Savile Row is the Mount Olympus of men’s tailoring. Well-dressed men from around the world travel to London in hopes of going from mere mortals to tailored gods with a new customized suit. And even if you can’t make it to the Row, there are plenty of suitmakers around the world who can whip you up a custom job. But while these codes of customized men’s tailoring own the hearts of traditional dapper dandies worldwide, there’s only so much you can do with an adjusted hem or fitted waist to stay fashionable. What happens if you want something new? You can change the garment, but giving it a whole new look to stay feeling fresh? That’s outside of the norm.
That is, until Steven Passaro came along. After graduating from the London College of Fashion two years ago, the Paris-based designer set out with a vision to challenge the rules of bespoke menswear by transforming what it means to have a unique garment. By its very definition, bespoke means a level of customization. But there are stark limits to how the garment can be transformed. And while Passaro quickly pays respect to these traditions, his interest in reinventing bespoke has brought him to create a new method of personalization in the menswear sphere.
“I actually just watched a documentary about Savile Row,” he says. “ and I always look to tailors for guidance because I’m a freak when it comes to how things fit.” In mid-March, Passaro released his second collection, a severely romantic group of pieces including a long black jacket equipped with a basting detail, a handmade silk veil, a three-layered plissé trouser, and a double-breasted velvet sequined jacket. But while the details and well-cut pieces allude to Passaro’s deep skill in craftsmanship, a new concept—he calls them “Evolutive Garments—suggests a new approach to bespoke menswear.
Say you love one of Passaro’s trench coats. To get one, you go into a fitting, where the designer measures it to your body. After it’s delivered, you wear it out and feel like you’re the king of moody weather. A year goes by, and like many garments, the trench coat’s splendor fades a bit. It’s natural. But instead of buying a whole new coat and going through the pain of finding that perfect fit, you can take the piece back to Passaro. There, he’ll turn the coat into something almost new by placing a customized add-on. You know the feeling you get when you find a new way to style your favorite pair of shoes? It’s like that, but for the rest of your closet.
The demonstration on his site illustrates an option of adding a contemporary-shaped plate of textile, or a sash-like element to the scarf, but the designer assures that the options are malleable. “I’m always changing like a river. And I’m also a Pisces, so I’m very emotional,” Passaro jokes. “But, like myself, people are constantly growing and changing, too. People’s taste in clothes can take many dips and I wanted to create something that would create a longer-lasting connection with our clothes.”
In Passaro’s conception, evolutive garments aren’t just about refreshing your closet. The added-on accessories and layers of clothing are made from deadstock fabrics, giving both the fabrics and chosen garment a second life, all while reducing the consumer’s carbon footprint. According to Passaro, sustainability was of utmost importance when conceiving his brand. He cites Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s thoughts on the matter. “He says that ‘everything man makes causes more harm than good’ and that we need to find ways that do less harm. That thought is always at the forefront of the brand,” Passaro says. Accordingly, he skips the standard four collections-per-year practice because it’s a “complete waste”; all his products are made-to-order, so nothing is created in bulk. “Of course, there are things we can improve and that we are working out,” he says.
Evolutive garments aren’t the only disruptor to the bespoke arena. Earlier in January, men’s custom-fitting looks found a new home in Couture houses like Fendi, Valentino, and Giambattista Valli. The season before, Balenciaga announced that they, too, were set to add menswear to their couture lines.
Can these renditions truly follow suit to the Olympic gods sitting on the Row? Lee Marsh, a tailor who’s spent more than 20 years on Savile Row, thinks there’s a chance. “Something needs to happen on Savile Row,” Marsh says. “Bespoke has been too limited to suits, but we have a lot more to offer. And I think it’s great that people are finding more ways to celebrate the craftsmanship.” He has been working to find ways to bridge the legacy of Savile Row and the now more common “casual” attire. Additional to suits, the tailor also uses his Savile Row hand in offering made-to-measure bomber and blouson jackets.
For his part, Passaro plans to expand his program to shirts, trousers, and knitwear. It’s about more than categories, though. “These bespoke services offer an intimate connection with consumer, tailor, and garments that is far too rare nowadays,” Passaro says. Savile Row suits offer a glimpse of the past, while Evolutive Garments exemplify a promising future—and in the present, both will play a part in defining (or redefining) the future of high-end bespoke tailoring.