A quick look at the lapels is all it takes to gauge whether a suit has a superior pedigree. A perfect lapel is not pressed flat but instead has an attractive natural roll and a gentle lift off the chest. If you ripped open the seams to inspect the contents within, you would find hundreds of uneven crow’s-foot stitches that climb the lapel and fan out around the collar. Such seemingly haphazard stitches not only hold the parts of the lapel and collar together, but the technique used to sew these stitches ensures that the roll will stay in place for the lifetime of the garment.
To save time in production, many clothing companies use a machine to stitch the interior canvas to the tiny fabric pieces that make up the collar and lapel. The problem is that no machine can minutely adjust the tension of a collar and give memory to the roll of the lapel quite like human hands. At Oxxford Clothes, the 1,350 herringbone basting stitches inside the lapel and the additional 850 stitches inside the collar are painstakingly placed and sewn by a single artisan working diligently over the course of several hours.
Devoting such meticulous attention to the lapel is just one step in the 23-hour process of fashioning a typical Oxxford suit. Only the purists use natural canvas blended from goat hair and wool for the interior linings. Of these, Oxxford alone uses hot water rather than steam to shrink the canvas, thereby ensuring that the suit retains its shape after innumerable wearings, pressings, and cleanings. The company selects the finest Italian and English worsted wools, gabardines, and flannels, as well as premium Scottish tweeds and cashmeres, and every seam is hand-stitched with silk thread for flexibility. When it comes to the most overworked elements of a suit—the buttons and buttonholes—Oxxford chooses genuine buf-falo horn buttons, and each buttonhole is cut and sewn entirely by hand and stitched twice—from the inside and the outside. While many suit makers hide a garment’s flaws with Bemberg silk linings throughout, Oxxford’s suits are always quarter-lined to allow more fluid movement. Finally, Oxxford employs an exclusive patented trouser design with pleats that expand inward and pockets that are sewn into the waistband so objects can be carried without sagging and destroying the shape of the slacks.
“At one point I had gone to Europe to try to find someone who could duplicate the Oxxford product, but [to do so] would have cost triple the price,” the late Stanley Marcus, son of the founder of Neiman Marcus, said in his final interview with the menswear trade journal MR earlier this year. “It is as fine a garment as is made anywhere in the world,” added the man who first brought the collection to Neiman Marcus back in 1932, when an Oxxford suit retailed for $65. These days the typical Oxxford suit is priced around $3,000. Custom and made-to-measure styles fabricated from one-of-a-kind Super 200 wool and cashmere sell for as much as $20,000.
Oxxford has remained true to its original construction methods, which have not changed since the company was founded in 1916. This year, Oxxford turns to its archives for design inspiration, as it re-creates exclusive patterns from the 1930s and ’40s that were originally produced in heavy tweeds and Saxony cloths. The modern versions, however, will be made from lightweight fabrics such as camel hair and worsted wool. “For years, the great mill owners in Scotland and England have told me that the best designs were greatly influenced by old Hollywood,” says Crit Rawlings, Oxxford’s chief executive. “So we took those types of patterns from our archives and created a collection that was so well received that even we were surprised.”
Oxxford Clothes, 312.829.3600, www.oxxfordclothes.com