April 19 2013
Tony Rushmer charts the rise and rise of young Savile Row tailor in the Big Apple
SUCCESS for the Henry Poole-trained Emily Squires in this year’s Golden Shears competition wasn’t just celebrated in London – it was also warmly received in one particular New York apartment.
Rory Duffy, who spent about four years as a Poole’s employee, himself won the biennial award for tailoring apprentices and students back in March 2009. And in a piece of neat synergy, Duffy was subsequently appointed to develop Squires’ talents before he moved to America in 2010.
“I had her making pocket bastes (fundamentals relating to handpadding, canvassing and inserting) in three months,” recalls the 30-year-old. “Believe me, that’s impressive – it’s usually a year or more.”
Last November, Duffy’s own natural ability led to him starting up a bespoke business – ‘Handcraft Tailor’ – in New York.
“It has always been my aim to run my own tailoring house,” says Duffy, who, not long after arriving in New York, spent some time working with the renowned Martin Greenfield, tailor to three presidents.
“I offer a personal tailoring service, meeting clients at their homes or offices. Ihave been very lucky and picked up some great clients. It is exciting and I am very pleased with how things are moving. There is a lot happening and I can feel everything taking off.”
His early training in the industry was at a tailor’s in Sligo, on the west coast of Ireland. There he worked mostly on military garments, which appealed on two levels. Firstly, he was serving in the Reserve Defence Forces at the time and also he had a genuine love of military uniforms. Such influences have stayed with him and shape the suits that he makes for his American clients today.
“For my silhouette, I have stayed close to my military roots,” he confirms. “Cutting the waist low to maximise the chest emphasis, the coat is cut ‘crooked’ so doesn’t drag at the button when closed.
“A traditional one-piece forepart is used with the chest built into the canvas. The armhole is cut high and the sleeve has drape for movement. British side vents with slant pockets are the usual details.
At top, Rory Duffy in situ; above his lean cut suit; right, his high peaked lapel; and below, checking the detail of a handpadded collar.
“I asked a client what he thought differentiated my suits. His reply was ‘custom tailors cut a suit round the figure and you cut the suit for the figure, creating shape where it is needed’.”
Duffy is able to cut, make and tailor all the garments that any discerning gent would want in his wardrobe, and he has also established something of a reputation for being able to provide kilts.
To help him deliver his garments on time – his anticipated turnaround is between six and eight weeks – he has an assistant. According to her ‘boss’, she is particularly adept at hand-sewing button-holes, a detail that is close to Rory’s own heart. With workload increasing, Duffy has also set up an arrangement with his former master back in Ireland to help with production.
The plan is to build up a UK-based clientele, so he’s intending to spend a few weeks in London this June. Indeed, with Duffy outlining that ‘New York is not forever’, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if he one day wound up back on his old West End stomping-ground.
Alongside his blossoming business, multi-skilled Duffy is also sharing the secretsof his craft with the next generation at Parsons, The New School – an art and design college not far from Times Square.
“I began last September as a part-time lecturer,” he explains. “I teach the BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) menswear to a class of 15…how to cut patterns, make trousers and jackets, how to fit garments and realise their own designs. Couture men’s design is another class I host.
“Working at the college is very rewarding, helping the students develop their designs and ideas into wearable garments.”
These are busy times, then, for Duffy, who is married to New York-based fashion designer Maria Chen. But he has not forgotten Savile Row or the major role it played in honing his own skills.
“I really appreciate all the help and support I received while training at Henry Poole’s,” says Rory. “Working with any Savile Row tailor is by far the best training anyone could ask for in this industry.” www.roryduffybespoke.com
Rory Duffy is an award-winning bespoke tailor based in New York City.