Part I | Thriving in the Shadows: New York’s Favorite Tailor

Tailors in New York City seem to be a dime a dozen.  Any reputable (or non-reputable) dry cleaner offers an ‘expert tailoring’ service from a ‘skilled’ tailor.  It’s hard to trust the Yelp reviews of how XYZ Cleaners managed to complete the “perfect hem”, but it’s just as easy to trust the horror stories on how that same ‘tailor’ ruined someone’s designer jacket.  A dying craft, it seems, but can be found on every block in Manhattan.  However, it’s those who forgo the marketing with gaudy signs and broken promises that can be truly trusted in this city, meticulously working using old world methods in the shadows of Gotham.

On a, relatively, quiet block in Midtown East on the corner of 61st and Lexington lies one of the true tailors left in this country, let alone Manhattan.  Considered to be a “best kept secret” by many, L&S Tailors is your tailor’s favorite tailor, if you will, making suits for some of the top executives of fashion houses lining 5th Avenue.  L&S is a name that may be foreign to most men and woman familiar with custom tailoring, but there is a good chance they may have already made something in your own closet.  Making garments for some of the most respected private labels in the industry (the proprietors keep a level of anonymity to preserve the relationships they’ve built – I wish I could share who they are) L&S Tailors has actively succeeded in the shadows of the fashion industry by continuing to maintain a level of craftsmanship of the highest quality without cutting the many corners taken by others only concerned with the bottom dollar.  L&S continues to follow the traditions of old world tailoring, with the purpose of providing a quality garment focused on the very details that make custom tailoring so special.

L&S is a family business since its very existence.  The proprietor, an Italian immigrant searching for the American dream, was an apprentice in the very shop that stands today.  He found work at L&S, learning the ins-and-outs of the tailoring business and craft.  When the owner was ready to sell, the proprietor was first in line to make this business that he grew with his own.  44 years later, the operations have grown.  Out of the quaint non-assuming 61st shop, there are a handful of men and women sewing by hand and machine in the backroom.  Altering and creating.  In the same shop, separated by only a wall, a beautifully lit space with shelves of fabric books full of Italian wools and blends of cottons and linens, along with large mirrors, Italian made shoes, and beautifully draped garments made just in the next room surrounding the fitting room, with a sense of nostalgia, overlooking Lexington Avenue.  With the proprietor’s son, Carl, now handling the day-to-day, the proprietor operates just as shop does, behind the scenes.

The business model: word of mouth.  No social media campaigns.  No deep discounts.  Just an impeccable reputation with customers too boisterous about the final product that they cannot help but tell anyone who will listen.  Carl tells me “this is the way it has to be.”  As he looks around the shop with a sense of pride of what L&S has been able to accomplish in a modern world of fused suits. “The client has to be comfortable.  There is a sense of ease when a new client is referred by someone they trust.” I, too, found L&S through a friend.  I spoke with Carl over the phone after the exchange of a few emails, and you could feel the sense of pride and excitement in his voice about what L&S does.  He understood that they are of a different breed.  Cut from the same cloth of years’ past.  However, by today’s standards, cut from a very different cloth.

Upon arrival, walking up a somewhat dingy doorway in a prewar building, I entered L&S with a firm shake of the hand from Carl, and I immediately felt that ease.  It was a relationship already blossoming the moment I found out about L&S.  Something inherently different than the uber luxury atmospheres of the modern MTM tailoring companies sprouting up over the years.  Always pleasant, but there is something lacking with those relationships.  At L&S, you are shaking the hands with the people who measure, cut, and sew your product.  There’s an intimacy to the process that is absent at many other tailoring houses who send your measurements overseas to be sewn by someone (or machine) you will never be able to look in the eye.  Those garments are suitable, if you will, but they lack life and character.  L&S is the definition of character, which is something felt as soon as Carl slipped the jacket on over my shoulders.

In the fitting room overlooking Lexington Ave, Carl and I chatted about my sartorial preferences: fit, fabrics, lapel width, trouser length, etc.  Beyond that, we discussed the current state of tailoring and how they operate, along with the friendly banter of family and life in general.  It was a great foundation for such a special relationship.

The first meeting concluded with measurements done by Carl.  L&S takes 20+ measurements by hand.  It depends on what range of suiting you choose (High-end MTM vs. Bespoke), as well as a few other variables left to Carl’s discretion. L&S offers “flexibility,” meaning there is no standard house cut, but willing to work with the client to develop the ideal blueprint.  This is rare among many traditional tailoring houses around the world.  For example, a Neapolitan tailoring house will tend to offer a house cut of many of the traditional Neapolitan characteristics, such as a soft shoulder (spalla camicia or con rollino), little-to-no-lining and structure, patch pockets, barchetta breast pockets, 3/2 roll button-closure, extended front darts, etc.  At L&S, they are capable of making a Neapolitan jacket with the best of them, however, they also are capable of doing an English-cut worthy of Saville Row.  This is what makes L&S special in terms of their ability as a custom tailor, being able to offer exactly what the client wants.  For me, no detail was too big for them, but that will be discussed in a moment.

Note: This story will be continued with a Part II.

Photos by @mrmendez20 and @salvambro

Disclaimer: This suit was provided for the purpose of this review.  However, the opinions stated are wholly my own with no expectation of a positive sentiment.  I do my best to give my utmost unbiased view out of respect to all readers.  Thank you.