Interview with Ivy Stanev, Bespoke Aficionado
Ivy: How old were you when you developed an interest in sartorial culture and what was the major formative influence?
Craig: From a very young age I had an interest in clothing, age 8 or 9. I wanted to pick my own clothes and wouldn’t just wear anything my mother gave me. I started customising my own stuff, sewing patches and designs onto ready made pieces. I was a part of the hip hop and breakdancing scene in the early 80s and wanted all the designer gear but didn’t have the money so I would sew things onto my jeans and colour in my trainers. In those days everything was about having your own style and individuality and the only way to achieve that was through customisation. I also spent my summers in Ireland on my grandad’s farm and would watch him in his tailored suits tend to the animals, dig and work. I observed him hand repairing all his own garments and how well constructed and durable they were as they were bespoke. I would definitely say my sartorial interest started from being around him.
I: Are you the best dressed man in your family or do you follow in the footsteps of generations of dapper gentlemen?
C: My father and mother were always very well turned out, and still are. They are from an era where dressing well is a sign of respect for yourself. I would never say I was the best dressed person over anyone I’m not that shallow. I can’t say one style is better than someone else’s, we all have our own preferences and my choices work for me. Clothing is about what makes you feel happy as an individual. Some people are more comfortable casual, it doesn’t mean I look better because I choose to wear a suit, I choose it because I prefer it, it makes me feel special and more confident.
I: Proper dress etiquette is a dying art in our society and we have entered an era of sartorial Dark Ages. Is there hope for the new generation?
C: I disagree – in business people still wear suits because no other clothing item looks as professional. When did your bank manager, lawyer or financial advisor last greet you in a tracksuit? I’m sure never – no one will take you seriously in business unless you look the part and no other clothing choice other than a suit shows your commitment to your role. I think it’s good people underdress more because then when we see them in a nice suit it grabs our attention. If everyone wore a suit every single day then we couldn’t differentiate between occasions. In response to people dressing down it just means when they do wear a suit, they feel more special. I don’t think its hurt the bespoke trade at all, if anything it means a great suit is even more valuable and desirable as a result.
I: Where do you find inspiration for your styled creations and which top Instagram profiles would you recommend for style ideas?
C: I find inspiration in everything, nature for colours and texture, art and architecture for creativity. If you’re open minded, every day has something different to take ideas from. I don’t follow any one person in particular I tend to combine lots of style ideas together to create my own looks. I am a fan of the sartorialist, mainly for his recognition of people who have their own style. He tends to feature individuals that have something quirky and unique about them rather than dedicated followers of fashion. His images capture the essence of someone and seem unstaged.
I: In the Instagram world of fast fashion and instant gratification, how do you justify the wait and considerable investment associated with ordering a Bespoke garment?
C: With fast fashion whilst you may receive it quickly, someone somewhere could be paying the price for that from cheap labour to bad working conditions. The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter of the planet. People pay thousands for designer brand names that are readily available for anyone to purchase in the shops, they are mass produced and not unique to them. For me it’s important to know how my clothing was made and by whom. I see bespoke as creating your own commission just like a piece of art, it’s an investment. It’s a one off, there isn’t another piece like it in the world. Each item is made to last using centuries of traditional craft techniques and something that people tend to keep forever. Good things are worth the wait. I have clients who have brought me their father or grandfathers hand made clothing and asked me to alter them so they can wear them. How lovely to think you can hand a bespoke piece to your children or grandchildren so your legacy lives on and makes them feel extra special wearing it. After all, the way we dress is largely down to how something makes you feel and if you feel good you will look good. I prefer things with character and a back story. Bespoke clothing is timeless and a tailors soul art, making your own piece of history. It’s hard to put a price on that.
I: Is it safe to assume that you are the best dressed guy in the room most of the time. Do you ever feel overdressed?
C: People have a misconception that being the best dressed means being overdressed. This is not necessarily true. Wearing flamboyant clothing to get attention isn’t synonymous with good taste. I am always confident I definitely have the best quality fitted suit in the room but my own style is generally quite classic, with a modern twist. So whilst I may not be the most flamboyant person in the room, I certainly stand out in terms of fit and sophistication. If your clothes are made well, that beats fashion trends every time. I have never turned up to a party where someone is wearing the same outfit as me, my clothing is as individual as I am.
I: Many men who call themselves “influencers” don’t even own a suit. Do you think there ever be a return towards a more formal way of dress, or jeans and t-shirts are here to stay?
C: I love jeans and a t shirt too in the right context. We dress according to our environment, our job role and our own sense of style. I think many tailors haven’t quite adapted to modern looks and because of that tailoring can seem old fashioned and stuffy. Since starting my own company last year I have made a point of dressing the younger man and slimming down my trouser designs rather than producing only wider legs or traditional turn ups. Younger clients now want a sleeker silhouette so tailors need to adapt to keep up with fundamental changes in modern dress. I bet even the influencers you mention wouldn’t turn up to a wedding in their jeans or an award ceremony presentation. We dress for the occasion and that’s fine as it then makes wearing a suit feel even more special.