Historic Chicago-based brand Oxxford still hand sews every suit for a bespoke masterpiece

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After working in Savile Row with Sir Hardy Amies to produce the Queen’s daywear, then moving to Ontario with bespoke tailor Coppley, Warwick Jones thought he was ready to retire. While planning a fly-fishing paradise retreat in New Zealand, he was called by the boss of the Individualized Apparel Group (IAG, the parent company which owns Coppley and Oxxford among others) and asked him to run the Oxxford garment factory in Chicago.

(Courtesy of Oxford Clothes)

Today, he enjoys it immensely and devotes himself with passion to the craftsmanship of making clothes by hand. Jones said, “The difference between a machine-made suit and a handmade suit is like night and day.”

Oxxford Clothes was established in Chicago, the epicenter of the Arts and Crafts design movement, in 1916. Despite global changes in methods, machinery and mass production, Oxxford has remained true to its mission to produce the finest menswear. bespoke and sewn by hand. garments made from the finest fabrics in the world.

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An Oxford tuxedo. (Courtesy of Oxford Clothes)
Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Oxford Clothes)

At Coppley, Jones worked with largely machine-made clothing. While on a business trip, he encountered “dozens and dozens of Oxxford garments in places like Neiman Marcus, hanging on horrible little hangers, and I was putting them on and immediately had the nice feeling of the coat which melted into my body.” The first thing you notice, he says, is that the collar of the coat “hugges your neck; it is neither too high nor too low. Plus, “when you move your hand forward in the coat, it moves with you,” he explained. “It sings to you.”

The secret to the Oxxford Garment Special Song is in the stitches. When Jones first went to Oxxford Clothes, the IAG CEO told him to run a suit through the factory and follow it every step of the way. So he did, and it was the best possible way to learn the process and, most importantly, the art of stitches. Jones said there were an average of 14,240 stitches in each suit: “I counted every one of them!” he said.

There are 4,000 stitches in the pants and 900 stitches “just to get the roll on the lapel canvas so it stays that way forever”. Each buttonhole is sewn by hand and takes about 20 minutes to make, as opposed to the 1.5 seconds it would take on a machine.

Epoch Times Photo
Each costume’s stitches reflect the distinct personality and style of its maker.
(Courtesy of Oxford Clothes)
Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Oxford Clothes)

The most important thing to understand, Jones added, is that “they put the needle in such a way and they tighten the thread in such a way that they’re actually not just sewing a stitch. They give personality to the garment with each stitch.

That personality comes from the craftsman working on a piece, and “the stitches are all pretty unique, actually,” Jones marvels. For example, in backhand padding, they aim for 25 stitches per square inch. Some tailors will make 20 and others 30, and “it’s their character that goes into what they do, and that makes a difference”. Every Oxxford costume becomes a collector’s item. Jones said all the tailors working in the Oxford garment factory had their own way of doing things, and when he looks at their work, “I could tell you who sewed it.”

The individualized nature of stitches is, of course, the individualized nature of bespoke garments. Even if a customer orders six suits at a time, they will all be made from different materials, and they will each pass through the factory in one go. Each garment will have its unique characteristics and no two garments will be identical.

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Each bespoke costume is designed to blend perfectly with the body of its wearer. (Courtesy of Oxford Clothes)
Epoch Times Photo
The Oxxford Elite Fall Jacket. (Courtesy of Oxford Clothes)

This attention to detail, this personal approach, is reflected in the daily life of the factory. Jones greets each craftsman in the morning and says goodnight to them all in the evening. In the Oxford garment factory, Jones described: “The most remarkable thing is the calm. When you enter our workshop, you hear nothing. There are 100 people working there, he said, and “I know each one of them by name. It’s a place you love to come to every day.

It is a difficult job, which requires a lot of concentration and dexterity. It takes eight weeks to make a costume. Each hand-sewn stitch gives meaning to the final product, but it never shows. It is hidden by fabric on the outside and a lining on the inside. However, artisans know it’s there and “they believe in it,” Jones said. All the hard work is worth it because “there is nothing better than seeing a man walk out of a showroom in a new suit. Nothing is as pleasant as the first time you wear it. You feel independent. »

Epoch Times Photo
According to the company, each of Oxford Clothes’ custom garments goes through 120 hands before being finished. (Courtesy of Oxford Clothes)

This article originally appeared in American Essence magazine.

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