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

To read Part I, click here.

As the first meeting was more of an introduction to Carl and L&S, we setup a second meeting to choose the fabric and go over the details of what I was looking for.  Before I arrived, I told Carl I was looking for a sturdy medium-weight wool that could be a two-to-three season option.  When I arrived, he had a table-full of Italian cloths laid out to go through that fit the mold of what I was looking for.  Flipping through fabric books can be an overwhelming experience.  It’s hard to imagine a square of fabric into a complete suit, but Carl was there with me every step of the way.  I had an idea of what I was looking for, and Carl kept me on track, not being seduced by bold checks and chalk-stripes (if that’s what you’re looking for, they are beautiful!).  After spending more time than I care to admit and getting it down to two options, I left the final decision to Carl.  Using his expertise by explaining his logic for the choice, it was a no-brainer.  We went with a navy-based wool with a dark over check, only visible up-close.

After the fabric choice, we discussed the details.  As stated before, L&S is capable of most, if not all, styling options.  I threw a lot of custom details at Carl, showing him pictures of designs I wanted to mimic or tweak in my own vision.  Carl’s response: “You want that? You got it.”  No hesitation in his voice, confident in the ability of the shop to perform.  We went over all the details, top to bottom.  Slightly wider notch lapels, three roll two buttoned jacket, lower patch pockets with an underlapping patch ticket pocket, soft shoulder with the spalla camicia detail (hand-finished resulting in a slight wrinkle from the sleeve being cut slightly wider than the sleeve opening), 6cm waistband with extended closure, “extra cool” side tab adjusters (as Carl described them), and trousers finished with a 5cm cuff.  All suits coming out of 138 E 61st include working button holes and hidden coin-pocket in the trousers.

As mentioned above, I requested a lot of specific details.  I provided a lot of pictures.  Even after the fact, I was emailing back-and-forth with Carl about tweaks to the options I requested, further including more pictures.  But Carl worked with me every step of the way, being sure that we had everything in line with expectations.  However, there was never any doubt or lack of comfort to let Carl and the team take care of any ambiguities.  If I didn’t describe a detail perfectly, I trusted them in the execution.  But then again, that’s what they are there for.  “If a customer is on the fence or not quite sure of what they’re looking for, I’m there to guide them.  I’ll talk them through it and get a sense of who they are and what they’re looking for.  I know what questions to ask them.”  And he certainly does.

The third meeting was probably the most anticipated: the first fitting.  The fitting process is different depending on which level you choose.  L&S offers a higher end MTM (somewhere between true MTM and true bespoke) and the bespoke option. I call it “higher end” MTM because each client receives their own custom pattern, meaning the suit is cut to your specifications and not based off of a house standard pattern, where most MTM falls. Where L&S’ MTM differs from their bespoke offering is the amount of fittings, the process of developing that pattern, and the amount of handwork involved.  For example, the client would receive in the bespoke offering a “throw-away” fitting where the client is fitted with a canvassed layer that is used for the creation of the pattern.  This canvassed layer is then ripped apart and re-cut to adjust for the fitting.  This is a cumbersome process that very few tailors practice in the US.  The suit is crafted almost completely by hand with the bespoke option.  For my suit, we went with the MTM version – one fitting after measurements and another fitting if further alterations are needed.

During the fitting, the suit was about 80% complete.  I had a very clear view of what the final product would look like and ecstatic is probably an understatement for my anticipation.  Carl, with a focused stare, slipped the jacket over my shoulders.  As the jacket dropped perfectly in line with my shoulder line, it felt like a second-skin.  Before much was said, Carl began pinning away.  Removing excess fabric and fixing the balance, a jacket that 99% of people would be happy with, was not yet perfect in his eyes.  He ensured me that it would only get better.  Finishing up the final details like sleeve length and trouser length, the glimpse of what to come surpassed my expectations.  I would have been content with taking the suit that day, but I’m glad I didn’t.

A few weeks passed after the initial fitting when I received an email from Carl that the suit was ready.  I walked into the shop with the same comfort I felt when I first met Carl.  The suit was beautifully draped from an equally impressive cedar wood hanger with brass metal that read “L&S Tailors” in the fitting room.  Once again, Carl slipped the jacket over my shoulders, but this time with a great big smile – probably from me looking like an eight year old on Christmas morning.  As I let out an “oh my”, Carl adds “now that is how a jacket is supposed to fit.”  I could not have agreed more.  The jacket hugged my body in all the right places.  The small, seemingly unnecessary, adjustments Carl made at the first fitting, made all the difference in the world.  There was just the perfect amount of extension at the shoulders which followed into the physique following taper at the waist with the perfect amount of kick at the quarters of the jacket.  The trousers sat just below the naval with a medium rise that gradually tapered from the knee down, just kissing the top of my shoe as the cuffs beautifully draped around my ankle.  The suit moved as I moved.  It had life.

The final meeting was the shortest of my visits at L&S.  There wasn’t much to be said at this point.  I gave him a shake of the hand and a pat on the back – this is why he does what he does, as he previously explained to me when I first met him.  “Tailoring is our job.  I’m in the business of providing comfort to our clients.  And we never compromise on anything.”  He’s humbled by every experience and excited for every customer.  You can absolutely feel that energy in going through the process.  I look at Carl as a friend now.  And who wouldn’t want to be friends with your tailor?

L&S will continue to operate in the same fashion with all their clients.  They are looking to expand their offerings, as well.  I was told about a new partnership with a world renowned tailor and some other exciting ventures for L&S.  Truth be told, any company would be lucky to work with them.  When asked why they don’t do more collaboration, “we just don’t have the time” Carl says.  They’ve built these relationships in the shadows of the spotlight, and they are succeeding on a business model that almost seems implausible.  But then again, they’re one of the best at what they do.  New York City thrives on its secrets.  L&S is just a hard one to keep.

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Photos by @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.