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Looking beyond the pandemic: Invest in a suit

If clothes make the man, then the suit must be like a god among clothes.

WE have all been in little more than the simplest of clothing over the nine months we have spent indoors because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In anticipation of better days (since news of several workable vaccines has come out), a brand proposes investing in a suit now.

Suit It Up Manila is launching its campaign, Suiting Forward, with three key outfits.

The Black Diamond three-piece peak-lapel suit with custom gold pinstripes “speaks of Suit it Up Manila’s commitment to a whole new level of bespoke, uniqueness, and individuality,” the brand says in its publicity material. Since the pinstripes are made up of letters (publicity photos show the pinstripes spelling out the brand’s name) the customer can alter the letters to personalize what his pinstripes will say, aside from the color of his suit. It can symbolize a special event, a memory, or even the name of his bride and their wedding date. “We are the first custom tailor in the country to offer such a personalised service,” said Franco Ongkingco, Suit Up Manila’s COO, in an online interview with BusinessWorld.

The other two suits are a tuxedo in dark teal, with a wide velvet shawl lapel, and a suit in a silver-gray tartan with a notch lapel jacket made of wool silk and linen.

The fabrics used are made by Holland & Sherry, a fabric mill that produces textiles used by the best tailors of Savile Row, which was founded in 1836 (it even had operations set up in pre-revolutionary Russia).

“Luxury brands as established and successful such as Holland & Sherry are steeped in history and tradition,” said Mr. Ongkingco. “As such they operate in a very conservative and prudent fashion. They wanted to get to know us well enough both financially and personally before they decided whether we were the right fit to carry their illustrious brand. It took quite some time to build their trust, but as soon as they were able to understand who we were and [we were able to] prove our capability to move their products, we solidified our relationship. We have been very close ever since. In 2018 we also paid a visit to both their offices at Savile Row in London and Peebles in Scotland where we were able to learn more about their rich heritage and the way they do business. We are forever grateful for the opportunity to carry their brands at our flagship stores.”

Of course, one of the benefits of getting a bespoke suit (these start from P15,000 to P55,000 and could shoot up even higher) is making sure that it fits like a second skin.

“The feeling of a good suit has always been referred to as a second skin because of the way that it moves with you,” said Mr. Ongkingco. He detailed the fitting process: “A client’s experience usually starts off with our Suit Specialist’s guidance in determining the cloth, design, and accessories to be used depending on the purpose of commissioning a suit, and the client’s overall preference with regard to fit and overall appearance. We also take into account client’s personalized requests such as embroidery or fabric customization. Client’s body measurements are taken and observations are noted as to the typical stance, shoulder angle, and arm pitch among others. Our clients come back for their fittings where adjustments are noted and made on the garment based on the observations of our alteration specialists and client preference.”

The company has two locations, in Makati’s Arnaiz Ave. and at the SM Mega Fashion Hall. It was founded in 2015, and made a buzz a few years ago with a suit party inspired by Florence’s Pitti Uomo.

To get a suit, one undergoes live fittings. “We comply with the health and safety protocols mandated by government. We felt that there was a need to invest in equipment such as high-end German air purification systems, ultraviolet disinfection technology and fumigation equipment among others. Our discussions follow proper social distancing and our fitting experience is limited to the tailor in protective equipment to provide protection for our clients and themselves,” he said.

Like most businesses this year, they too were affected by the pandemic. “Volume during the lockdown for the months of May and June were non-existent as with most industries around the world. However, we are observing more and more people suiting up, especially for weddings because the uncertainty of the pandemic also triggered a let’s-not-wait-for-things-to-get-better attitude when deciding to tie the knot,” noted Mr. Ongkingco.

Thus the impetus for the Suiting Forward campaign, which has Nico Bolzico (socialite and actress Solenn Heusaff’s groom) as its ambassador: “One thing that is certain during this pandemic is that love wins and life goes on. We’ve observed that a lot of couples have become more decisive than ever with their wedding plans and their intention to ultimately tie the knot sooner rather than later,” said Mr. Ongkingco.

We did have to ask though: how important could a suit be during these times? Quite frankly, hardly anyone will see them (discounting the social media posts and the Zoom screencaps from after the wedding). But that is a short term view. “[A] suit is a worthy investment more than ever to those who appreciate its utility and value,” Mr. Ongkingco noted. “Whether as a professional who wears suits on a daily basis or as someone who prefers to express himself by dressing well when going out, the pandemic has not stopped or changed their habit of doing so. Unlike fast fashion which is dependent on trends, a custom-made suit with superior material, proper construction, and ample care can be worn to last for years.

“In spite of the pandemic and its restrictions, there is a natural yearning for people to live life. It’s something that can only be curtailed for so long. Each of us have been accustomed to a certain lifestyle which we want to continue to experience,” he said.

And for those looking forward to the time when they can ditch their work-from-home shorts and sweatpants for a suit, Mr. Ongkingco gave care instructions: “Depending on the fabric quality one chooses, the fabric care of suits can be as simple as bringing them in for dry cleaning every couple of months. More frequent users need to bring them in for cleaning monthly. Brushing and removing stains immediately also helps preserve the fabric better. Since wool is a natural fiber it is best to let it breathe on occasion by bringing them out of your closet. The manner by which they are pressed is also critical to preserving its form like its lapel roll and collar structure among others.”

If clothes make the man, then the suit must be like a god among clothes. We asked Mr. Ongkingco if a suit can make a man more handsome, or does the suit improve a man by projecting and protecting his value (and values). “A good suit may not contribute to your good looks, though with the proper silhouette it should project an image of success and accomplishment. You see, suits have been associated with formal engagements for over a century. As such, when a man wears a suit, he immediately stands out from the crowd. A suit is a tool that is used to enhance stature in society,” he said.

To set an appointment for a fitting contact Suit it Up Manila through Instagram and Facebook at @suititupmanila. — Joseph L. Garcia

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