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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
He Spoke Style