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Moscow Tailors Come in All Shapes and Sizes

What do Mayor Yury Luzhkov, pop crooner and Duma Deputy Iosif Kobzon and former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov have in common? They all have their suits made to order.

Tailor Sammy Kotwani, who heads The Imperial Tailoring Co. in Moscow's Gostiny Dvor, and who counts all three gentlemen among his clients, said, "There is nothing like a standard size." A tailor will take into account whether you have a barrel chest or drooping shoulders, long arms or a thick neck, so whether it is a dinner jacket or a summer dress, the garment will have a perfect fit.

At Kotwani's shop, a client is treated to bespoke service, meaning that he or she receives the attention of a tailor who will then make your clothes to your individual requirements. For comparison, a "made-to- measure" service uses a simple pattern that is adjusted to the customer's measurements.

For $1,000 at Imperial (tel: 232-1441), you can get a high-quality suit that is fine for everyday wear but the fabric is not the highest quality available. Suits made with slightly better fabric sell for $1,100-$2,000 and the suits with the price tag of $2,500-$4,500 are made with "fabulous" fabric.

If you have a spare four months and $9,000, Imperial will make your suit with fabric that has your name woven into it.

Shirts can be made from a choice of 20 colors from between $75-$250 each. Around three fittings are required, and the garments are ready within four to six weeks. Imperial's suits are made in England.

Another reason that may drive you into the hands of a tailor is lack of time, or inclination, to go shopping. This is what made Don Craig, country manager for Corporate Fleet Leasing, to decide to have a suit made.

"In the past, I had commonly been a rack man, buying brand-named suits at men's clothing stores. In 1999 a friend suggested Wintex [Kotwani's old company], so I thought I would give it a try. I acquired a few suits from them, and the price always seemed reasonable."

Later on, he moved to the services of Executive Fashions (tel: 785-2136), another Moscow tailor.

"Both companies are professional, and if you are busy and don't like to shop, then this type of service is right up your alley," Craig said. "They have representatives that will come to you at a prearranged time with samples, a price list and an order form. The quality of the material is up to you."

Alexei Zenkov, sales manager at Executive Fashions, said his men's suits go for $900-$1,000 on average, including fabric and labor. Dress shirts are $90-$100, and a tuxedo will cost from $1,100. An overcoat goes for $1,100-$1,200. Orders are made up in Hong Kong with mainly Italian and English fabrics. Discounts are offered to loyal clients, but Zenkov refused to give the size of the discount, saying it depended on many factors.

High-end clothes manufacturer and retailer Patrick Hellmann (tel: 290-3816) also offers bespoke tailoring services. They make anything from shoes to hats, including cashmere pullovers, dress shirts and suits. All tailoring is done in Italy mostly from Italian and British fabrics and delivery takes from six to eight weeks. A shirt costs from 500 euros ($600), said the company's PR manager, Nikolai Knorre. A gent's suit is upward of 1,500 euros.

For a comparison with prices in those parts of the world more famed for their budget tailoring services, Arkady, who works in publishing, had a "made-to-measure," not bespoke, suit and several shirts made while on vacation in Bangkok. After some haggling, the tailor charged him a modest $250 for a suit and $25 per shirt.

For cheaper tailoring services without having to get on an airplane, head to a Moscow neighborhood budget atelier, which will have no frills but more likely just a few basic changing cabins where middle-aged tailors come to tuck you in and pin you up.

An atelier on Kashirskoye Shosse in southeastern Moscow (tel: 324-8784) makes suits and skirts and pants either from your fabric or their own and the price depends on the design -- you can bring a picture of the suit you like. A simple woman's skirt costs 550 rubles ($19) and men's pants about 1,000 rubles ($34). To replace a broken zipper is 120 rubles ($4) or to shorten and hem too-long pants costs from 120 rubles.

Well-heeled clients who wish for better customer service may go to atelier and studio Sol (tel: 299-4377). Sol works with Italian fabrics and employs four designers which help the customer make the right choice with the silhouette and fabric. There are two to three fittings and delivery time is about a month. You can have anything made -- from daily wear to bridal wear to men's suits. It has a small department called "Express Couturier," which fixes high-priced clothing so it fits. For example, to hem a pair of ladies' pants costs 340 rubles ($11) and adjustments to a garment start from 450 rubles ($15).

A women's skirt business suit at Sol is 450 u.e. (1 u.e. equals 31 rubles) and another 20 u.e. if you opt for a pant suit. Trousers with a lining cost 150 u.e. and a blouse 180 u.e. A casual dress with a lining costs from 320 u.e. and an evening gown from 450 u.e. A man's suit costs 750 u.e.

Good freelance tailors can also be discovered by word of mouth. This is how Amanda Strohan, a Canadian Embassy employee in Moscow, heard of Nina, a tailor who works from her home. Strohan said she was completely satisfied with Nina's work and prices. "Nina is brilliant," she said.

Nina said a two-piece classic women's suit will cost 3,500 rubles ($120), to take pants or skirts in will cost 100 rubles ($3.50), and a bit more if the client wants it done on the spot.

For those still cynical about investing time as well as money in getting a garment tailor-made, Patrick Hellmann's Knorre is ready with a retort.

"It's an individual approach, a suit made to order is practically an ideal suit, just like a second skin. ... Nobody else has the same piece of clothing."

By Sveta Graudt
Special to The Moscow Times