06 July 2011

David Chu Bespoke

It is not lost on me -- not for a second -- that while preparing for the exterior shots of David Chu's mid-19th century townhouse--I moved two bags of garbage out front to 'clean up' the view. This house does that. You feel you must contribute something to its elegance.

I lured Alice Olive into shooting this post by showing her photos (seen here) I had taken of the staircase. We were told by our host, Fabrizio Volterra, Managing Director of David Chu Bespoke, that while the house had a major restoration the staircase looks much like it did in 1850.

Starting at $125, the pocket square, or 'pochette' speaks to the heart of what David Chu Bespoke is all about. Fastidious attention in the smallest of creative details and sartorial history to back it up. Mr Volterra explains the inspiration of this hand framed tartan trim comes from the 18th Century French maker, Simonnot Godard (seen here). Other trim? Think: Madras, rep stripes, BB#1, batik, surcingle, Souleiado...Just about anything except Vineyard Vines.

I'm not sure a rumpled old fat man like myself can pull off a custom tie with an embroidered ships wheel hand sewn on a horizontal bias tie, but I think it screams youth and fun. If I were 33 again...I'd own this tie. Perfect for a Summer night on Eataly's new roof top bar. Trust me, $160 is a small price to pay for a tie that could do a lot of talking for you. Unlined 12 folds are $250 and Seven Folds are $175.

Stepping into custom shirting is a selfish rite of passage for any man. Picking your own fabric, collar and cuffs and coughing up the minimum of three or six or whatever...while your wife juggles the bills and the kids...Hey! Forget her. You. Deserve. It.

Chu Bespoke requires a minimum order of one. Here's a hand made Neapolitan voile so thin and airy it needs a lining to hide your chest hair. If you're like me and don't have any chest hair you can knock $50 off the $500. Hand sewn everything including the shirt maker's name and date of establishment on a side gusset. The 'Pettegola' keeps the voile tucked in. Italian for 'gossiping women' the pettegola affords any man a unique one upmanship when it comes to strolling around the Union League's locker room in your shirt and boxers. Charvet doesn't stand a chance.

The sleeves are hand shirred to the shoulders creating little pleats, a lot of comfort and even more history. The Spanish brought this shoulder pleating to Italy in the 18th Century via Spain's military shirt. In short, it's not a shirt as much as a piece of hand made art.

Where will you ever find an 18th Century Italian painting for $500? That does double duty? That has a lining and a pettegola? These are the things to tell your wife after she finds the bill and calls you a selfish bastard.

I'm not sure why this does not look like a waiter's uniform. Maybe it's the richness of the material. Cashmere and linen. Maybe it's the cut. A double breasted drape that would easily fit into Savile Row. There's formality here but also a relaxed aesthetic that's grown up, well off, and ready for a candle lit dinner on a restaurant terrace in Gubbio on a hot July night. MTM - $2,250. Bespoke-$3,350.

The shoes Chu Bespoke offers are Italian and hand welted and colored. MTM is $2,300 and Bespoke are $3,400. Allow 13-15 weeks. Are you adding this up?

It's hard to take all this in on one visit.

And nothing your average, more-money-than-God New Yorker, might need hasn't been thought of.

And the space -- the wrapper all of this is covered in never lets up for a second.

It's not old money and I wouldn't call it new money.

Maybe it's just money well spent.

The Bespoke suit for $4,500 is an incredible value.

House style is English drape which the Italians stole from the British and have been selling back to them going on sixty years.

Sewn by hand.

Fabrizio Volterra, shown above, is your guide. He has amazing insight, not just in the making and the style, but in the history as well. His eye will become your eye as he rolls out more and more creations of his own.

A simple white polo shirt, from the image of Gianni Agnelli above, becomes other worldly when Fabrizio knocks it off ... by hand. $350

A bespoke umbrella. You choose the dimensions, wood and design. $300 That's another pocket square hand sewn in tartan trim and the only case where I can see a man matching it to his tie. $100

Alice likes cats. I like terraces.

All photos by Alice Olive for The Trad (click on image to enlarge)

David Chu Bespoke, 25 East 22nd Street, NYC, NY 10010 (646) 723 8712


brohammas said...

The shot of Fabrizio smiling is perfect. It would appear he is doing hwat he loves and that has more value than all those $ signs I intentionally avoided adding up.

Main Line Sportsman said...

I was with you right up to the bespoke bumbershoot....really...spending on a custom umbrella is just silly....gonna leave it in a restaurant or bar anyway when the weather clears and your head hasn't

tintin said...

Bro- He does and I didn't add it up either. But there's some good deals here if you're willing to spend more for an umbrella than what they're selling on the corner of Chestnut Street.

Main Line- There's no better look than a guy in a great looking suit with a cheap umbrella.

I thought the same thing but I've had a $250 umbrella (Brooks and not custom) for 10 years. And I've never lost it. I've left it behind a few places but I've always hauled ass back to get it.

BCM said...

I want it all yet can have none of it. Thanks for depressing me this morning Tin man.

Joseph the Butler said...

I love the casual simplicity of it all, and the unpretentiousness--I mean, showing clothes wrinkled and slightly askew--that's confidence.

Alice Olive said...

That green ladies umbrella was exquisite.

Oyster Guy said...

OUTSTANDING copy and photos !

I would like to ask Mr. Chu if anyone has EVER told his story better? If he were truly a smart man he would build an empire around and FOR the two of you !

Unclelooney said...

can you imagine hauling a Hide-a-way up them steps?

Anonymous said...

I don't see how $ 4,500.00 for a bespoke suit is an incredible value.

One could deal with someone like Thomas Mahon directly, cut out a/the middleman, Chu, and save a $1,000.00 .

Vanity project, tax shelter or both ?

Because there's absolutely no way he is recouping his investment in that space.

GSV JR said...

The profiles you've been cranking out over the last couple of months are top damn shelf. Photos (may be) a thread better.

andrea said...

I once read an interview with a custom shirtmaker who said a number of her customers had recently been released from prison. There was something kind of touching about that.

P.S. Rite (not right) of passage.

BCM said...

Anon 12:09 - Tax shelter? Probably not. Vanity project? Maybe. I see it more as Chu following his passion in life by designing and creating top-shelf men's clothing.

Chu personally banked $100 million from the sale of Nautica in 2003 so I'm sure he's not really sweatin' the rent too much.

tintin said...

BCM- I think that Umbrella is a steal and how can you go wrong with a $100 pochette? I just like saying pochette.

Joseph- Well observed...and said.

Alice- Parasol. Which reminds me of the city bus scene in Bright Lights, Big City.

Oyster Guy- Empire building? I just need a job.

uncle looney- Not to mention the cases of Natty Light. There is an elevator that looks like a giant Dunhill cigar humidor.

Anon- I thought Mahon was close to 3,000 pounds nowadays. Also, it's hardly the same tailoring. I also found Mahon to be too aloof for me. That's just me. I'm sure they're other people who like that trait in a tailor. See BCM's comment for your other assumptions.

GSV- Thanks, Stew. That's darned nice of you but Olive's got the eye, man. She sees what no one else does.

Andrea - That's interesting. Did she specify state or federal prison? My editor should'a caught that Rite - Right thing. Thanks.

BCM- That's what I heard (about the dough) and know (about the rest). Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Gag me with a spoon! You must surely be joking...not "new" money then who?

Undoubtedly, a wonderful attention to detail and an undeniable appreciation of the best materials but the price points!! Perhaps the young financial wizards who managed to duck the very bullet that has done such serious damage to the rest of this country? Should we add 25 E. 22nd Street to the address list the tumbrels will visit?

Anonymous in NY

Amatourist said...

33 y.o. seeks horizontal bias tie w/ hand sewn embroidered ships wheel. Checks in the mail... I guarantee it. Great profile Tintin. and fantastic shots. The umbrella comment reminds me of a post you did a while back... "or I could just say I got it at J Crew." Seems to me that the story-in-sourcing is half the damn fun.

max b said...

First time reading this blog. Really nice, congratulations. Fabrizio is a really nice guy and he is doing an extremly good job. Nice pictures !

Brummagem Joe said...

Enjoyable pictures and some nice (as well as slightly bizarre) items all at vast expense do provoke some some reflections on consumerism. It's almost too perfect (do I a really want to order a bespoke suit in a plastic surgery clinic?). My wife used to drag me off to a Manhattan decorator's boutique which had a similar ambience but hasn't lasted and one wonders whether a similar fate doesn't beckon here (ROI?). But I would like to possess the terrace.

ann said...

No offense intended, but really who are you impressing with these clothes? Yes they're beautiful, there is no denying that, but who would even know about them? Who among us is so vastly sophisticated that they might recognize the quality if it was walking down the street in front of them? Not me, and probably not many others. And yet, I'm reading your blog. I care something about clothing and quality and even what others might think. So who?

Maybe women have a more realistic attitude about beauty and what it bestows and then takes away. (I grow old. I grow old. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.) But wait, aren't those cuffs bespoke?

You have mentioned a number of times when all you wanted from what you were wearing was a kind of cloaking device, something that didn't scream difference. In fact the notion of TRAD, as I understand it (and I lived it in high school) was to absolutely fit in, and not much more. With style, of course.

So who would would be impressed? And I understand the notion of living well as revenge, so don't go there, but Come on, $100 for a pocket square?

Anonymous said...

Tintin -

My price comparison was based on the details posted on Mahon's site. Perhaps he needs to update it.

I'm aware of Chu's money - it's his to spend and I wish him well.

But to my mind you're either in business or your not and so leasing / buying that space literally doesn't add up.

Cue Sinatra

Oyster Guy said...

Ann, I would be impressed for one. I love things (practically anything) made by hand. A skilled hand and eye married to cloth can produce a drape, line or roll as artistic as any sculpture and yet...(cue Tom Wolfe italics) it moves!

I think trad is more than just fitting in. I have no sartorial interest in skinny jeans, graphic tees or hoodies that would make me blend into most urban spaces. Nor have I a sartorial interest in pleasing anyone other than myself. Yes, it's a lot of money but the value endures over time. I despair at how so much stuff has become disposable in our culture, how craftsmanship has declined. Imagine, a pocket square that you can leave in your will ! Assuming one is fortunate enough to have loving and interested heirs.

Brummagem Joe said...

"Imagine, a pocket square that you can leave in your will !"

Somehow I can't see my heirs fighting over that little plaid applique number.

Paul in NoVA said...

Wow, and I thought hiding my charges at Mercer's from my wife was hard. This is the stuff of Swiss Bank accounts, but someday maybe, someday. The 3 on 2 double breasted are gorgeous. My wife is onboard for a Saville Row bespoke but maybe I will lobby for this instead - no airfare necessary.

I hope for LFG's college fund's sake, ADG misses this post and the $3500 shoes.

tintin said...

Anon 20:00 - When I see comments like yours, I can pretty much guess I've set rat traps older than you.

I'm at a loss as to how you see Chu as some Wall Street bandit when all he did was build an apparel brand and sell it 20 years later. No betting against home owners. No pyramid schemes.

I never felt like I got ripped off when I bought Nautica swim trunks in 1992. Also, your IP address has you in some shit hole outside Harrisburg, PA. Maybe the 'NY' is just wishful thinking?

Amatourist- I like that J Crew post. Chu's Bespoke is hardly known in NYC much less the rest of the country. That sets it apart. Not because it's not easily accessed like Crew. But because Crew, VV, Rugby, Gap, Polo, Yadda Yadda Yadda, all make the same stuff.

I don't think it's 'cause the designers are talentless. I just don't think (and in some cases know) they ever get a chance to do what they wanna do. It's gotta be frustrating for them but at least they're getting the mortgage paid.

max b- Thanks. Like your sock blog.

Joe B-"...do I a really want to order a bespoke suit in a plastic surgery clinic?" What the heck are you talking about?

"I can't see my heirs fighting over that little plaid applique number" You can't? Here's a tip. The little things -- especially the hand made little things we take for granted today -- can be worth fighting over tomorrow.

You watch the Road Show -- or did until it upset you for whatever reason. Things printed on paper. Things made outta wood. And you mark my words, hand made textiles in a world of mass production, are gonna be future collectables. I rarely agree with you but I always thought you had foresight.

Ann- You hit it on the head. Chu's Bespoke (and anybodies for that matter) is about the wearer and not the designer. You're not wearing Tom Ford. You're wearing you. You design it. You take part in the creation of something unique to who you are.

And it can be quirky because we're all quirky. The only sane people are the marketing and accounting people convincing you to buy cologne because it'll make you a Polo player.

Anon 13:21 - I hate Sinatra.

It's a waste of time trying to figure out what's in someone's wallet or purse much less offering them unsolicited biz advice on a blog.

Oyster Guy- That's great insight. I'm gonna see if I can't get you a pocket square.

Paul in NoVa - The row can be a stuffy drag sometimes. And there's talk that bits and pieces are being farmed out. In some cases to folks in the country. In other cases, to folks outside the country -- Eastern Europe and beyond. Who knows but things have changed and it ain't what it used to be.

Patsy said...

Having done a bit of handcrafting in my life, $100 for the handsewn pocket square does not seem grossly out of whack.

I think men who are shelling out this type of dough on their wardrobes, do not have the bills sent home.

My Affair with Michael Bastian said...

Hmmmmm, interesting...