Catherine Feore discovers a bit of Savile Row in the heart of Brussels
SCABAL has over 80 years experience at the forefront of fabric design. Known for its innovation and sophistication in weaving, it exports to more than 80 countries worldwide. It is the go-to choice of fabric for the world’s leading tailors. Its reputation is such that producers began to directly commission their cloths to dress some of the most iconic characters in Hollywood and Broadway. Vito Corleone’s famous tuxedo, as worn by Marlon Brando in The Godfather, and almost every one of Robert DeNiro’s iconic 70 suits in Casino, were made with the assistance of SCABAL.
Some men feel there is a certain amount of drudgery attached to the suit, it’s the uniform they wear for the workplace; but what if it reflected your personality, if it was made to the highest standards of tailoring, with the world’s best fabrics and had some ludic touches that were unique to you? In short, what if your suit was a delight to wear?
But where to find this in Belgium?
While SCABAL is world renowned for its fabrics, it also has its own presence on Savile Row and… Boulevard de Waterloo.
When you meet Véronique Vranckx, the manager of SCABAL’s Brussels boutique, you immediately feel like you are in safe hands; beautifully coiffed and suited, she is approachable and sets you at ease.
“When a suit is made-to-measure it is adapted to the morphology of the client”
I ask why people opt for a made-to-measure suit? “The simple answer,” says Véronique, “is that when a suit is made-to-measure it is adapted to the morphology of the client. When a client opts for a prêt-à-porter suit he is obliged to conform to the model or standard proposed; here, it is the opposite: the model is adapted to the client.” While this may be the critical factor, there are many other considerations. Numerous other choices also make the made-to-measure suit unique to the wearer, there will never be a duplicate.
One of the first questions Véronique asks a client is what is the purpose of the suit: is it for business, a special occasion, or simply for the pleasure of dressing well. To help me understand the process, Véronique walks me through it.
“The first thing to choose is the fabric, SCABAL has 5,000 fabrics, then there are more than 200 different options to choose from.” I ask if people are overwhelmed with so much choice and so many decisions to be made. Véronique says that it very much depends from one person to the next. Some people come with a very clear idea of what they want, some even come with a picture of what they are aiming for, especially younger clients; others are happier to be guided in their choices.
“SCABAL has 5,000 fabrics, then there are more than 200 different options to choose from”
Firstly we look at different fabrics according to the choice of colour, the weight of the fabric and the fineness of the thread. Then the client looks at the different models of suit: single breasted, double breasted, number of buttons, what type of vents, what sort of lapel… There are line drawings to illustrate all options, even if you don’t know the exact terminology. If you are unsure of whether a particular design suits your shape you can try on one of their prêt-a-porter suits, which are also very fine, to give you an idea of what works best for you. Véronique and her team are there to guide throughout, they don’t impose a view, but they have a level of expertise that most ordinary mortals don’t possess.
There are a number of ludic touches you can add to give your suit an even more personal touch. You may have a very formal business suit, but maybe choose a more contrasting colour for the hand-stitched buttonholes, discreetly revealing a hint of rebellion. You can choose a distinctive lining. There’s also the possibility of adding text to the interior, or under the collar. For example, with a wedding suit, clients sometimes like to add a phrase, or the names, date and place of the nuptials.
The next stage is the taking of measurements. Véronique is very clear that this is also about comfort, that the suit should feel “nonchalant”, that’s to say comfortable. In a sense it is a second skin. The final stage is when the suit is assembled and an appointment is made to check the fitting. Occasionally small changes will be needed, for example, the trouser or sleeve length.
“There is always an element of co-creation”
Finally, I ask Véronique how she feels when the suit is completed: “It’s a grande satisfaction. We spend a lot of time with the client, the rapport with each client is different, but there is always an element of co-creation. It’s a responsibility that I, and my collaborators, take to heart. We are impatient like children to see the results and when we see the smile on the face of the wearer ‘c’est tout gagner’, it’s like you’ve won everything.”
SCABAL’s shop can be found at Boulevard de Waterloo 32