A fourth-generation tailor and suit-maker, Alan Horowitz has one of those classic New York City origin stories. He's the current proprietor of Alan David Custom, where he creates beautiful handmade garments, fully customized to every size, shape, and form a body could possibly take. The beginnings were humble: his great grandfather immigrated from Russia and opened a small off-the-rack suit shop on Brooklyn's East New York Avenue. The year was 1926.
After leaving a parentally-mandated "good job" as an accountant, Alan hopped into the family biz. "I was born with a tape measurer in my mouth," he tells us. "It was a natural fit." And today, after the shop reinvented itself again and again in order to keep up with the times, Alan is proudly dressing the best and the brightest this city has to offer, And boy is he good at it. Customers pop in for everything from business suits to wedding tuxes, tails and morning coats which, as he says, you should never ever leave to the amateurs.
We visited his midtown showroom to learn more about the craft of "custom suits"—so we thought we'd bring you a primer on what it takes to suit up like the sharpest guy in town.
Alan David has the custom process down to a science: the perfect measurements + the expert interpretation of those measurements will yield a totally custom pattern from which the suit is hand cut, sewn, and perfected—all here in the US, using the best fabrics around. The whole process takes about three weeks, but rush orders are available.
Session One: Measure Sixty Times, Cut Eventually
First, the consultation. Alan asks questions like, "How often do you wear a suit?" and "Do you sweat a lot?" (Trust us, it's important to know.) "What fit problems do you encounter when purchasing off-the-rack garments?" and "Have you had success with any particular fabrics in the past?"
The consultation is critical—Alan knows suits inside and out, and understanding the soon-to-be owner of such a fine garment helps him pull fabrics and make recommendations on fit and style.
Then, the fabric book. Fabric, we learned, is a universe of multitudes. You've got your top Italian mills like Loro Piana and Ermenegildo Zegna, your English mills, your classy sharkskin that's got a great tooth to it (no pun intended), that which is heavy, and that which is light. Sheen, no sheen, bright, flat, you name it.
Alan flips through his fabric books and carefully folds a handful of swatches out for display. "Pick the fabric you like the least," he says. The decisive exercise, almost like a card trick, lasts until only two swatches remain. He smiles. "Take some time to decide while we measure."
Then, the measuring. How many measurements in a suit? "About sixty," Alan tells us. He paces, unfurls the measuring tape, and jots notes on an oversized sheaf of paper. There's even a metal object called a Perkins device that shows how far your neck sticks out from your shoulder blades. (Who knew that was a thing?) Cuffs are rolled, chalked, and measured with a flat ruler. Start to finish, it takes about 40 minutes.
You thought we were done with fabric? Nope. Here's the lining book.
Beautiful silks and patterns galore. As they say, it's what's on the inside that counts!
Finally, the small details. Want a notch lapel? Sure. No zippers on the pants, nothing crazy. And please, no pleats. Two button jacket? Check. Custom initials on the inside? Also check.
Doing the math on this, the logical conclusion is that there's an infinite number of ways to create a full-custom suit. Most certainly, no two are alike!
Intermission: This Is When The Magic Happens
It takes about three weeks to get the fabrics sourced, the measurements interpreted, the patterns cut, and the initial stitches sewn (no glue or adhesives, thank you very much.)
Session Two: The Basted Fit (Basically, The Pre-Suit Suit)
For those looking for that extra-special fits-like-a-glove perfection, or to accommodate more unusual sizes and shapes, the basted fit is the way to go. We return, three weeks later, and Alan presents something that looked almost like a suit—but not quite.
The garment is held together with thin white stitching and the pants are sans waistband. "This is the guarantee that you're gonna like what you're getting," Alan says. Final adjustments like the curvature of the jacket and the length of the pant are marked in chalk by a master tailor. About forty percent of new clients opt for this intermediary step.
It's kind of like having a full-body blueprint—once you get these exact measurements, and provided you don't grow a foot or gain a hundred pounds, you've got your suit specs for life.
After the basted fit, the suit is crafted into its final form.
Session Three: The Final Touches
This is one darn fine suit. It's a few weeks later, and we're back for the final fit. It is, of course, sartorial perfection.
The suit will head back to the factory for a few minor tweaks. No need to come back in though—the finished suit will be shipped straight to your door. All that's left to do, as they say, is strut your stuff—you're guaranteed to be the best dressed, wherever you're doing.
At the end of the day, however, it's all about service. "I'll do whatever it takes to make a client happy," Alan says. "Free lifetime alterations, I'll work weekend and evening hours and throw in free messenger services too."
Custom suit prices range from $1,195 to $2,995. Turnaround time is 3 to 4 weeks, and all garments are made in the USA.
You can visit Alan for a fitting at Alan David Custom,16 E 40th Street, Suite 702, New York, NY 10016 | Phone: (212) 227-4040
This post is a sponsored collaboration between Alan David Custom and Gothamist staff.