I was warned that Roy was his own worst enemy prior to entering his tailoring and alterations shop on Union Street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York.
Zalman, the owner of a made to measure tailoring outfit from that area, had offered me to come back to Crown Heights for a different experience. Previously he has chaperoned me around to the local Jewish tailors who knocked out traditional kapotes, this time he offered to take me to a tailor that could knock out a suit in 7 days of a great quality at a very modest price.
I thought this would be a great piece for the blog but I didn't need a new suit. I had to think for a bit about what possible suit I did not have. I had just made two for the window of our Studio in Sydney and I really didn't plan to make another until spring. But it sounded like such a good blog post....
I immediately put in an order for wool from Barrington Fabrics to be shipped to Crown Heights. It was one of those international moments where you are on whatsapp talking to the UK on one time zone, I was in Los Angeles myself, and Zalman was in New York. These are the times when I feel like Jason Bourne and I love business. Dynamic, hustling, typing ferociously so that everyone can meet their goal.
Then when I walked into Roy's everything was reset. Roy wasn't going to be pushed around, this was his shop, his rules. Zalman told me that when Roy went to work he got stuck into it with the kind of relish you'd expect from Zorba the Greek, but just like Zorba, when his mind was no longer on work, nothing could drag him away from his other pursuits. I was told that sometimes Roy would go in there and get stuck into some rum and either come out at the end of it with a fantastic suit, or else you would hear him and his buddies laughing and arguing all night - and it was anyone's guess which one it would be.
Inside Roy's it was spartan. Those old timber slat walls, decor that hadn't been changed in decades, a time warp back to the 70's. There were strange characters coming and going every few minutes and an odd chap that was sort of an assistant, sort of just there to watch the old television that was above Roy. The noise from the television made it hard for us to communicate but when we asked for it to be turned down, nobody could find the remote control and the old volume button on the set wasn't working.
I tried to ask Roy about his life but he seemed like a man of few words. Zalman told me he used to be a boxer and when he stopped fighting he picked up a needle and thread. He certainly had the stature of a boxer and the look of someone whose joints caused him pain and frustration.
The suit was supposed to be ready after a week but I couldn't wait long enough after the first fitting for it to be collected. I paid Zalman the money and told him to ship it to me when it was ready. "This is where it can go wrong with Roy. Once his focus on the suit is no longer on it, it could be weeks before he picks it up again. I will stay on him for you".
Zalman did stay on him. But Roy, he works to the beat of his own drum, and what might be good for him, may not be right for some....
I learned a few things from this experience. Roughly it is this - the best custom tailor in the world is one that resides in the nearest city to where you live. Second, never rush a custom made tailoring experience. You will lose every time. Thirdly, never get greedy when it comes to making suits. There must always be a reason or a season as to why you will be getting anything new made.
I received a text a few days ago saying Roy and Zalman had fallen out about the suit. Roy was not going to be told when to finish it. He now sits on my money and my cloth and is in total control of both the quality of the finish as well as the delivery date. I could ring Roy and start a screaming match but he keeps a very big sign on his fitting mirror "NO INDECENT LANGUAGE" , so I doubt my call would last more than five seconds.
Oh, and I learned one more rather grotesque thing - I am going bald. Zalman, doing his best to capture the detail of my shoulders, managed to secure a rather awful angle that ordinarily I'd not have seen myself. Not every tailoring experience is fruitful and blessed. I am grateful that I had fun on this one regardless. And I hope that one evening soon Roy picks up a bottle of rum and finishes my suit.
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