In last week’s episode of “The Making of a Coat,” Rory Duffy assembled the elements of a chest canvas, basting a significant amount of fullness into the haircloth and domette. In today’s installment, Duffy distributes that fullness with a dense series of pad stitches that will help lock in the desired shape. That’s pretty much it.
Despite this simplicity -- or perhaps because of it -- it’s my personal favorite in the series so far. It captures the essence of so much bespoke tailoring: fluid and efficient movement, guided by trained touch and muscle memory, never exactly repeated. It’s a soothing physical rhythm that lets the mind wander and the trap flap, and as Duffy reminisces about his training at Henry Poole, it’s easy to imagine the chatty camaraderie among tailors. They may have had to trade their upper-story sunlight for the lower-rent fluorescence of basement workshops, but the archaically deep bond between Savile Row masters and apprentices remains. Duffy knows he was fortunate to have experienced this as an apprentice, and now as a master tailor he’s committed to sharing his training -- whether with his former Poole apprentice Emily Squires (who in 2013 won the Golden Shears herself), his students today at Parsons, or with viewers of these videos.
Duffy’s comments here on the shortcomings of subdivisional tailoring are particularly interesting, and they help provide a rationale for his brand of soup-to-nuts “handcraft” bespoke beyond the romantic appeal of having one’s clothing made by a single artisan. How compelling that rationale is depends on the individual -- Duffy himself invites each of his clients to consider a more inexpensive bespoke line partially made in Ireland -- but the notion that each step in tailoring must be made with a solid understanding of the larger process is fundamental.
Toward the end of the video, Duffy describes the number of pad stitches put into a canvas as an index of quality, but it’s worth nothing that he prefers a more structurally shaped coat, and that certain other tailors -- notably Stephen Hitchcock -- advocate having fewer. In the highly partisan trenches of #menswear, one man’s drapey softness is another’s shapeless mess, but considering that even machined-padded canvases suffice for many well-regarded makers, one suspects that such distinctions tend to be exaggerated.