Bespoke tailoring is an old tradition – but with a modern zeitgeist. It is a booming sector. With a great deal of passion for sewing, incredibly unique one-off pieces are created in an impressive process in ateliers. One of these ateliers is run by the bespoke men’s tailor Sebastian Hoofs in Cologne, whose suits feature a clear signature: an eye-catching inner lining and no darts on the front!
For Sebastian Hoofs, one of the most wonderful moments in his work is when a customer picks up their finished suit, beaming with happiness. Like his suits, his customers are rarely “off the rack”. They adore his artwork. However, if you merely look at the suit alone, you’ll miss the significance of bespoke tailoring. It’s all about dedication, passion, perfection and something a lot more important: a very personal ritual.
He originally wanted to be an interpreter but his craft eventually won through. Hoofs has been running his own atelier in the cathedral city of Cologne since 2014 and was convinced of one thing from the outset: If you want to work independently as a bespoke tailor, you have to run your own business. And incidentally, belief in yourself is the number one priority as Hoofs well knows. That’s because, for a long time, it was thought there was no future for bespoke tailoring.
Sebastian, how did you get into sewing?
Almost my entire family has something to do with tailoring. So, I was always involved with it. I am not that great at abstract thinking and like to be practical. It brings me so much joy to create unique pieces for customers.
And how do you become a bespoke tailor?
In Germany, it takes three years to train as a bespoke tailor under the dual training system. The only school-based training courses are offered in women’s tailoring and, after that, it is not unusual to find employment in the industry. You have to decide at an early stage whether you want to become a men’s bespoke tailor because most businesses work either exclusively for men or women. After all, it is a very specialist craft.
So, how do you actually create a custom-made suit?
1. It takes around 100 hours in total to create an entire suit. The first step is a consultancy meeting. This is where you get to know one another. The process is very personal because I see my clients in their underwear during the fittings. So, the chemistry has to be right. During the first meeting, we already discuss ideas, possible designs and fabrics. We start by creating a suit in our heads.
2. Then it is time to get measuring. I need about 35 measurements. A figure also consists of a person’s posture and the unique features of their body. For instance, their legs could be two different lengths.
3. The next step is to order the materials and prepare the interfacing. This is a “skeleton” made up of various layers of horsehair. We also create the paper pattern. This involves transferring the pattern to the fabric and cutting it out. The prepared interfacing goes under the suit, which means it is basted and then pinned together – this defines the silhouette. Unlike an off-the-rack suit, you can use a few tricks here to optimize the outline. Then we do the first fitting. At this point, we also discuss details like pockets and buttons.
4. During the second fitting, we create a sample sleeve for the jacket. The sleeves can be more difficult as they have to fit both length-wise and in terms of sleeve pitch.
5. When you are working with “unusual” designs, like checks, you often need another fitting. Each and every check has to match up. And the very final step is the ironing session, which takes a lot of patience.
Do you have your own style?
Over time, every bespoke tailor will develop their own in-house style. I like suits to fit perfectly and I generally prefer them to be sleek. One of the things that stands out the most about my suits is there are no darts on the front. A hallmark of our jackets is the slim sleeves. And we make sure the lining is eye-catching. I like to use the sleek, resplendent presence of 1920s fashion as my inspiration and then put my own spin on it, I love it!
A helping hand from social media
Sebastian Hoofs believes that the boom currently taking place in bespoke tailoring is based partly on social media. Social media acts a bit like a shop window – you gain an insight into the work and don’t just see the finished product. Secondly, people nowadays are striving for individuality and sustainability. Hoofs is firmly of the belief that the uniqueness of a bespoke suit hits the nerve of our time perfectly.
Just give it a go
Sebastian Hoofs recommends amateur tailors to sew according to the motto “Just do it”: Don’t limit yourself, get going and simply try things out as they come to you. As long as you feel comfortable in the finished product, it doesn’t really matter if the fit is not perfect. If you go for a ready-made pattern, you may find that the piece doesn’t match your size correctly. That can quickly rob you of your motivation. So, one important tip is to always take your measurements in advance!
Images: Sebastian Hoofs