An Expert’s Guide to the Fit, Fabrics, and Importance of a Custom Suit
Customization: It’s the next frontier in nearly every consumer industry worldwide, from makeup and skincare to one-of-a-kind ice cream flavors. We see it everywhere, but is it new? Take even a few minutes to speak with Nikko Lencek-Inagaki, the design and production manager at Freemans Sporting Club, and you’ll get an oral history of the centuries-old tradition of suitmaking. The sportswear and custom suiting retailer, which launched in 2005 and just opened The Suiting Room at Rockefeller Center, has taken this traditional art form into the 21st century using studied, expert tailoring with modern sensibility.
In a fashion landscape packed with over-ordered quantities of merchandise, it’s hard to believe there was a time when people would seldom shop or buy retail for their wardrobes. Once a season, you’d clamor into the local tailor or dressmaker’s shop, browse the latest fabrics and have garments made specifically for your body and style persuasion. Circa 2021, you might only enjoy that experience a handful of times in your entire life. Lencek-Inagaki and the team at Freemans Sporting Club hope to change that, or at least set a stellar precedent for what the shift back to bespoke wardrobes can look like.
In a subset of clothing often viewed as limiting or staid, there’s a surprising amount of flexibility that comes into play when entering into an experience with The Suiting Room. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all model to their suiting, but rather a dialogue and collaboration that takes place. It makes perfect sense (think of dandies and other icons of camp), and creates a certain approachability to the process of outfitting.
Here, Lencek-Inagaki walks through the fits and fabrics you want in a suit made to last and explains why the resurgence of this craft will ultimately help save the environment.
How should a custom suit fit?
NLI: The gift of custom clothing is there isn’t just one fit that’s meant to suit many people; there are endless fits that you can create with a team of tailors. Every body is its own individual, unique type.
Having a suit made for you is about ensuring these garments will make you look as balanced and proportional as possible. It’s created around whatever body walks through the door. For instance, a certain posture is going to dictate the length and cut of the bottom edge of a jacket. We’re not here to balance your body; we’re here to balance the jacket on top of your body.
Ultimately, you want to avoid fabric pulling or draping in the fit, which indicates that the garment doesn’t fit you and looks out of proportion.
Are there certain fabrics and styles you should look for in a custom suit?
NLI: Every man should have two suits: one in a 7 ½ oz. twill, which is a great, simple work cloth; and the other in a black mohair, which is durable, often breathable, and works well for indoor and outdoor [events] in various climates.
Additionally, I believe having a blue sportcoat is really crucial. It can be done as a blazer, usually with a patch pocket and gold buttons, or as a blue jacket that will wear very well for the rest of your life and can be passed down. I’ve had one made to be a bit unstructured in a travel cloth with no shoulder pads or lining.
What is behind the recent interest in custom tailoring, specifically suiting?
NLI: It all comes down to a collective mindfulness we now have as consumers. How are we spending our dollars on lifestyle items? You’d rather get one trip to Bali rather than five trips to somewhere nearby, and you’d rather have one beautiful custom suit than five suits that don’t fit quite right, are disposable, and will fall apart… We are more attuned to what’s happening [in factories around the world] and what our purchases are supporting in terms of humanitarian and environmental crises, such as climate change.
Custom clothing is made hyper-locally; the footprint is incredibly small. You’re not buying one in 10,000. Custom clothing is a way outside of these damaging structures.
What can someone expect when they come to Freemans Sporting Club at Rockefeller Center for a custom suit?
NLI: It’s an experience. You’re coming into the shop for two to three fittings, working directly with a tailor, and you’re actually participating in how your suit gets made. It’s like taking a trip. Once you get your basics covered, you can start having fun and trying out new things.
The space itself is not set up to be a typical retail shopping experience; it’s set up similarly to a bar. It’s a place where you can come and hang out, chat, and get closely acquainted with the process.
Anything to keep in mind when coming into the shop?
NLI: The key is working closely and collaboratively with your tailor to achieve whatever goal you have for your custom suit.
Book a styling appointment at Freemans Sporting Club, and stop by the Rockefeller Center location at 55 West 49th Street, open Monday-Friday from 11am to 8pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 6 pm.