“Learn something new every day, I guess. It’s like being a fashion student!”
This is what Savannah Yarborough of Atelier Savas, a maker of custom leather outerwear, says as she watches me slide a clothing pin through the sides of a canvas jacket lining, guiding me through our fitting. Only we’re not in the same room; rather, we’re chatting over FaceTime with Yarborough carefully looking on from her Nashville studio while I go to work on the canvas from my apartment in Washington, DC. During this particular time, it’s not unusual that most business—even custom tailoring—is conducted over video calls. However, it is surprising to learn that this isn’t Yarborough’s first or second rodeo: Savas was offering at-home, virtual made-to-measure fittings long before Covid-19 upended our day-to-day lives.
“After years of having potential clients unable to visit Nashville or a trunk show, I wanted to provide them with our experience and our garments,” Yarborough says. “This process allows us to meet more people and share Savas with them in a new way.”
While any custom commission empowers the client, at-home fittings put the consumer in the driver’s seat, with Yarborough serving as a sartorial sherpa. The process begins with a conversation, during which Yarborough takes a new client on a tour of the options she offers: an array of hides, from full-grain suede to hand-distressed lambskin, and models that range from classically-proportioned to rock’n’roll eccentric. “It gives me a feel for what they might want.”
From there, a kit arrives in the mail, complete with all the disparate components of the jacket itself: lining swatches, samples of leather outers (my tester kit had eight choices), hardware options, measuring tools and a canvas jacket liner to perfect the fit. Customers get a chance to pick each little detail of the overall design as well as choose one of five silhouettes: The Denham (a trucker-style), The Marlon (moto-style), The Gainsbourg (a Mandarin-collared blazer), the Noone (a sporty blouson) and the Lowry (a Western shirt). The fitting costs $250, which is applied toward the overall price of the jacket (averaging around $5,000), and the finished piece is delivered within 4-6 weeks.
Selecting the various elements is no different from a standard made-to-measure fitting, but the medium certainly differed—even before you factor in the quarantine of it all. The whole experience felt far more personal than simply going into a store or showroom. Rather, I was inviting Savannah into my home, my sacred space. Picking fabric swatches and talking through the benefits of the weights of various premium Italian leathers feels decidedly different when you’re on your own turf. There was something quite meta about it all—adding layers of intimacy on top of a garment that’s already an inherent representation of my own personal tastes. Especially in the time of coronavirus, the virtual fittings felt like a balm—the closest thing to recreating the thrill of being in a retail space and the personal connection of creative collaboration.
There’s a reason retailers go out of their way to cultivate an “experience” when you step into one of their stores. The experience Atelier Savas provides here is different, to be certain, but no less impactful. It’s uniquely rewarding to be the one pinning the sides and making the chalk marks on a canvas. The quality of my fitting skills, and how the final product turns out, though, remains to be seen.