Yesterday, I flew up to Dallas to see Chris Despos for a fitting of the jacket I'm having made up from that length of Breanish tweed that I wrote about last month. These little trips are usually quite enjoyable (well, aside from the part involving airports or airplanes): I fly up in the morning, have lunch with Chris (who has excellent taste in restaurants) -- yesterday, we were joined by another of Chris's clients, a pediatric neurosurgeon with a thing for clothes -- have the fitting, chat with Chris, flip through some swatches, fly back home in time for dinner. Yesterday was no exception to the pattern.
Chris has been an independent tailor for over 20 years. He originally came to Dallas in 1981 to work for a tailor who trained at Caraceni in Milan and was brought over to the United States to be Neiman Marcus's head fitter before striking out on his own. A few years later, Chris, too, struck out on his own. He relocated to Chicago several years ago; but because of the size of his clientèle in Dallas (and the fact that most of his tailors are located in Dallas), he still keeps an apartment in Big D and comes down every few weeks for two or three days.
I first heard about Chris in Alan Flusser's book Style and the Man, in which he was one of the few US-based tailors mentioned. I heard his name again when I was considering what to do with another length of Breanish tweed I purchased last fall. When I had originally ordered it (or, rather, when I subscribed to an order that my friend arranged), I had thought that I would have Oxxford Clothes make it up as a made-to-measure jacket. Oxxford's quality of make is second to none, and they do CMT (cut, make, trim -- ie, they'll make up a customer's own cloth, not force the customer to pick from their swatches) for a very reasonable price. Unfortunately, by the time I took delivery of my tweed, I realized that Oxxford was not a good option. I had given them a length of alpaca to make up into a jacket, and the result was a disaster. It was a shapeless mess that made me look like a linebacker weighing 50 pounds more than I weigh. I'm not a little guy, and adding 50 pounds to me is not a good thing. I mentioned the problem to one of my friends who knows about as much as anybody not in the business knows about bespoke tailoring, and he said, "Well, there's Despos. If you go with him, I guarantee that you'll get something that fits." That's a pretty strong recommendation, so I gave Chris a call, discussed the fabric and his approach with him, and decided that I would go with him. I'm glad that I did. He is extremely talented, and the jacket that I got fits perfectly and looks very good. More than that, it doesn't feel like it's there when I'm wearing it. Every other piece of tailored clothing that I have ever worn has really felt like it's wearing me. This jacket doesn't. Combined with the fact that Chris is a nice guy with good taste in restaurants, and the experience was darn near perfect. I have since ordered several pairs of trousers from him, and if anything, they are even more miraculous than the jacket. They actually fit, which is something that I haven't managed with any ready-to-wear or made-to-measure trousers, and they look good. When I ordered this second length of Breanish tweed, I knew that it would go to Chris.
Different tailors have different processes, but Chris likes to do basted fittings for his jackets. The pieces of the jacket have been cut, and they're loosely stitched together with white cotton thread. He does this so that if there are any problems, he can easily disassemble the jacket and pin it in the correct configuration while the client is still there. If you look closely at the picture above, you'll see that the left sleeve is missing. This is because the back-front balance was slightly off (the back of the jacket was lower than the front, meaning that the bottom was not perfectly parallel to the ground): Chris tore off the sleeve and the collar, sliced the stitching attaching the back panel to the front panel with a razor blade, and repinned the two pieces together correctly. It's an impressive bit of theater, and it serves a useful purpose. Another impressive thing about the jacket, even in this incomplete state: it hung nearly closed at the front, even without being pinned. That's a sign that the side-side balance of the jacket is good, and it's something that Chris prides himself for. The jacket should be finished in mid-October, and it will hopefully be cool enough to wear it then. I also selected a fabric for some trousers to go with the jacket: a Scabal 450 gram whipcord in a brown-gray-blue melange. Those should be done in November or December.