Lessons From a Master Cutter feat. Leonard Logsdail

February 11th, 2015

As we’ve discussed recently, the true art of bespoke tailoring is a dying one.

Thankfully, there are still a handful of experienced craftsmen who are cutting garments the old-fashioned way, by hand.

We had the honor to meet one of these experts recently. His name is Leonard Logsdail and he’s one of the most widely respected pattern-makers and cutters in the business. 

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Len’s career might seem all glamor now; hand-making suits for the world’s most discerning menswear buyers and A-list celebrities alike, but the road to get there was no walk in the park. His story is one of chasing passions, making mistakes, and persevering at all costs – as you would likely find with most successful entrepreneurs.

I left school at 15 and went to tailoring classes only to fill in a gap while I decided what to do with my life… I walked in to the shop and simply fell in love with the whole thing. I found I could see the shapes and ‘feel’ the fabrics as though I had been doing it for years.  If ever there is love at first sight, this was it.”

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But, as it turns out, it takes a lot more than passion to be a great cutter. By 21, Len had already been fired by three tailoring houses in London. Down on his luck but not discouraged, he decided to up the ante and start his own business with a fellow tailor named Brian Burstow.

“And that’s when it started going down hill – rapidly. The regular wages I had been receiving were exchanged with non-existent rewards for suits I had made for clients who declined to accept them. At 21 I realized that, perhaps, I did still have a lot to learn. Luckily for me, back then there were no bloggers who could rip my aspiring abilities to shreds.  If there had been, I doubt I could have lasted.

My early days of being self-employed saw me doing long hours of alterations to make ends meet. I worked from a 4th floor hovel above a boutique at 47A Carnaby Street, at the time a mecca for fashionable London. From there, with just an initial base of only 2 clients, I was able to gradually build a UK following and begin to travel and meet clients throughout Western Europe. Very soon I found that my life consisted of cars, trains, ships and planes, and, of course, the cutting room. I loved it!  I loved the excitement, the hard work, and the wonderful people I met. But most of all I loved being an entrepreneur. I found that I had an eye for my work, too.  I could see the shape of a pattern in my mind while measuring a client and could see the finished product in my mind as I cut the suit.”

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“We had finally paid our dues, and we were no longer seen as up-starts. And so, business flourished. In fact we went on to own Denman & Goddard, Carr, Son & Woor and Hicks & Sons, three of the oldest and most established tailoring houses within the golden Mile of Savile Row.  All seemed well, for a short time… Then I made my first trans-Atlantic business trip – and began a whole new love affair.  Not with a person, but with America!  This country had everything I had wanted, but hadn’t realized that I did.

My first trip consisted of two days in New York at the old Biltmore Hotel, and 2 days in Washington DC.  I sold 12 suits and was thrilled.  On my second visit I sold 8 suits and on my third, only 6. Burstow was pulling his hair out at the money we were losing (on travel expenses and accommodations).  I told him that I felt I could make it work and the effort and initial losses would pay off.”

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Len eventually went on to part ways with Burstow and move his family from London to New York City, which meant starting over from scratch and developing an entirely new business and book of clients.

“When we arrived at JFK all we possessed was our daughter, the baby my wife was pregnant with, and whatever was in the 4 suitcases by our side.  We were starting from scratch… Once we settled I remember walking along Park Avenue when it suddenly hit me that I had no work to attend to.  No work in progress. I suddenly realized the daunting task I had given myself of building another business from the ground up.

Luckily it wasn’t long until I hit the honeymoon period with the American press. At the time they loved the idea of someone giving up an established Savile Row business to start a new life in the land of opportunity.  My good friend, Bruce Boyer, assisted greatly by writing a bit about me and bringing in other writers to do the same.  This boost of publicity gave me the leg up I needed to set me on my feet.  Now, don’t get me wrong, it was still an enormous struggle, but steadily I moved, occasionally backwards, but thankfully, mostly forward.”

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After thousands of suits and forty three years of tailoring experience, along with riding the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, Len is finally sitting comfortably in his midtown Manhattan studio as one of the most respected pattern-makers and cutters in the business.

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The two jacket above are awaiting a next fitting from a Mr. Tom Hanks, one of his many high-profile clients. When asked who his best-dressed clients are, though;

“I believe i know two people who I would say are extremely well-dressed and ‘as good as it gets’. They love clothes and can afford to have them made, so they wear garments that are tailored to perfection, with style and have character.  They happen to be brothers. I am, of course, talking about Dr. Keith and Dr. Andre Churchwell.  

As far as favorite projects, I’d have to say the movie work. The wardrobes are always interesting and they test my abilities as I have work in different time periods.  Wall Street 2, for example, was current. Winter’s Tale had me making clothes styled in 1920. Julie and Julia was Paris 1950. American Gangster was Harlem 1971… That kind of work is challenging and exciting.”

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Reflecting on a long and adventurous career, Len shares the simple approach to his success:

“My approach is but a simple one. I keep my head down (quite literally most of the time) and get on with my work and try to produce the best quality garment I can.  I figure that, if I do my job properly, my business will flourish and my income will be steady. I’ve been self-employed for 43 years now, so I guess it’s working.

Should a person now comment on my abilities and ask what my secret is, I tell them that I simply love what I do and consider myself an expert on the nuances of a man’s body.  It’s right there, when you have the body in front of you and your hands on the shoulders as you measure, that you win or lose. What you see and take note of at that time is far more important than the measurements you take…. My job is not only to make the garment, but ensure it represents what the clients wants form it.  If it’s trendy, I’ll do it…but my clothes are expensive and not many of my clients are interested in a suit that will not pass the test of time.”

And the other secret I learned is honesty. Everyone wants to make a sale.  It’s how we live and provide for our loved ones.  But what if a client picks a style or fabric that will not suit him?  Too many people go for the sale and will justify and excuse their actions by stating that it was what the client wanted.  Well, I tell them frankly what my opinion is, good or bad!  They don’t have to take my advice, but they sure have to hear it!”

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Thanks, as always, for reading and special thanks to Len for participating!

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier


Photography by Alex Crawford.

  • spd

    There are two quotes that sum up working with Len one by Mark Twain “clothes make the man Naked people have little or no influence on society” describe the product.The other by Nicholas Mee a purveyor of fine Automobiles goes something like .” The joy in ownership of fine craftsmanship far exceeds the pain of acquisition” which describes the experience. As one accumulates stuff it becomes less about the stuff and more about the experience of buying , that is what seperates a custom Aston Martin, a matched Purdey and a bespoke suit . No one makes this experience as personnel as as much a priceless experience as Len . The crowning glory was when my wife who stopped dressing me after the kids were born saw my suit and commented it looked like it had been made for me it fit so well

  • M Miller

    Len has made jackets, coats, and suits for me for years now. He has an incredible skill with the needle and thread but most importantly an abundance of patience and he isn’t happy with a garment until the customer is satisfied–a rare attribute among custom tailors (and I’ve had more than a few). He’s very focused on not just the “how” of the way I want something to look but also the all-important “why”–sort of a psychoanalytical thing–and It’s funny because although I used to spend most of my time downtown, I’d get comments on the “conservative” clothes Len made for me from my friends in the unlikeliest of Bohemian and hipster circles–and I’d always chuckle at the random compliments in the street on the Bowery to the free upgrades and drinks on flights to Europe because some agent at the check-in counter liked one of the coats he made for me. I rarely post on the internet but, well, here I am. Len’s just that good and I couldn’t help myself. If you are even considering custom clothes in New York I recommend you get in touch with him. If you want to see what he can do google Dr. Churchwell, the client he mentioned in the interview… Amazing stuff, and the Burger Heaven and Pain Quotidien below his shop aren’t so bad either while you pause to consider the fabrics and your budget before making your decision.

    Matt Miller

  • Kallan

    Wow! I almost felt I was reading my autobiography. My father was a tailor who was very successful in Bahrain. However, I did not learn the art from him but when I was about 32 years old I started a tailoring business and I fell in love with suits. I have been fascinated with this art since then. Yes it is a tough struggle but I feel now that I too soon would be reaching my point of success. If I am ever in US, would love to meet this master and hear him talk about his work.

  • Peter Ravenelle

    As someone who wants to start a tailoring business, this piece is both inspiring and informative. Thanks to both Dan and Co. as well as Mr. Logsdail.

  • Irene Gonzales Dudley

    Leonard what a wonderful article..truly deserved! It is great to see recognition of your talent my friend! Irene

  • http://unseenflirtspoetry.wordpress.com Unseen Flirtations

    Love this. Love all of this.

  • Leonard Logsdail

    I am truly honored and humbled by the posts. Thank you.


  • tommyjohn_45

    A true boss! Hopefully one day I will be fortunate enough (both financially and personally) to have a suit cut from the hands of Mr. Logsdail.

    Always inspirational to hear the struggles that took place to get a place of such profound success.

    Cheers Len, keep doing your thing!

  • Akil McLeod

    This was another great inspirational feature and something that all of us could learn from. Thank you very much for this one!

    P.S. Great photography again Alex!

  • LouCaves

    My girlfriend just mentioned yesterday how I love back-stories. And I love this one.

    Great feature.

    Thanks, TSB…oops, AOS.

  • JoeFromTexas

    “Luckily for me, back then there were no bloggers who could rip my aspiring abilities to shreds. If there had been, I doubt I could have lasted.”

    There is so much in those two lines, we could talk about that for pages. I love this story, especially that his success story starts with getting fired repeatedly and failing over and over initially. Talk about keeping it real!

    Also, that navy suit! That might be the most perfect suit to grace these pages. At a glance, it’s a standard navy suit – general issue. But the fit, the ticket pocket, the wide, but not fashionably wide, peak lapels, the perfect shade of navy, the fit…

    • TO

      I agree with you Joe about the suit. The first thing I thought when I saw it was that the fit is so much closer to my vision of a ‘perfect’ fit than the exaggeratedly slim garments still most prevalent on the menswear landscape (that I would have been more biased towards about 5 years ago when I first started learning about clothes). Just so flattering, clean (the high waisted trousers allow no shirt to show even with the jacket being pulled open!) and mature looking.
      Amazed at the story of struggle here and I admire his dedication to sticking to his vision to create his eventual success. I always try to go to tailors, alterationists, etc. who do good work but are also not afraid to give me their own opinion. I have learned a great deal this way over the years- whether that I preferred the opinion of the tailor in some cases, usually by not listening initially, regretting it but then doing it from then on; or that it strengthened my own opinion in other cases.

  • http://lazlo.co Christian Birky

    What a mix of personality, technical skill and creativity! Fascinating how he is able to visualize patterns while looking at a client. Clearly as gifted as they come, it’s great to see the journey to the top.

  • steph

    I am so proud to say Len is my uncle. No matter how busy, if we need to talk we call and he always has some sound advice. He is a true inspiration and knowing how hard he has worked has made me less afraid to try new things. A wonderful uncle and a talented man to boot.

    • LouCaves

      Getting clothing for birthdays and Christmas is usually a cr@p shoot. I’m sure that doesn’t happen to you steph. :)

  • JBells

    Great post guys! Universal lessons can be learned from this man and applied to all walks of life.
    No matter what you do, if you do it with mastery you will succeed.
    thanks for the inspiration Len

  • Miguel

    Great article, this is what hard work looks like, you work hard for what you want, up and downs might come but if you’re steady you’ll get there.

    I don’t do Bespoke suit but that’s one thing I like about my tailor, he tells it like it is, I might not agree with him but he’s the tailor and like Mr. Leonard Logsdail said, sometimes we won’t listen but we sure want to hear the tailor’s opinion.

    Thanks Dan, AOS.

  • http://ledebonnaire.tumblr.com/ Juan Zara

    What a terrific profile! I cannot believe you got the chance to chat with and interview such an icon of the tailoring world!

    Mr. Logsdail was a personal hero of mine even before I found out about his ups and downs in the business, as I had (like everyone else with an interest in clothes) seen his work in several movies, but now I admire him even more. He is by far, along with Maurice Sedwell, my favorite tailor from the Row.

    The attention to detail on his garments is something I’ve never seen anywhere else, but what’s most striking is how he can produce suits with such different features (i.e. Ben Kingsley in Shutter Island vs Denzel Washington in American Gangster), yet still distinctively his. I knew the navy pinstriped suit Leonardo Di Caprio wears in The Wolf of Wall Street was his work the moment I saw the unique look of the rounded flaps on the pockets. I honestly never thought an early 90s-styled suit could look this good.

    Thank you Dan and Alex for a great article!

  • AdamE

    Great piece, and nice to see a story of a life-long journey through the industry to provide some perspective. and I so agree with his last statement about giving his opinion (you don’t have to take the advice, but you have to hear it), it’s rare to see tailors who are confident enough to challenge a client’s choices, but it’s refreshing.