Friday, 17 September 2010

Chalked Up: Men's Designer Flannel Suits

Sauntering along Savile Row early one morning, I paused and gazed in the window of Henry Poole, the oldest tailor on the Row, where a large portrait of Winston Churchill clad in a chalk stripe flannel suit was displayed. It occurred to me that it was high time we re-introduced this fine material - what I like to call 'proper cloth' - to the world of designer menswear at large.

Knowing that the flannel was manufactured by Fox Bros, I made an appointment to visit them and duly headed off to their ancient mill in Somerset. Faced with an alarming array of patterns from their extensive archives of over four hundred hessian bound books dating back to the 1770s, I quickly narrowed it down to a volume of classic navy chalk stripes.

I still had a bewildering choice to make, with there being a dozen or more blues and all in different stripe settings. I then remembered the days when I worked in Savile Row and I would often see Tommy Nutter, the avant-garde tailor whose suits were made by mixing up cloths and patterns to create a truly individual ensemble.

So, taking my cue from Tommy, and not being able to make my mind up about which stripe to select, I decided I would use three stripe settings made in the same weight and same colour navy and then incorporate them all into one suit.

In the end, I went with a broad stripe for the jacket, a medium stripe for the waistcoat and a narrow stripe for the trousers. I know it sounds mad but now that I have seen it made up it really does work.

Mindful of the old adage retail is detail, I have had the lining of the suit made in corresponding blue and white stripe settings. So the sleeve lining is a broad stripe, the waistcoat lining is a medium stripe, and so on - you get the gist. I am now nervously awaiting the imminent arrival of this multi-chalk stripe suit into our shops and hoping that I have chalked up a winner.

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