One-of-One Tailoring feat. Michael Nguyen

May 21st, 2014

Today’s profile highlights my co-host for our Gentlemen’s Evening in Toronto coming up on May 27th.

Michael Nguyen has been working in menswear since he was a young kid. He was in the game before all of these blogs and tumblrs, and long before Lebron James was wearing Givenchy. In fact, he’s the third generation in his family to work in the tailoring and garment manufacturing trade. “Tailoring is in my blood. I grew up in the business”.

Today he is Toronto’s premiere custom clothier and his shop Garrison Bespoke has clients that range from fortune 500 CEOs to Toronto based celebs like my man Drizzy Drake (who recently lined a new Garrison suit with his favorite team’s jersey).

What I love most about Mike’s style and vision for his business is that he he’s always looking to push the envelope and create something new – which is not necessarily a quality you often find in old-world bespoke suit makers. For example, a few months ago he made a fully bulletproof suit for a client in the secret service. He once said to me; “I’ve been delivering luxury suits and making clients happy and confident for years…but the suit itself has hardly changed in the past century…. When I die, I want to be remembered as someone who innovated the suit, who modernized it for a new generation of men”.

Once he said that, I knew I wanted to do business with this fellow Canadian, so we started to develop what we’re calling the “One of One Project”; custom jackets created using exclusive deadstock vintage fabrics and designed specifically to represent the lifestyle of the client… More on that later.

Speaking of Drake, Michael also has a great “Started from the Bottom” story:

I grew up in a small farming town of 500 people where my family was one of the only visible minorities. The town sponsored my family to Canada. Anywhere we went in public, all eyes were on us. Therefore, from a young age my mother stressed the importance of looking sharply put together and representing the family with pride.  All my clothes back then were donated or from the Salvation Army, but I always had it all coordinated. I remember picking out my clothing to go to school as young as 4 years old; if I didn’t have the right shoes, or I had worn my favorite sweater too many consecutive days, I would pretend I was catching a cold and ask to stay home!

We later moved to Toronto and for the first time I was one of many kids in my neighborhood and school. I was a shorter kid and I found it was hard to get noticed by my classmates, teachers, girls, and even by my siblings at home because we had such a big family. One defining moment I remember was a white tuxedo that I got from the salvation army and had it tailored down to fit me nice and slim – I loved it and felt like a king. I remember putting it on for the heck of it during a family gathering at my house one afternoon – I couldn’t believe the way it made me feel, and the positive attention I got from everyone around me.

From that point on I was totally hooked. Since then I’ve spent my time and money on clothing and making sure that I always have that feeling day in and out. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t spend thinking about style and how it relates to my day and my life, and of course, the lives of my clients and my colleagues at Garrison.”

Here Michael gives us a taste of his personal style, and the one-of-a-kind bespoke jackets that he’s developed to tell a little bit of his journey and story. If nothing else, he knows he’ll be the only guy wearing them.

1. Poolside Tailoring

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You think I have bespoke suits for every occasion? This guy has tailored pieces specifically for poolside! Here he’s wearing a one-of-one jacket over a terry cloth (think “towel material”) shawl cardigan.

“When I found this deadstock vintage fabric, I had to grab it. It reminded me of Beetlejuice, but with a vintage nautical feel. I found only two yards of it in a tiny little fabric shop – so I assume this is the only tailored jacket in the world made from this cloth.

I wear a suit & tie everyday at Garrison. When i’m relaxing by the pool on vacation I still like to be tailored (to represent my brand and for the convenience/familiarity of the pockets) but I love experimenting with different base layers under the jacket. This can include anything from technical shirts and knits, to this ultra comfortable (and pool-friendly) terry cloth sweater.

The silk/linen trousers have a little stretch in them and are super lightweight… They’re actually made from a womenswear fabric that is only 4.5 oz. These are the lightest and most comfortable pants I’ve over owned…and I’ve made quite a few pairs of trousers over the years.”

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Did you notice the hotel wash cloth pocket square?! Very clever…and functional.

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2. Rep Your City

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“One of the things I really like about what I do is I work with a lot of athletes; we make suits for players on all four major sports teams in Toronto: The Maple Leafs, Raptors, Blue Jays, and FC.

My favorite team since I was a young kid was the Toronto Maple Leafs. My first choice in career paths, if it were not bespoke tailoring (or my size), would be to play professional hockey for the Leafs. I attend a lot of games and this one-of-one jacket is my personal way of supporting my team without drowning in a big oversized hockey jersey. This way I can stay sharply tailored and represent my brand while showing my clients a good time.

The raw denim shirt just keeps getting better with age as you wear it and wash it. I have several of them from different mills that we carry at Garrison, but this one is my favorite. It’s the equivalent of a menswear hamburger and fries – its comfort food in sartorial clothing terms… It’s just as good with a suit as it is with a pair of shorts while working on your car on a Sunday.”

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3. A Formal Statement

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“Remember that white tux I had as a kid? This is my modern day version of that garment. I wear it with slim black Barathea Tux Pants to formal events, but also wear it on an everyday basis with a crisp white shirt or black silk t-shirt when i want to be chic but still casual at the same time.

This is my current holy grail of white shirting fabric. I own multiples of it. Its a Giza 87 Poplin from Albini which gets softer and softer the more it gets washed.  If you wear it out to party for a long night out, the next day you can throw it on poolside with a pair of swim trunks and it feels even better than the previous day!  It collects character. When i’m going into a big first meeting or doing public speaking (when I’m admittedly nervous) this is the shirt that I am wearing.

The pistachio pants are inexpensive from Uniqlo. I love the washed shade of these pants, as they are colorful but not in-your-face obnoxious. I think they coordinate well with the jacket given that it’s already creating quite a statement.”

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Any advice for our readers who are looking to upgrade their style?

“Immerse yourself in the popular culture you best identify with; whether it’s current or an era past – or even a hybrid of them. There will be people whose style you’ll identify with, learn from them.  Menswear has stayed very much the same in cuts, fabrics, and silhouettes in the last 100 years – its all about what you best identify with. Pick a few people whether they be style icons of various periods and take ideas from the way they dress and the pieces they wore.  When you experiment long enough, it will eventually your own.

As with anything in life practice makes perfect.  Be a student of style.”

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Thanks for reading, and special thanks to Michael for participating!

Yours in style,

Articles of Style

 

Photography by Alex Crawford