Q&A with Mr. Behr
How did you get into the mens clothing business, specifically bespoke?
I grew up in Los Angeles and when I was 14 years old, my dad, (who was a well-dressed stockbroker) took me up to San Francisco for a father/son weekend. We did all the usual tourist things like driving over the Golden Gate bridge and taking a cable car ride, but the thing I remember most was when we went shopping. We hit Union Square and browsed through a number of high-end men's haberdasheries.
I felt so inspired after walking through the shops of Wilkes Bashford, Cable Car Clothiers, Bullock & Jones and The Polo Shop. It was like a light went on inside my brain! From that day forward, I spent every waking minute dreaming of the day I would have my own flagship store full of my creations. I was determined. My first trip to San Francisco left a lasting impression on me and cemented my career path. I've never lost that initial passion.
With that goal in mind, I landed a job as a stock boy at one of Los Angeles' premier menís clothing stores. Before long, the management saw I had undeniable talent for the business and gave me a shot at a sales position. Despite being only sixteen, I quickly excelled as a salesman and wardrobe consultant. I was putting together complete outfits for successful lawyers, real estate developers, and entertainment executives who were on average 20-30 years older than me! In short order, I became one of the firm's top salesmen.
By the time I turned eighteen my love of the suit business led me to a custom tailor and I commissioned my first bespoke suit. The experience changed my life. I became obsessed with the concept of bespoke tailoring and began apprenticing with the same Parisian-trained tailor who made my first suit. I began to learn all the nuances of measuring, fitting and designing suits.
Soon, I began wearing only bespoke suits of my design and fabric choice. People would stop me on the street and compliment what I was wearing. They also wanted to know where I bought it. Something was brewing. At nineteen years old, I had the makings of my own bespoke suit business. I've been doing it ever since.
How are you different from other custom tailors?
First of all, I specialize in classic, British-inspired bespoke. I follow all the time-honored traditions and protocol one would receive if having a suit made on Savile Row. I always make a client their own personal paper pattern. I do several basted fittings before the completion and I create timeless clothing that is made to last a lifetime.
The Oxford Dictionary's definition of the adjective "bespoke" is "(of clothes) made to an individuals order". For me personally, the word "bespoke", apart from it's literal definition, also speaks of a distinct British styling point of view. From cars, homes and clothing, the British have always been the masters of classic style and have never been slavish to the prevailing winds of "fashion".
Furthermore, what sets me apart from other American-based tailors and so-called custom clothiers is how my business is set up: I have re-created a Savile Row-inspired bespoke showroom with a traditional, cozy atmosphere. Most importantly, I have on-site production. My suits are all hand-made by my team of master tailors at my Mid-Wilshire District Shop in the geographic heart of Los Angeles. Most importantly, I meet with each client individually by appointment only. This ensures the client my complete, undivided attention.
What inspires your designs for men? What sparks your creativity?
I'm obviously inspired by Savile Row and all things British. Prince Charles always looks immaculate. I've also been hugely influenced by the classic style of Hollywood's "Golden Era". Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Fred Astaire and Humphrey Bogart are all sartorial heroes of mine.
I also have to give a nod to musicians like Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones and Ray Davies of The Kinks, two British rock legends who have made continual visits to Savile Row over the decades to get suited up. They made the suit cool. Both men have great personal style.
Another influence would be the "Old School" jazz musicians of 1950's and 1960's like Wes Montgomery and Miles Davis. Those cats embraced East Coast conservatism and favored the collegiate look better known as "Ivy -League" style (i.e. Brooks Brothers and J. Press). They were preppies with soul.
And how does traveling around Europe influence the suits you design for your clients?
Traveling to Europe keeps me up to date on the style trends. In London, there are always new twists and takes on traditionalism. I am very inspired by what's going on along Savile Row, Jermyn Street and Bond Street. In Italy, the "Neapolitan style" of Kiton and Brioni is influential to my designs because of their unique take on Ivy-style and British traditionalism. Italian men don colors like watermelon, lime, and orange that most American men would never have the courage to wear! There is also quite a lot of nice men's clothing coming out of Switzerland. I should also mention Paris - there are some outstanding bespoke tailors in that gorgeous city along the Seine.
I would imagine you get a lot of orders for standard-colored suits in traditional colors like gray and navy blue. What makes bespoke fun and creative for you?
Yes, I make a lot of conservative suits. I love working with successful, educated men who rely on me to dress them for battles in the corporate and legal world. But I also love to be creatively challenged. No matter who the client is, nor what they do for living, my goal is to create clothing that truly represents their individual style. This personal mantra has inspired the creation of some very unique clothing over the years.
Recently, I made a three-piece suit for a long time client who already had ordered over 30 suits. To say he was, and still is, a clothes horse, would be an understatement. More than anything, he loves to be flamboyant, whimsical and colorful. And to his credit, he pulls it off quite tastefully. With that inspiration in mind, I came across a gorgeous chalk-stripe in a regal shade of purple flannel. At this point he had every other traditional suit color many times over. Why not purple? I found a fabric to line the interior of the jacket that had vintage 1950's Playboy playmates embossed on queen of hearts playing cards. It blew his mind. He couldn't stop opening his jacket to show it off! (Thanks Dr. Ackerson!!)
I make a concerted effort to get to know my clients personally. This helps me truly understand their needs, wants and desires. I always strive for a perfect fit and a style that reflects their own good taste. I know how to dress an investment banker for a crucial meeting in New York or London, and at the same time, dress a man for a weekend in Vegas. The common denominator - I do it all tastefully!