In the cult 1993 French TV film, La Classe Américaine, the protagonist Georges Abitbol (John Wayne), is referred to as the classiest man in the world. But the directors obviously hadn't come across André Guillerme-Guilson, a Parisian tailor with 57 years of tailoring under his belt.
Somewhat reassuringly technologically handicapped, the septuagenarian inherited his passion from his dressmaker mother and at 14 he started an apprenticeship. By pure chance André ended up working with military clothing during national service and by 20 he'd set up shop in the 15th arrondissement. Today, from his current location, he produces exquisite suits, shirts and accessories using only the finest Italian and English cloth with all work done by hand on the premises. After 12 measurements, six weeks, and two fittings, you can walk away with your own unique ensemble knowing it will last a lifetime.
Despite being president of the profession's national federation, running a tailoring school and being UNESCO-listed, André’s had his fair share of difficulties. But he's come out at the top of his game and remains hopeful for the future of his trade despite the changes he's witnessed. Plus, he’s got some great stories to tell involving aristocratic nuns, Sicilian mafiosi and gun-toting politicians.
While André’s in the twilight of his career, Camille, who launched L'Apiéceur in 2014, is very much at the dawn of hers. After styling studies and an apprenticeship at another Paris tailor, she felt ready to launch her own concept: something more audacious than the traditional offering but without scrimping on quality. Finding women generally more impulsive and less patient in their cloth-buying habits, she decided to go down the menswear route.
Does she find it daunting being a young lady in a testosterone-dominated world? Not at all. In fact, she sees it as something of an advantage. Her male clients feel more at ease in her presence with a greater ability to express their desires and to take on her expert, yet innovative, advice.
Although Camille brings in new materials and styles each season, she primarily works with cloth from Vitale Barberis Canonico and Fratelli Tallia di Delfino. While the fabrication of her suits is not done by hand in-house, clients can rest assured that they're getting a quality product delivered, in a similar time frame, in a style that a more traditional tailor couldn't offer.
Having just moved to larger premises and with plans to launch a prêt-à-porter range soon, not only does the future seem bright for Camille, but that of the profession is in capable hands.
Launched just five years ago by a twenty-something couple, Les Nouveaux Ateliers boasts some impressive statistics: 16 stores in three countries (seven in Paris alone), and a 500-square-metre production facility employing 200 tailors. And they represent 45% of Loro Piana's (whose cloth they use) French turnover.
Les Nouveaux Ateliers
The founding pair wanted to democratise the made-to-measure market by retaining its luxury edge at prêt-à-porter prices. Although they recognise that their final product is not 100% bespoke, they've managed to convert ready-to-wear customers.
The brand's unique selling point is its scanning cabin, which takes 200 body measurements in 600 milliseconds. Purists may find this excessive, however, the entrepreneurs insist that the invention is not a gimmick and that not only does it save time and money for customers but also allows them to buy a well-fitting suit at accessible prices without the need for alterations.
With a faithful following, youth on their side and ambitious European expansion plans, it looks like we'll be seeing a lot more of this innovative French brand.