No Frills, Just Quality: A Review of Alan David Custom NYC

Alan David Custom isn’t selling an “experience”, they’re just selling great suits

In the world of made to measure, custom and bespoke tailoring there is a lot of smoke and mirrors. And this starts with the classifications themselves. Many companies throw these terms around with little to no regard for what they actually mean.

In the worst cases, they prey on uneducated consumers and attempt to convince them that they’re getting a bespoke suit for $500, when in fact, they’re getting a slightly modified ready-to-wear garment instead. That guy thinks he got a great deal and brags about it to all his buddies. But the truth is that he’s been taken for a fool.

charcoal-grey-double-breasted-flannel-suit-striped-tie-blue-shirt-classic-mens-business-outfit-idea-for-winter-3

Then there is the actual showroom experience. Many upstart companies go out of their way to make you “feel” a certain something when you step foot in the showroom. They’ve got the “correct” ambiance – Chesterfield couches, Persian rugs and all the right magazines. They’ll offer you a drink and ply you with whiskey before sitting down to discuss all the details of your suit they plan on upselling.

And then there are those that claim to have revolutionized the fitting process, touting their innovative full-body scanner, digital imaging or “perfect fit” technology. Right.

I know this to be true because I have experienced all of these scenarios during my ongoing love affair with classic menswear. And nine times out of 10, you are being sold snake oil, not a great suit.

The moral of all of the above is that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. A good rule for menswear, a good rule for life.

charcoal-grey-double-breasted-flannel-suit-striped-tie-blue-shirt-classic-mens-business-outfit-idea-for-winter-5

| WEARING | Alan David Custom suit, Al Bazar shirt, Drake’s tie, Rolex watch, Paul Evans shoes | PHOTOGRAPHY | by Rob McIver Photo

What I’m getting to, is that if you are the type of person who needs a certain kind of highly manufactured romanticism and ambiance in your suit-buying experience, you are probably the type of person who would walk in to the Alan David Custom showroom on the seventh floor of a nondescript building on east 40th between 5th and Madison, take one look and walk right out. Because there’s nothing the least bit flashy about the place.

It’s simple. A couple desks, a conference table, a cabinet with about 100 suits hanging, a display of some tie designs you probably won’t buy. It’s drab. Old carpet, muted colors. And, honestly, it’s kind of boring. Certainly not the kind of place – if you were that kind of person – you would think produced some of the best custom suits in New York City.

grey-flannel-double-breasted-suit-jacket-striped-tie-spread-cutaway-collar-shirt-deatils-peak-lapel

However, to the truly initiated – those who can tell the difference between fluff and substance – none of that matters. Becasue to that person what does matter is the people, the history and the quality and integrity of what a business does. And that’s the kind of person who would be a client of Alan David Custom.

A fourth generation business, Alan David Custom is currently owned by Alan David Horowitz. With roots in lower Manhattan, Alan moved the business uptown in 2006 after the city “condemned” the shop’s building in order to make way for the Fulton Street Station. Alan’s small team includes a roster of veteran tailors, fitters and sales people with experience at some of the biggest names in men’s tailoring, including Brioni, Canali and Zegna.

I recently had the opprortunity and honor to be fitted for a suit at Alan David Custom. Let’s talk about the experience.

If you’ve had a made to measure or custom suit experience before, the process at Alan David Custom isn’t any different. Decide on the kind of suit – single or double-breasted – the details such as lapel style, pockets and buttons and then choose your fabric.

working-button-holes-on-grey-flannel-suit-jacket

Prior to my appointment, I took stock of my closet and decided to fill a big, gaping hole in my fall/winter wardrobe. I chose a classic, medium grey double-breasted flannel suit with three flap pockets and brown buttons in a beautiful fabric by Zegna.

Next comes the measuring process. Again, nothing you haven’t experienced before. All measurements are done by hand and posture is evaluated. Though everything is considered, or perhaps more to the point, nothing is left unconsidered. Jacket length, button stance positioning, armhole height and so on – all are issues that are on the table and brought to your attention for consideration.

From there, an individual paper pattern is produced. As an aside, the process at Alan David Custom is very close to true bespoke, from the pattern making to the hand-stitching of every garment. But here’s where integrity comes into play. To Alan, true bespoke means that a single tailor takes care of every aspect of making your suit. The fact that a garment passes through multiple hands rather than just a single pair, is the reason, despite all of the other factors, Alan insists on being called custom rather than bespoke.

Once the pattern is made, you’ll have a basted fitting. After your measurements are taken and pattern made, the garment is carefully hand cut and assembled with white basting thread. This helps the fitter really “dial in” your fit.

behind-the-scenes-camera-studio-lighting-set-up-he-spoke-style-grey-double-breasted-flannel-suit

One of the unique aspects of Alan David Custom is the speed with which this happens. For a typical made to measure or custom experience, you’re looking at a six to eight week turnaround time. This is because most companies outsource their work to Asia. However, Alan David Custom is able to turn garments around so quickly – they generally quote three weeks, but can, in extenuating circumstances do it much, much quicker – because they utilize a factory just across the East River in Brooklyn.

After the basted fitting is complete, your garment is assembled and is ready for your second – and likely final – fitting. In my case, the second fitting was as close to perfect as I’ve ever experienced. In fact the only things we needed to discuss were pant length and whether to do a plain bottom or a cuff.

oxblood-oxford-wholecut-leather-shoes-paired-with-grey-flannel-suit-pants-no-cuff-plain-bottom

Alan David custom offers fabrics from Vitale Barberis, Loro Piana and Zegna. Pricing for suits ranges between $1,300 to $3,000. Not bad for about as close to true bespoke as you are going to get.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Brian Sacawa
He Spoke Style

Recommended

Chime In

  • Daniel Du

    Mr. Sacawa, you need to realise that’s a poorly cut suit. I have no doubt about the quality, but the fit is quite pathetic considering it’s bespoke. The shoulder seam is too far away from your body, and the armhole is gigantic. I’ve had far better results from Suitsupply’s mtm.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      That’s a pretty harsh criticism, Mr. Du. As I have a few jackets from Suitsupply – since you’re a fan – I measured the armhole against this particular jacket. There is a .5″ difference, with Suitsupply being cut just slightly higher. Could this one come up a bit? Perhaps, but that’s a personal choice. Wearing this jacket, I don’t feel as though the armhole is too large. The photos might be misleading you here.

      Also, not sure what you mean re the shoulder seam. Again, wearing the jacket, I can tell you that it stops right before my shoulder starts to slope down and the arm falls nicely over that curve. If you could clarify what you’re seeing that makes you think that, I could provide a better answer.

      Thanks for chiming in.

      • Daniel Du

        Oops. Sorry for misleading you. By shoulder seam, I meant the shoulder seam in the front (between the top of the shoulder and the armhole, between the chest and sleeve). I work in the bespoke business, and one thing I make sure of during fittings is that that shoulder seam is cut relatively closer to the chest as this allows for much more comfort.

        From the photos, I see that the seam is quite a distance from your chest. In the article, you said the time-to-completion is around 3 weeks. I can say with certainty (from these 2 facts) that Alan David is lazy. That shoulder takes no time to make. Furthermore, the behavior of the suit looks more as if the suit is “cut” than “ironed”. Cutting is important, yes, as you need to cut out the pattern on fabric, cut in the waist, etc, but the ironing is where the time is really spent. Large chests and small waists are ironed into the canvas, and protruding shoulder bones are ironed into the shoulder. These materials, after ironed, need time to cool down and take shape before their next iron, hence the waiting time.

        Alan David is not wrong in calling himself bespoke (or “custom”). However, that’s suit is not the quality of bespoke. Edward Sexton, however, is amazing.

        • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

          Thanks for dropping your knowledge on us, Daniel. Cheers.

  • RJ Giddings

    At least these folks are still in business. Methods are still being taught to a next generation, I would hope. Makes me also wonder…Could you count on your fingers how many custom menswear shops are still in New York? That could be its own topic.

    I certainly need to do some more research on the different ways of suit making. Bespoke vs. custom vs. true-bespoke: one-tailor hand
    carrying the manufacture process all the way from measurement to cutting/sewing/ fitting and final check fitting. Offshore tailoring vs. in-house? Fused? Stitched? This is worthy of it’s own 700 page book all by itself- but for the chopped version of online discussion – let’s just say that a tailored 100% wool suit @ $ 3000.00 made here in the States with a shop in Queens, is still considered pricy for most gentlemen. But yes… for $1300.00, ok now more guys are listening.

    Should I go to this Alan David gentleman’s shop the next time I’m in New York? According to Brian- yes, likely so! His business model might seem old fashioned. I love it. Not the flash and neon you might see at SuitSupply – I’m a huge fan of theirs too- but this is simply an older way of doing it.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Thanks for the comment, RJ. As I mention in the post, Alan David is not “flashy” or presenting a facade. They are who they are. You’ve just got to be prepared for that.

      As with anything custom, a lot of the price comes from the fabric you choose. Zegna, Loro Piana and Scabal are going to be pricier than Vitale Barberis, for example. Here’s a list of the range of fabrics Alan David Custom carries:

      – Vitale Barberis ($1295 – $1595)
      – Loro Piana ($1695 – $2800)
      – Zegna ($1895 – $3000)

      One thing you can do to help minimize a custom suit’s cost is to buy as a season is coming to a close. At that point, shops are looking to unload the last bolts of fabric and often mark them down significantly. The tradeoff is that if you’re buying a seasonal suit, such as a tweed or flannel, you’re not going to be able to wear it for a good six months or so.

      There are, of course, other factors that go into the price of a suit, but by and large, the fabric is the biggest of those.

      We’ve done a few articles on types of suits buying options:

      – A short primer: http://hespokestyle.com/guide-to-mens-suit-options/
      – What is MTM? http://hespokestyle.com/mens-style-advice/what-is-mtm-suit/

      We should probably publish something that digs into the finer differences between custom, bespoke, et. al.

      One word on fusing. Don’t buy a fused suit. Eventually, the glue is going to come off and it’l look awful. It’s the age-old dilemma of you get what you pay for. Also, instant gratification v. patience.

      Good luck, my friend!

  • Eric Harrison

    I was hired by Alan to get his online marketing successful again. So being able to see the final products during my 18 months there, every single suit was flawless and every customer amazed. Glad Alan gave me the opportunity to be a part of NYC’s top custom clothier. -Eric

  • https://www.bandidos2measure.com Bandidos Official

    Nothing like made to measure clothing to feel special. Once you order your firsts let’s say made to measure shirt, you can’t go to off-the-rack items. You want the best possible fitting.

  • Jennifer Smith

    Once you opt for bespoke clothing, you’d never wear off-the-rack. You can feel the difference. I got a custom suit made from La Rukico Custom Tailors in NYC – http://www.tailor.com. I was pressed for time and they were the only ones who committed to deliver in 3 weeks. They delivered a perfect fitting suit in 3 weeks to me and I have been their customer ever since. I get the best pricing in NYC for a custom suit at La Rukico and very timely delveries. Fabric is premium and I am happy with what they provide. I suggest you do write a review on them for your blog customers. Thanks.