Thursday, 2 October, 2014

Published June 28, 2014
Suit yourself
No longer satisfied with a rental three-piece from the bridal studio, grooms-to-be are wearing the pants sartorially when it comes to picking out ensembles for their big day. By May Yip
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(Above) A trio of jackets by menswear boutique Dylan & Son.  - PHOTOS: ASSEMBLY & CO, DYLAN & SON, MUSICMOVEMENT.COM.SG, PIMABS

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RUMOUR has it that Kanye West was the egomaniacal mastermind behind what has become the wedding of the year - his nuptials with Kim Kardashian in Paris. From micro-managing the outfits of the bridal party to confiscating the phones of guests, the probably borderline-OCD rapper gives new meaning to the term "groomzilla". And while most grooms-to-be here will probably get hot under the wing-collar for simply deciding between fondant or royal icing for the wedding cake, an increasing number of men are taking charge of their sartorial statements or, at least, veering away from the lone suit that sees them through all formal occasions, from job interviews to funerals - and, of course, weddings.

"I think that brides should get more attention and pampering than grooms," says private equity investor Thomas Tan, who had a midnight-blue tuxedo and cream mandarin-collared jacket custom-made by tailor Kevin Seah for his wedding next month. "That being said, it's not that the groom should be neglected. It's also his special day and he should spend on things for the wedding that he likes."

To meet the demand of a growing clientele of grooms, Leslie Chia, founder and creative director of bespoke menswear label PIMABS introduced wedding packages as part of his range of services in 2006, with prices starting from $1,450 for a five-piece ensemble.

"The majority of my clients then just made their suits with me and did the styling themselves or with the bridal boutiques," relates Mr Chia. "More often than not, they will all look the same in a black suit or tux and a cravat or ascot. It's too traditional for my liking. Hence, I created a package that is flexible, with a suit or a tux plus two dress shirts and some accessories like bowties and pocket squares."

Last year, such packages made up 13 per cent of total sales for the Boat Quay- based atelier, excluding suits that were made for weddings but not part of a package.

"Realistically, we can't beat the prices of existing wedding boutiques that provide those quick-and-easy packages," admits Daniel Loh, co-founder and executive creative director of men's and women's bespoke tailoring brand The Assembly Co, which is located along the stretch of Tanjong Pagar populated by several bridal studios. "But compared to these boutiques, which offer only suit rentals, we're offering something that cannot be found off the rack and can be owned after."

Mr Loh, who is also the co-founder of homegrown womenswear label Saturday and designer for the brand until 2012, attributes about 10 per cent of sales to wedding day outfits - which start from $599 for a fused suit. He also notes that more men are taking the initiative when it comes to their look for the big day, rather than allowing their fiances to dictate their outfits.

"Some of them are as particular as their wives," adds Mr Loh, whose business also includes a manufacturing facility for the production of ready-to-wear apparel and uniforms. "There was this one groom who had his mind set on not wearing a suit for his beach wedding and didn't like the idea of wearing one, ever. So he presented very thorough research with tonnes of image references, from the palette that coordinated with the decor, to a simple sketch he had drawn up, down to the individual styling of his groomsmen and the shoes they'd be wearing."

Similarly, Mr Chia has clients who were very specific about their get-ups - including one who was clad in an aubergine tuxedo with square shawl lapels for a masquerade-themed wedding, and another who pulled off a "wild pink" velvet suit. Recently, the designer created three tuxedos, a linen day suit and a mandarin-collared jacket for the wedding of just one client - Sean Lee, a Singapore-based businessman who tied the knot with Taiwanese singer Vivian Hsu.

Mr Loh also recalls creating bold designs for several grooms, including neon, or fully embroidered or floral liveries, as well as crafting unusual details such as ruffles and multiple pleats.

However, for Dylan Chong, a second-generation tailor whose menswear label Dylan & Son is based in Telok Ayer, the classic black tuxedo is the last word in wedding day chic.

"There might be slight updates here and there in terms of lapel sizes and shades, but the core always remains unchanged," says Mr Chong. He adds that 20 to 30 per cent of his business comes from wedding commissions. "And there is a reason they remain unchanged. You just need to remember, James Bond charmed countless ladies in it. If it's good enough for Bond, it's good enough for you."

Like Mr Chong, groom-to-be Mr Tan has opted for a tuxedo to go with the 1920s theme of his wedding. "I felt that since I'm going to be in a tuxedo, I might as well get it tailored. It might cost slightly more than those off the rack, but I know that it'll fit me very well," says the 34-year-old. "Also, since I'm spending quite a bit of money getting a tuxedo, I wanted to have something different, so that it'll be unique to me, and working with a tailor gave me the chance to do just that."

And although more men have a sense of what they like for their wedding attire, those who are clueless or need a little expert guidance could depend on these new-generation suit-makers for advice.

"To be honest, I've had clients who come in with, say, a picture of Ryan Gosling in some emerald green suit and ask me to copy it," says Mr Chia. "I would see if it works with their look first and if doesn't, I will tell them why, and offer alternatives."

The fashion design-trained tailor doesn't just custom-make each outfit, he styles the entire look of his client, down to the right pair of velvet tuxedo slippers.

"I would say eight out of 10 men still have no idea of what they want for their weddings," says Mr Chia. "They would have an idea of the location and theme on their special day but not the look per se. It's really up to me to suggest and design how the whole look should come together."

And even most grooms with their own style ideas have to contend with their significant others - the micro-managing brides. "We have experienced a few 'bridezillas' who completely took over our fitting sessions, and tried to tell me and my master tailor how everything should be done. It sure made me feel glad to be single," jokes Mr Chong. "We strongly encourage the men to consider the options, but always make the decisions themselves. They are the ones wearing the suit, so they have to feel comfortable in the final selection. Besides, no one likes an indecisive man."