At an unremarkable residential building off the idyllic Square Opéra Louis Jouvet, I rang an ornate doorbell, unprepared for what awaited me beyond the brass plaque modestly announcing the “Savile House by Scabal.”
As the door swung open, words were swept away. Upon discovering the sartorial Aladdin’s cave beyond, I was overcome by nerves, unable to articulate a single word of French.
Ashamed, and surprised, by my own giddiness, I introduced myself to the woman unfortunately forced to greet me. I resorted to a stuttering form of English. Happily, the young lady took pity on me. I was led to a comfortable sofa and poured a steaming cup of coffee. It was as though I had stumbled upon a secret society, hidden deep within the bowels of Paris. I gathered myself and began to thumb through my notebook. I felt a little like Humphrey Bogart, hot on a case.
An extremely dapper young gentleman entered. He shook me warmly by the hand, and introduced himself as Guillaume, the showroom’s manager. Sitting across from me, he began to recount Scabal’s story, like a classical fairy tale.
The Early History Of Scabal
In 1938, an enterprising German, one Otto Hertz, conceived of a new breed of commerce. Hertz’s commercial model was dubbed the Société Commerciale Anglaise Belge Allemande et Luxembourgeoise, or Scabal for short. Scabal’s representatives would mobilize at a moment’s notice, visiting reputable tailors and artisans to sell Scabal’s wares. In order to travel lightly, Scabal invented an invaluable tool that revolutionized the trade: bound in a small leather booklet, each salesman carried fabric samples. We all recognize this booklet today as a “bunch.” Whether or not you thought it remarkable, if you have ever browsed for a new sofa, set of curtains, or suit of clothes, you have most likely flicked through one.
Scabal has maintained, and improved upon, the prestige of its heritage. Today, the majority of their 5,000 fabrics, or “tissues,” are manufactured in Huddersfield, England. Italy and Germany serve as subsidiary production locations. Scabal’s wares are a favorite among prominent labels, like Hermès and Paul Smith. The company has also expanded its offerings considerably, starting a made-to-measure garment service. Guillaume highlighted Scabal’s philosophy and its place within French culture.
Made-to-Measure vs. Bespoke
Rather than being a fully bespoke service, Scabal’s suits are made-to-measure. This involves the use of model “try-on” suits with which a client’s physique and measurements are registered. As in bespoke tailoring, the smallest details are taken into account. From here, with the help of a consultant, the client designs his very own suit, selecting details and materials to his heart’s desire. The information is then sent to a workshop located in Saarbrücken, Germany, where the suit is made from scratch using a unique marriage of ancestral, savoir-faire techniques and state-of-the-art technologies.
Guillaume explained the advantages of this service over fully bespoke, citing a combination of factors. Typically, a fully bespoke suit takes over eighty hours of work to accomplish, excluding frequent visits by the client to verify the progress of its construction. But with made-to-measure, the timeframe is significantly reduced. Scabal’s service is also more budget-friendly, allowing greater accessibility to a wider range of clients. Scabal’s offerings can be imagined as an extraordinarily-long scale, along which are placed all the options, details, and fabrics from which a client can choose. By reducing the scope of this scale, Scabal offers a flexible range of packages tailored to a client’s budget.
Made-To-Measure and The French
France is generally considered the origin and lead purveyor of the ready-to-wear garment, a craft that reputable designers have elevated to an art. However, the resulting culture of “ready-to-wear,” in which manufacturers no longer wait for actual customers to begin producing garments, has caused a depreciation in the value of service and consultation.
The everyday-consumer goes to a store and purchases a suit which he fancies. It probably doesn’t fit him perfectly, but what choice has he but to leave? Scabal’s mission is to correct this lack of individual attention, while still remaining affordable. Guillaume’s craft is not simply to provide perfect suits for discerning gentlemen, but to provide access to the sartorial world, by presenting all the opportunities for customization that come with a custom suit.
As with all great businesses, Guillaume and his team’s undertaking is to ensure the greatest experience for their client, an experience to which they look forward and relish. This is simply acheived: by discovering a client’s wishes and counselling them wisely. I sincerely enjoyed my time at Savile House and yearn to return to its cordial, warm environment. Given the immense breadth of both the Scabal name and its Savile House, Paris location, there is a whole world to explore, a world of history and expert practices.
To Be Continued…
I hope to return soon, in order to venture into the individual facets of this universe in greater detail.
(Let us know in the comment section below if there are any specific things you would like Bespoke Unit to cover about Scabal, or other fabric houses!)