Known for its artfully and handcrafted suits, master tailor and image consultant Henry A. Davidsen has long been a staple for men on the move in Philly. Their one-of-a-kind suits are crafted to suit every aspect of their client, with a process of construction that aims to synergize the lifestyle and the goals, as well as message, of each person into the clothing they will wear.
We chatted with Henry A. Davidsen's CEO Brian Lipstein about the value of investing in custom clothing, how the way you dress can transform your life and finding the perfect power suit.
One of the great luxuries of the world is owning a well-fitted custom suit. Tell us about the value of investing in one.
BRIAN LIPSTEIN: Helping men first understand the difference between low quality, low price point suits and high quality, high price point suits is the foundation for knowing what you’re buying. Each type of suit is actually made completely different than the other. Inside the guts of each custom suit are layers of constructed support between the fabric on the outside and the lining on the inside. Your more expensive suits are sewn together, your cheaper suits are glued together.
When you realize how traditional custom or handmade suits are made to last you 20 to 30 years, you look at the purchase differently as an investment. To put that into context, your cheaper, low end suits might last you six months to three years, and that depends on how frequently you’re wearing it. We will actually cut away the linings so that clients can see it, feel it and know the difference.
Do suits these days actually last 15 to 20 years?
BL: A properly fitted suit, well cared for by you and a dry cleaner should absolutely last that long. Typically, the pants will wear out before the jacket, so you’re best suits will be purchased with two pairs of pants and extend the life of the suit that way.
Sometimes when you try something on, you can look in the mirror and say, “Wow, I really love this,” but other times the synergy isn’t there, and it really does affect the way you feel, no?
BL: Yes, here the investment is in the way you carry yourself, your posture and the decisions that you make. When you know you look good—and get feedback that reinforces that—you end up making better decisions in the course of your daily life. Whether that’s a business decision or whether it’s in yourself, you know you’ve invested in making smarter moves.
The statistics show that you perform better at your job, you form stronger relationships, you build trust more quickly, you bring credibility and authority and you make smarter decisions for yourself because you feel better about yourself on a daily basis.
In the process of crafting a custom suit, how do you make sure the end product provides that?
BL: I spend around half an hour to an hour and a half listening to the client, asking them about what message he wants to send. I like to get a sense of the lifestyle they're living and from that we pick the appropriate materials for them: the pattern of the suit, the color of the suit, the fit of the suit. Everyone has a different preference. Before I start taking measurements I need to have an idea of who they are and our consultation process uncovers that. In the 14 years I've been doing what I'm doing, I still get excited about meeting new clients because I don't think that I've had anyone do something exactly the same. I may have made the same blue suit out of the same fabric for twenty guys, but the way we got there and the detailing we've put on it is different everytime.
I imagine you have a great closet with plenty of suits in it, but is there one that is the quintessential power suit to you?
BL: Anytime I have to go speak or teach, I really default to my solid navy suit. The more color or pattern you put on something, the more that's what somebody pays attention to. So a solid navy suit, usually a three-piece, a solid white shirt, and something fun on the tie or in the pocket square will allow you or what you say to be the center of attention. It frames me, brings the credibility that I'm looking for in front of a group and eliminates any distractions so that my message is most clearly heard—for me, that's a power suit. Sure, something splashy may get you noticed, but, again, it takes the focus off of your message.
Which is why the special image consulting program you've developed in so important.
BL: All of those elements of what we are judging on somebody is why the image consulting is so important. There are a lot of different tools we have to be more productive, and most people don’t look at their image as a business tool. It’s one of the few things we have 100 percent control over. No one else dresses us when we get up and leave the house every morning. If we’re not actively looking in the mirror and saying to ourselves, “I’m ready for the day,” with intention, we’re leaving money on the table. Why not use every tool in the toolkit? If it needs sharpened, take it to the people who can.