Reprieve for a Dying Art - Bespoke Shirtmaking as it Should Be

Reprieve for a Dying Art

Bespoke Shirtmaking as it Should Be

by Alexander S. Kabbaz, Master Shirtmaker
This is Kabbaz-Kelly & Sons
Once Upon a Time ...
Why this tome? In this new Milennium, we live in a pragmatic world which has taken Henry Ford's maxim of mass production to extremes. Caveat Emptor is the rule; automation the name of the game; quality, gentility, and honor merely fond remembrances of days gone by.

The Japanese have developed a robot which sews a shirt without a seamstress. The French have contributed a machine capable of cutting the entire garment. Why, the only need for humans is one to lay a piece of cloth on the cutting table and another to wear the finished shirt! Sadly, most all 'Custom' shirtmakers the world 'round have opted to forego quality in favor of 'progress'; vertical integration with fabric merchants rather than independent creativity.

Hence, we feel the need to offer these many words of our salute to the way things once were, the way they should be, and the way they shall remain here for as long as we continue to practice our art. We shall create couture custom shirts, blouses, classic furnishings, and the finest of accessories for people who appreciate these lost arts. We shall craft with only quality and good taste in mind. And we shall offer our wares with honor and dignity and pride.

Hand-Monogrammed Link Cuff

A Most Unique Adventure . . . In Fine Old-world Craftsmanship

To Alexander S. Kabbaz and his wife & partner Joelle M. Kelly, shirts are their art ... though she might arguably claim a 'multi-art-talentedness' lacking in Kabbaz by offering to also hand-knit you a sweater. Each a creation of pride; no two ever quite alike. Every creation is a child of painstaking labor. That's why your order is accompanied by detailed instructions for proper laundering and pressing. Concern for these children does not stop at our workroom door but continues long after they leave our shop. That's why, when you bring our shirt 'home' years from now for new collar, new cuffs, and a bit of tender encouragement from Mom & Pop, the result will be virtually a new shirt. That's why, some 60 years after his grandmother rendered her first shirting design for Sulka, Alex still creates fewer than a dozen shirts each week. That's why, when you come here for the first time, we'll fit you two, four, six times... whatever is necessary to attain the perfect fit.

The image you should portray is the responsibility we wish to accept.

To quote Kabbaz, "The only client I wish to serve is a client for life. And that's why we offer the simplest of guarantees: If it is not 'perfect', we shall make it so!"

Kabbaz Demonstrating Link Cuff

Kabbaz-Kelly Bespoke Safari Shirt Jacket

Going on Safari?

Hand Cutting Knife

Everything is Hand Cut

Conrad & Damien Kabbaz in Bespoke Tux Shirts

Bespoke Tuxedo Shirts

'A Most Unique Adventure...'

No, this isn't a reference to an African Safari, notwithstanding that we send you off on one stylishly and functionally attired. Nor are we speaking of flying your private jet, competing at martial arts, getting married, or going off to war... although we have dressed clients for all of these and many more. The Adventure begins with our depth of insight. Why? Attire speaks before you've had the chance to utter even your first word. Your appearance is the window through which you are first viewed by your peers. The most important result of our initial consultation lies not in the extensive series of measures we place in your file, but in what we garner about your personality, your profession, your taste, and your station in life. Important is not that particular fabric which offers us the greatest profit. Important is the suitability of your wardrobe. This can be considered only if we gain a comprehensive understanding of who you are. Important lies not only in our complimenting your wiser selections and in offering you others from which to choose, but also in having the temerity to suggest that something you might want would be entirely inappropriate for you. The image you should portray is the responsibility we wish to accept.

3000+ Fabrics In Stock

3000+ Fabrics In Stock
'...Fine Old-world Craftsmanship'

How do we do all of this and remain successful? It's quite simple, actually. Our charges are set from a viewpoint which allows us to concentrate our efforts solely on the caliber of our work. Truthfully, pricing is the easy part. Difficult is when we sit down and carefully consider each one of the more than 25,000 individual stitches we make in some 12 miles of Egyptian-grown, Swiss-woven long staple cotton yarn, to which we hand-sew 14-20 New Zealand-grown Mother-of-Pearl buttons. Add seven or eight hours of tailoring, a hefty dose of creativity, a lifetime of pride and you shirt! We could go on for pages about our complete individual pattern, an entirely hand-cut and sewn garment, the magnifying loupe through which we inspect the fabric we shrink as necessary before cutting, and the many hundreds of other techniques we use to insure the perfection of our craft. However, we consider this not only somewhat proprietary but also firmly believe that this is our responsibility. Suffice it to say, thanks to our many loyal clients, we are happy to have the ability to direct our skill and attention solely toward the quality of our shirts. Please feel welcome to come in and watch us work... any time.

Current and Antique Pearl Buttons

Pearl Buttons in Stock
The Kabbaz-Kelly Method
New Clients - Commencement and First Order

On your first visit, we'll chat for a while in order that I might gain a proper sense of your needs. Then we'll discuss styling and fit while I take some 35 measures, a set of photos, and notes.

Back at our studio, I'll then design and strike your individual paper pattern from which I cut a try-on shirt. This shirt is made from one of our regular shirtings.

A week or two later, faster if necessary, we meet again for you to try on this laundered sample. This is not a shirt you keep; it is merely used for pattern corrections. You criticize, I criticize and pin-fit.

Again, back to our studio where I shall alter your pattern, cut again, and if the test shirt was reasonably correct, a few days later we'll send over a real shirt. This you wear for a day or two thus insuring that you like everything about it.

These fitting steps are repeated and repeated if necessary with an average of 2.5 fittings for each new client. The goal has been accomplished in as few as one fitting and one time required seven visits. Once your pattern has been finalized - and only then - will I cut your order. We are not interested in one-time clients. Perfecting your pattern is absolutely essential. After that, you literally never need see us again to order shirts as we have your pattern and shall gladly furnish swatches by mail. FYI, our definition of Custom/Bespoke differs somewhat from those shirtmakers who custom-size one of their standard designs. We don't do that. Each client's pattern begins as a blank manilla paper, not an alterable template. Our definition is simple: "'Bespoke' means exactly what the client wants it to mean". Yes, we certainly have the temerity to opine when we believe the client's choice is lacking in expertise ... but it is not we who decide. It is you.

What will we do? As far as shirts, blouses, or furnishings, virtually anything. We will design originals (our preference), copy your old favorites, or work from photos or sketches. In the arena of fabrics, we stock some 3200 of the best Swiss or Italian woven, Egyptian-grown cottons, a full line of cashmeres, silks, linens, and more exotic blends such as cashmere/linen and cotton/silk. Our preferred cottons are the 140s, 170s, 200s, and 240x 2x2’s.

Shirt prices range from $975 (average $1150; 1st time minimum of 6; thereafter 1) depending strictly on the selected fabric. Delivery varies seasonally and depends (the first time only) on your availability for fittings. A deposit of 50% is placed upon the taking of measurements. We can, if you come stay locally in East Hampton on any Monday through Wednesday, complete the shirt fitting process in just two-three days/one-two nights. We can, in an emergency, deliver an order within a week, but this is not our preference. Quality should not be rushed! Monograms, if desired, are hand-drawn, done here by hand, and are charged. All work is done here on the premises. No exceptions; no qualifications - we farm out absolutely nothing. Our guarantee is simple...perfect, or corrected without question.

Previous Clients - Reorders

Before your place a subsequent order, I'd like to see you in the shirt you've found most pleasing. Fine cotton tends, over time, to shape and adapt itself to the wearer. It is only after that has been accomplished that I can make the final little nips and tucks to your permanent pattern. This, by the way, remains an ongoing process. Should more than four or five years pass between your actual visits to the shop, I would rather not make any more shirts until I see you in a recent creation. After all, our only advertising is the answer you give to the question, "Where did you get that shirt?"

For subsequent orders, you can either call to have us send current fabric samples for your perusal or instruct us to repeat previous shirt selections ... or you can stop by any time. Be sure to inform us if any changes are necessary and your order will be crafted from your permanently filed pattern, adjusted for changes if necessary. Reorders normally require two to ten weeks. Quickest deliveries are made in January, February, and September.

A Few of Our Shirts in Action

Bespoke Shirtmaking as it Should Be: It's All in the Details

From The Casual Look ...

To White Tie and Tails

From Casual ... to White Tie ... And Inbetween

And In Between: Kabbaz-Kelly Shirt, Tie, Pocket Square
More than 5000 collars designed to date Cashmere Shirt Jacket Our Workrooms

Kelly & Kabbaz have created for many

We've Created for Many

An incredible variety

A wide variety of sport and specialty shirts

And designed some really crazy stuff!

And designed some really crazy shirts!

Normal Kelly & Kabbaz

Whether for a night out on the town ... or the craziness of Halloween ... Kelly and Kabbaz have you covered. All you need do is

Hand-Embroidered Monogram

And Then There's This Kelly & Kabbaz

Need Further Information? Have Questions or Comments? Want to Make an in-person Appointment?

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Thanks to digital photography we can now make shirts without an in-person visit.

Full details are here. Be sure to read this first!

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Copyright © 1977-2018 Alexander S. Kabbaz. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind permitted without written permission of the copyright holder.