Custom Suiting with Southern Hospitality
Sometimes in life we have to travel many a road until we find the path right for us. For David Watkins, he worked in the ad world for years until he started feeling burnt out. Then he remembered buying shirt fabrics in college and decided to try his hand at shirt making; then the dreadful 2008 crash hit him like it did most everyone else. But that led to his repping a clothing company, Astor and Black around the Southeast until he finally decided to open his own custom clothing company, and Abbeydale was born in 2010.
Since then he has garnered quite a following not just in the South, but around the country and the world. Born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, Watkins focuses on custom clothing but will be opening his first retail concept on April 1st in downtown Charlotte. He is also a partner in a new and exciting e-commerce site you may just want to peep out.
We sat down with David to hear more about his brand, his customer and custom made.
Where is the name Abbeydale from?
It’s the name of the street I grew up on in Charlotte. You don’t want to forget where you come from.
Who is your customer?
I got an email today from a guy in Moscow who wants to buy a lot of pieces. 90% of my customer is local in the Carolina’s, Atlanta, DC. Once I meet a customer and get their measurements we can work over the phone. It’s easier for everybody. I wouldn’t let my plumber fly my plane! Same with these guys who want someone in the industry to work with who knows tailoring.
Is it bespoke or custom and what is the difference?
We are custom. I would love to have a full time tailor that could do bespoke but that gets into another level of price. So we have sample garments for a customer to try on and to see where we need to make an adjustment. Every big house (Brioni, Zegna, Cuccinelli) all have a try on department.
Then we take measurements and note style options – pleats, cuffs, buttons, linings. Next we look at fabrics and we have thousands for shirting, suiting, tuxedos, overcoats. It takes 21 working days for the garment to be sent back to me where my local tailor finishes things up. The customer can come in for a fitting and I pair up accessories, shirts, ties, shoes so guys can see how it is all going to look together.
Where are suits made?
Two options – a lot of clients really want made-in-America so we have tailors in California and New York. Prices for American tailors tend to be higher. Also we work with a tailor in mainland China who was trained by Armani. When I buy suits made in America they tend to be cut fuller. My Asian tailors make things a little slimmer which is what most guys are looking for. Shirts are made in New England.
What is Gentleman’s Armory?
It’s a new e-commerce start up. There are three partners and I am one of them. We have a little more sartorially based customer. There are other companies that are heavily funded out there and we are nowhere near a Mr. Porter, but we go on buying trips and order limited amounts of amazing pieces not a lot of people carry. We are still in soft launch mode.
What is next?
Currently, we are looking for private label shoes from Spain and ties from Italy. Italians really know how to create a tie. There are some good ones in the US but you don’t get that soft construction and hand work like you get from Italy.