Let Me Tell You About Mr James Douglas, Tailor Extraordinaire.
James Douglas died at the age of 65, less than a year after falling ill. An extraordinary tailor hailing from Glasgow – his meticulous work impressed the high society and were appreciated by his friends and clients alike.
Douglas kept the Book – a rather regal, slightly weathered brown leather bound book listing a clientele comprising mostly of the aristocracy, artists – actors, actresses and musicians. The names were meticulously recorded with the dates of their visits and the type of clothing required –all done in his neat cursive handwriting, always in fountain pen blue and in strict confidence of course – never meant to be shared with other clients and certainly not with the public.
Douglas was gifted in his interpretation of the customers’ requirements with a sharp eye for detail and a deft hand for the finest of cuts. His suits would sculpt the wearers into refined versions of their physiques – minimising their flaws and accentuating their fine features.
The “Douglas Treatment” as his circle of clients would term it was reserved for the very best and with the best outcome possible, by possibly the very best tailor of the industry. I only came to know of Douglas as he had been recommended to me by my close acquaintance Emit.
Douglas’ casual leather jackets for instance were highly sought after, accessorised minimally with small black chains and piping, complemented with fiery floral applique – the ornamental needlework standing out on the suede and leather material.
“Tailoring is as much a science of measurements as it is an expression of the arts” he had told me when I wanted my suit made at his Singapore tailoring shop in the busy confines of an Orchard Road mall.
“The rest,” he continued “depends on the individual and on how he or she carries himself”
His chest seemed to swell when he said the words. His pride in his work was not in short supply.
“Those are good principles to live by, Mr Douglas”, I had commented, looking at his impressive myriad of implements amidst the swaths of fabric on display – some in rolls and bundles and looking like inanimate sentinels at the periphery of the main tailoring table.
I looked at him closely, noticing his receding hairline and the shock of white hair above his temples.
“Mr Douglas”, I had told him “My principles are somewhat similar. And these need to be reflected or at least represented in the clothes that I wear.”
He smiled and nodded.
“You have come to the right place”, he said. “You’re going to have not less than 30 measurements taken. I will take detailed observations, and take into mind whether you stand upright or slouch, whether you have narrow or broad shoulders, whether your arms are long or short, and inclusive of other factors such as your height and build. Finally we will then do your fittings and then refine your suit further so that aspects of your physiques are appropriately interpreted onto the garment.”
He extended his palm to the main table, reaching out for a beige coloured sewing tape.
“Shall we begin?”, he said “and please let me know of your principles so that we can also incorporate them into your clothing design”
I smiled, my eyes boring into his.
“Mr Douglas,” I had replied “My principles are about minimalism and simplicity”
“Brilliant!” He had replied “My services however are costly, but I assure you that I can counteract any of your physical shortcomings, hiding them within the folds of the fabric and the consideration and guise of my cuts.”
I nodded. And he proceeded to provide me with details of how he had interpreted the design of a jacket for one client with rather short legs. Douglas explained that by cutting the jacket a few centimetres higher up the hip, the illusion of longer legs and what he termed as “length balance” were achieved successfully. Accordingly, that know how and other similar enhancements had added considerably to the high price tag of the client’s finished suit.
“Cost is of no concern, Mr Douglas” I had emphasised, “However if cost is required, then …costly it shall be…”
He looked somewhat puzzled, but chose not to dwell upon my remarks. He smiled politely and then proceeded to take my measurements.
That encounter with him had been exactly 13 months ago.
My suit was ready within the fortnight – a dark minimalist jacket that showed the simplicity well : straight with flap pockets and notch lapel. It looked armani-ish without being one, the fit well measured and made. It incorporated a white shirt with a buttoned down collar, slim in form with no superfluous features. I kept the matching tie slim as well – a flared up tie would do it injustice. My only indulgence was the tie clip in the shape of a small silver scythe. The trousers were flat, slim cut and matched my brown loafers and dark chelsea boots equally well.
He had been quite happy with my satisfied expression. His workmanship was impeccable. His service was expensive, but it was payment well deserved.
Society was aware of his passing – a recent obituary printed in the local paper made sure knowledge of it was communicated. In the full page obituary, mention was provided of his home town, and how he had come to the city state, as well as his creations and achievements and the celebrities that frequented his store. However, there was no mention about his family. He was single to the end, keeping his conquests with the high socialite ladies surprisingly private, numerable, brief but eventful.
In the aftermath, his tailoring shop was closed – its contents removed and the space reclaimed by a Chinese medicine shop. Such was the speed of change : Douglas had been full of vigour just slightly over a year ago.
I tell you this because the above is an interesting detail of a person you may not know, and paints a rich tapestry of a person’s worth, his efforts and dedication to his vocation. It certainly adds a curious dimension to what would otherwise be a seemingly bland character exterior.
I hope the read is worth your time. Also, my acquaintance Emit had recommended me to you. So that is always a good reason to tell these things and to meet up, eventually. I am travelling now, alas so I may not meet you for quite a while. I never seem to be able to call any place my permanent home. I am yet to grow roots but prefer to go where my business takes me.
But fear not – I will make my way to you according to how things are going. I may see you in the next few years or in the next few months. Or perhaps in the coming few days. One can’t really predict these things, really.
But to be honest, my principles are basically about minimalism and simplicity. After all life is already almost always far too complicated as you are very well aware of.
In my travels and in the conduct of my business, the question of cost crops up occasionally. I am happy to say that cost is of no concern at least to me, but if cost is required by you – then … costly it shall be.
So until we meet next time, have a pleasant day. You will be glad to know that you are always on my mind.
Warm Regards and Looking Forward,