Right next to the Parliament, in a hidden little side street, you can find a real gem of a gentlemen’s outfitters. In Zoltán utca behind a big shop window suits are made by hand and custom-fitted, to allow every man “to look his possible best”.
The owner is Simon Skottowe, and his passion is his job: tailoring men’s wear. The Briton has been living in Budapest for 15 years and for the past 12 of them he has been his own boss: “I came here at the invitation of Elite Clothing to be the design director of the British-owned privatised Voros Oktober Ruhagyar,” he says.
As he was looking for new possibilities, he discovered something three years later that was quite characteristic of his whole stay in Budapest. “For more than ten years there was no service provider here that could offer elegant men’s wear, no store where you could find clothing for a man both for the weekend and for work, and also for special occasions.”
The tailor himself hadn’t noticed before because he was buying his own clothing from his old chosen home, Milan. “Finally I understood why my friends were always complaining about the poor selection in Hungary.” So began the story of the company that has been a contact point for classical men’s fashion for more than a dozen years.
Even if someone is a cosmopolitan and trained by the best masters in his profession, it is better to start a company on a small scale. Skottowe did the same with his sewing machines. However, talk spread quickly that now there was an English bespoke tailor in Budapest.
In the meantime the one-man-show grew to a company with three fixed employees and many helpers. The sewing takes place in the showroom – where the fittings are also done – so that Skottowe can supervise every piece of work personally.
He always says that quality comes first. “First of all it is important to clarify what look the customer is going for.” The best way to do this is by conversation in the shop. It is important to learn as much about the client’s working days as possible, because in each field the requirements for a suit are different.
“Bank managers and employees are best dressed in dark, conservative materials, since they have to represent a serious image. Someone who is working in the media or IT would like to look serious too but it’s good to spice it up with a bit of creativity.” Depending on your wishes you can make a new image for yourself, from the cut through the material to the collar and lapel shape. This is where Skottowe’s depth of education and sense of elegance pay off, since besides the professional staff it is the customer himself who dreams how the suit should look.
For the tailor it is important to work in harmony when choosing the colours, meaning that the material has to complement the hair and eyes of the customer and his build. For example it might be wise to be careful with stripes and chequered patterns in some cases. Too dark colours with a fair complexion can be very draining for the face.
It’s not a surprise that the British prefer classical elegance to modern trends. This also has a practical reason besides the personal preferences: “Our suits are price-intensive but they are long-term investments. This is why I advise my clients against anything that dates too quickly. However, classical does not mean boring, on the contrary.”
The waiting time for a suit is relatively long – two and a half months – because almost everything is done by hand. The sewing pattern is kept for three years, giving the double benefit of not needing to make a new pattern for subsequent orders, and reducing the waiting time to six weeks.
However, even with a pre-made pattern Skottowe needs one more fitting to ensure the fit is absolutely right – and he is not easily pleased.
Successful businessmen tend to use his services. He believes that part of his own success is because a perfectly fitting suit always boosts self-confidence, “and in the business world it can make the major difference to know that you are the best-dressed man in the room”.
Since the move to Zoltan utca two years ago, Skottowe has started to fill his shop with personally selected products with the same exacting philosophy that drives his tailoring.
This project, to provide a full outfitting service at the highest level, is well under way and there are exciting new arrivals planned for next season.
Zoltán utca 10
With made-to-measure the master tailor or house cutter will modify standardised patterns to take your body shape differences into account, such as jacket length and shoulder width, whereas with bespoke a whole new sewing pattern is drawn so that the tailor can adapt the suit to every little detail of the wearer. In made-to-measure there are generally no fittings during the creation process. There is an initial fitting to take measurements and draft a design, then a final fitting after it’s fully created. But achieving a bespoke fit requires multiple fittings during creation of the garment.