“We do everything from scratch. There are no precut blocks or master patterns. When we say our shirts are bespoke, they’re bespoke,” says Lizandra Cardoni, Pink Shirtmaker’s head cutter. “I’m also trying to achieve a very particular kind of look in our shirts. We cut close armholes, sharp shoulders and a defined line through the chest. It’s all about creating the cleanest lines we can.”
These pristine lines take shape at Pink’s spotless custom workshop in London’s Vauxhall neighborhood. The airy space is populated with Cardoni’s cutting table and nine craftspeople who wear white lab coats while working at sewing machines. It feels more like a watch manufacture than a clothing atelier, but that’s the point.
Pink’s approach is forward-thinking, informed by the brand’s relative youth. In contrast to other London shirtmakers, many of which have over a hundred years of history behind them, Pink (originally known as Thomas Pink) was founded in 1984 by three brothers. It quickly reached cult status for shirts in fresh colors and styles.
Now, under the considered guidance of creative director John Ray, formerly of Dunhill and Gucci, Pink has returned to its roots. Ray’s sophisticated ready-to-wear collection revitalizes British classics, centered on sleek-looking shirts in fabrics inspired by archival 1980s stripes. On the bespoke side, the Vauxhall studio is making shirts to rival any others on Jermyn Street—not that Pink thinks that way.
“This workshop is all about making a bespoke Pink shirt, not just a bespoke Jermyn Street shirt,” says production director Richard Gibson. “There’s a difference. We’ve always had a strong DNA, and we’re making shirts that ring true to this today.”
1. A Cut Above
All Pink’s bespoke shirts pass through Cardoni’s hands. She drafts each customer’s pattern onto the brand’s signature dusty-pink cutting paper.
Each drafted pattern is “laid up” on the customer’s chosen cloth before the shirt’s individual components are cut by hand. The shirt’s yoke (the two panels that sit across the back of your shoulders) and sleeves get painstakingly matched, so the cutter uses a system of small notches in the pattern to align any checks or stripes running across seams in the shirt.
3. Finishing Spool
Superfine Swiss and Italian fabrics, the finest yarns and threads, a unique pattern, two dedicated hours of sewing time (compared to the average of 17 minutes it takes to make a high-street shirt) and some 12,000 stitches go into each Pink bespoke shirt. Each client’s pattern is kept on file to streamline the process of placing future orders.
4. Calling Cards
Each shirt that passes through the Vauxhall workshop is finished with two triangular cotton gussets. These are neatly trimmed and bring together a shirt’s side seams, adding strength to the hemline. Most shirtmakers will use gussets that match the fabric of the shirt itself, but as a point of difference Pink uses ones in its house color.
5. On Label
At this point, Pink’s machinists take over. Each has a single role in a short production line and sews together the yoke (with its signature Pink label), and then “back fits” and “front fits” the shirt in tandem, before its collar, sleeves and cuffs are attached in turn.
6. Buttoned Up
Pink’s shirt buttons, fashioned from real mother-of-pearl, are supplied by a specialist maker in Italy. They also feature a subtly rounded back to help them slip through each buttonhole—a shape unique to the brand. This machine whips each button in place to ensure it won’t come loose.
7. Silver Service
This part of the process is perhaps the most idiosyncratic. Once stitched and buttoned, every shirt goes through a quality check on the workshop’s inspection stand, which is little more than two spoons attached to a board (an example of DIY simplicity or British eccentricity). The spoons keep the shirt on the stand without damaging it and allow the inspector to give it a thorough once-over, snipping off any stray threads as she goes.
8. Double or Nothing
When a customer receives his bespoke shirt in Pink’s signature box, he also receives a care pack that includes an envelope with enough extra cloth to replace the shirt’s collar and cuffs if ever needed. This doubles a shirt’s life, allowing clients to send their shirt back to the workshop for repair.