same India where the tailor's family was living?


Anonymous said...

I have to second Ernie Els' concern. Not only was 1967 China in the throes of the Cultural Revolution, but foreign investment into that country wasn't legalized until the mid 1980's.

William said...

to pile onto the last two comments: not only would any foreign investment in China not have started until the 80's, but they would have had to have a Chinese citizen partnering and sponsoring the whole operation. also, profits would be very difficult to get out of the country given even today's strict capital restrictions. AND, even defining "ownership" is a tricky thing--all land is owned by the CCP and leased for 99 years. when people buy or sell property in China, they're selling a lease, not property.

sorry if that was overkill.

Giuseppe said...

In a perfect world, there would be no oppressive governments; we'd have a factory in every town, making all our own goods; factory workers would be paid well, and the rest of us would make enough money to afford to buy everything domestically produced;companies would be headed by benevolent philanthropists, not bottom line capitalists;flowers would bloom every day,dogs and cats would live side by side in peace, and no one would ever do anything wrong, ever.

I would love to shop home grown exclusively, even feed my kids organically, but this isn't a perfect world, and those things aren't about to happen for me any time soon.

While the things many of you have to say about off shore production may be true, let's not forget that it wasn't people like Matt and I or even our generation that created this situation. We are, however, left to live with it. SOmetimes , you have to make do with what you have. A man can't change the world every time he changes his pants.

I've allowed these comment because you all had the decency to state your points clearly and cleanly, but let's not forget this post, or this blog, is not about politics, it's about clothes. Good old, shallow, superficial clothes.


Matt Harpalani said...

Thank You Giuseppe for such a nice blog post about the process, waiting for the same about the suit.