NEW YORK — Custom clothing is one of the rare hot-ticket items in American men’s wear these days, and with more than 167 years of experience creating bespoke clothing on the famed Savile Row in London, Huntsman wants to carve out a bigger piece of the pie in the U.S.
In February, the company opened a small appointment-only salon at 130 West 57th Street here, a multiuse building between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. This week it invited customers in to see a new space in the same building that is three times larger and includes the addition of a cutter from London who will be housed in the location permanently.
Additionally, the brand has hired veteran men’s wear executive Edward Turco as director of its U.S. operations. Turco most recently was corporate custom manager for Loro Piana in the U.S., was president of Burberry Tailored Clothing and also spent time at the former Hartmarx Corp.
Pierre Lagrange, the Belgian hedge fund manager and cofounder of GLG Partners, who purchased Huntsman in 2013, made a visit to the location — dubbed a pied-à-terre — to meet customers and christen the new space this week.
“Half of our business comes from America,” Lagrange said, so it made sense to invest in creating a home here. He said rather than continuing to host trunk shows at other retailers around the country, he believes Huntsman can “reach more people by going direct.”
The pied-à-terre is designed to feel like a London home with comfortable furniture, wooden cases to hold the fabrics and lots of memorabilia from Huntsman’s past.
The brand has a long history of dressing celebrities including Gregory Peck, whose son Anthony was a guest of honor at a cocktail reception at the salon Wednesday night that also served as a showcase of pieces from the brand’s Gregory Peck archives.
Lagrange, who said he bought the brand “by accident” four years ago after a friend said the then-private equity owners were looking for an exit strategy, attributed Huntsman’s longevity to its ability to create the highest quality bespoke garments that don’t follow fashion trends.
“There’s no accelerated cycle of fashion,” he said. “These garments last forever. Plus bespoke is totally cool — nothing beats having something designed exclusively for you.”
More than 5,000 fabrics are offered, ranging from 6 oz. super 150s silk seersuckers to 20 oz. heavy Irish tweed flannel, Turco said.
Lagrange, who said he is an engineer by background, has been working with the brand to improve its processes. With prices that average 5,250 to 8,000 pounds, “quality control has to be 100 percent.”
Turco said Huntsman is the only bespoke brand to have a resident cutter on staff who was actually trained by the brand’s creative director in London and has several years experience working there.
The cutter, who is part of a new breed of young men and women in England who have chosen to take up the profession, will take some 30 measurements and also assess a customer’s movements to ensure a proper fit. Turco said unlike many of the other custom offerings — some of which use computers to measure — a trained cutter appraises each customer individually. “It’s a blend of art and science,” he said.
Most orders, which require some 80 hours of handwork, are delivered within eight to 10 weeks, Turco said.
“Having a dedicated cutter is going to change the game for American clients,” Lagrange predicted.
Lagrange said there are no plans right now to add more salons in the U.S., although there is a “possibility of opening a space like this in Asia” in the future. “But our focus now is on satisfying our clients here even more.”