Visiting the Brady Bunch behind the tailored RTW brand Bespoken—composed of two sets of brothers, the Fayeds and the Gonclaveses—in their current showroom above Turnbull & Asser is a rare treat. Entering the clubby store on 57th Street in Manhattan, you’ll see a suit made for Winston Churchill, and some of his correspondence with the 126-year-old house with a flagship in Jermyn Street; history (and some of the best made shirts and ties in the world) is all around.
The Fayeds’ family owns T&A, one of the last Savile Row stalwarts to produce their finery in the UK, and all of Bespoken’s shirts are hand made at the same factory in Gloucester, by craftsmen with generations of knowledge and experience (who each sign their name beside the task performed on a card which comes with the shirt). We talked with Marketing Director Paulo Goncalves and Sam and Liam Fayed (who apprenticed in the family factory before starting their own line) about the brand they’re building.
How’d you all meet?
Paulo: On Craigslist. This was a long time ago and I had a band. We were looking for a drummer and Sam responded. We quickly realized that, between the five of us, we each had these really special skills that would be great for a menswear line.
There seems to be a whole generation of younger guys who, even if they didn’t grow up admiring the traditions of Savile Row, Neapolitan tailoring and the rest, are certainly hungry for it now.
Liam: We’ve seen that, definitely. We started Bespoken with this vision of the younger customer coming into Turnbull and asking how the shirt was fabricated, what is the process behind it, why is it different from Brooks Brothers or Tommy Hilfiger, something that I can buy relatively cheaply. We started to tell them and they’d get really excited and they’d do the baggy trick and say, well, I don’t want this fit, I want something more fitted.
Paulo: There is a guy out there with a discerning eye who has an appreciation for investing in something, not just the shirt but the brand behind it, not just the brand but the people behind it and the philosophies of how that shirt was made.
Liam: Being able to work with all these resources, craftsmanship—the Turnbull & Asser factories—over a 165 years of experience goes into one of our Bespoken shirts that go through the hands of 16 individuals and 36 operations. It’s all handwork, so not every piece will be the same. It has its own little story behind it because it is in the hands of an artisan.
What did you do to the clothes to address the younger man’s appetite for a different fit?
Sam: The skinny collar. We started with a rounded collar, the 60s club collar.
Liam: Raising the arm holes. Slimming the silhouette, skinning the body. Trying to create a shirt that fits the best off the rack for the younger customer.
But you’re playing with all the Turnbull materials, including Thomas Mason fabrics?
Paulo: The nice thing is we have access, because of T&A, to great mills that have long been abandoned by other brands looking for a higher profit margin in Asia, for example. We have the ability to go in and do a small run of stuff and take pride in keeping things exclusive or limited. When we talk to the customer we want them to know what they’re getting. They’re not just investing in a waxed cotton, for example, but British Millerain—a company that’s been around for a hundred plus years and is the pride of the UK.
We all like to know where our grass-fed lamb is from these days.
Aside from the Turnbull archives what are you drawing on for inspiration?
Liam: I think it’s about looking at time periods and what’s going on in England from the 60s. Last Fall/Winter we managed to find a picture of our great grandfather who was in the merchant navy and that really inspired us. We kept asking ourselves as we were pulling it all together, “What would he wear on the open sea?” This picture stunned us. They have scruffy jobs but they look sartorial and they‘re kind of a gang and they have their own look going for them.
If it looked cool then and it looks cool now it’s never going out of style.
Liam: We hope so.