Saturday, 16 January 2010

Cad and the Dandy: First review

Last November, I managed to ruin my black tie trousers by slipping and tearing a hole in one knee; a hole which probably cannot be repaired to a level that will make the trousers acceptable to wear again as my primary dinner suit. I can almost certainly buy some new ones from the original store, and ought to get a good enough match on the fabric, but this accident did open up again the possibility of buying an entirely new dinner suit, something I've been thinking about for a while.

For a start, my old dinner suit is an off-the-peg one. It's very nice, and was adjusted when I bought it to give a reasonable fit, but I have noticed that the collar has a tendency to sit away from my neck if it is not regularly adjusted. The result, I suppose, of a poor fit across the shoulders, and a constant frustration at a dinner party when you really ought to be entirely comfortable in your clothes.
A suit that does not quite fit

So, I decided that a new suit was required, and this time it would have to be tailor made to my measurements. Furthermore, I would take the opportunity to get a double breasted suit. Partly because this would mean I could replace or repair my other trousers and have two different styles of dinner suit, and partly because I happen to really like double breasted dinner suits. Unlike with a business suit, with dinner suits single breasted is seen as more formal, double breasted being more related to a smoking jacket. However, it is precisely this more relaxed, informal feel that I like.

As far as getting it tailor made goes, I initially considered going back to ASuitThatFits. However, they have two examples of their dinner suits in their 'reviews' section, and I can't say I like them very much. They appear only to offer satin facings, and the results look cheap and nasty. In any case, for a while now I have been keen to try out another tailor who provides a similar service to ASuitThatFits. Cad & The Dandy, much like ASuitThatFits, offer what I would describe as 'Made-To-Measure Plus'. It's not quite bespoke, but the level of service and range of customisation available makes it slightly more than Made-To-Measure, in my view. However, Cad & The Dandy have some crucial differences to ASuitThatFits which made them more attractive to me.

Firstly, C&TD have a much simpler pricing structure. Instead of starting with a basic price and then charging a small amount extra for every change you make; £2 here for an extra button, £20 there for a different lining, etc, their prices essentially only vary depending on the fabric you choose and the construction method (more on which later). Things that, at ASTF, are either expensive optional extras (like working cuffs) or simply unavailable (like a half-canvassed construction) are standard at C&TD. The result is that while a fairly basic suit at ASTF could certainly be very cheap, any amount of customisation pushes the price up to the point that it would be comparable to, or even more expensive than, a C&TD suit. Factor in the half-canvassed construction as standard, and suddenly C&TD seems like better value.

C&TD have recently opened a proper store in The City, where they do fittings Monday to Friday. However, they are also available twice a week from premises beneath Scabal on Savile Row. It is there that I went this morning to be measured for my dinner jacket. I must say, I was immediately very impressed. The whole experience of being measured for a suit in premises on Savile Row is a wonderful one and Ian, one of the co-founders of C&TD, only enhanced this by his attentive service. My appointment took a full hour, the result of Ian taking the time to fully explain the order and construction process and the options available to me, before going through their wide range of fabrics (far more than are on the site, by the way) and then measuring me and taking my order. Going back to the construction options that I mentioned, Ian explained to me that they have three different levels. The half-canvassed, machine stitched, construction is standard. For an extra £150 you can get half-canvassed and hand stitched, while for an extra £300 you get a full floating canvass, and an entirely hand stitched suit. Furthermore, for this top end option, the suit will be cut and initially assembled on Savile Row, allowing you to have a basted fitting before it is sent off for stitching in China. This strikes me as extremely good value for a service and quality that would be relatively close to getting a bespoke Savile row suit.

What pleased me most about Cad And The Dandy, though, was the love and enthusiasm that Ian obviously had for his business. He seemed rightly proud of the fact that they carefully source all their fabric from English mills, and was able to give sensible and helpful advice on selecting options and fit. I shall be interested to see what the service is like when I return to try the suit on and, of course, I very much look forward to seeing how it actually turns out. My first meeting has set me up with high expectations but, if C&TD can meet them, I suspect this will be the first of many orders I will place with them.

(Update: Part 2 of the Cad and the Dandy review now available here)

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