There is nothing formulaic about Alex Kabbaz’s custom-made shirts. Working from a studio in Amagansett, New York, he is one of the few shirtmakers left who still believes in the single-sewer tradition rather than the assembly-line method used by most of his competitors. The 30-year veteran shirtmaker, who is mostly self-taught, typically starts with damaged or discarded Swiss and Italian broadcloth fabrics to create the initial prototype to fit a customer’s body. “For every new client we start with a blank piece of paper and draft from scratch. There is no preexisting pattern,” he says. Kabbaz then spends the next few weeks tweaking the details to ensure armholes don’t bind, shirttails stay in place, cuffs accommodate watches and cuff links, and sleeve length is correctly proportioned under jackets. Only when Kabbaz has mastered the perfect fit does he fashion the finished shirt, which is cut by hand on the premises from an archive of nearly 3,400 cloth choices and designed to accommodate every sartorial whim, from special collars, cuffs and buttons to personalized monograms.
Kabbaz sets up shop at the Regency Hotel in New York every Wednesday evening to see clients who don’t want to make the trip to Amagansett. Persnickety about the way his shirts fit, he will sometimes create a prototype garment for new customers to wear for a couple of weeks to ensure the fit is to their liking.