Today, I visited the Alan Flusser Custom Shop to meet the shop’s influential owner. Alan Flusser is probably one of America’s best-known authors of books on men’s fashion and style – two of which made it on the Gentleman’s Gazette must have book list.
From the outside, Flusser’s eponymous store at 3 East 48th Street is easily overlooked, as it is situated on the 3rd floor. However, once you’ve found your way to the elevator, you soon enter the quaint world of Alan Flusser. The welcoming lounge area is filled with models, fashion illustrations, ties, and as of late, even handmade silk umbrellas of Neapolitan provenance. A step to the right, the custom shop houses a full selection of jackets, suits and tailoring tools. On the opposite end, Alan’s office and fitting rooms fill the space.
For years, Mr. Flusser operated his store together with Mark Rykken; after his recent departure to Paul Stuart, there have been a number of changes. Now, 28-year-old Sean Goldsmith is a part owner of the business, and together with his brother Cary, clothing veteran Peter, and consultant Myles Kusaba, the new team aspires to shake things up in pursuit of younger customers.
Of course, Flusser is still designing all the suits and over weekends, he works a side project – his greatest book deal to date – the official biography of his friend Ralph Lauren. As you can imagine, Alan has interviewed more than 100 people for this project, a time-consuming effort to say the least. How long it will take to finish the book remains unclear, though I am certain I will read it when it finally arrives.
During my conversation with the Maestro, our discussion ranged from book sales (350,000 total for all of his books) and formal dress to the importance of a proper evening waistcoat to the influence of fashion illustrations on the industry.
While his collection included several from Apparel Arts, Adam, and Monsieur, given my heritage and personal collection I remarked on the lack of illustrations from the German publication Herrenjournal.
Alan later confessed that he had never heard of neither this magazine nor its founder Baron von Eelking. He also elaborated a bit on his view of Italian clothing and the concept of elegance. While Naples seems to be quite in vogue with American gents, Flusser prefers the Roman Caraceni suit silhouette, even over the Milanese styles. However, when it comes to formal dress, Alan’s views are strictly British.
We also discussed bespoke tailors and designers and the limitations. Flusser – a designer himself – emphasized that tailors are often very skilled when it comes to technical aspects of tailoring, but they are mostly unable to guide the customer and create a suit or outfit that makes him comfortable and look his best. Hence, Flusser concluded, a well styled Ready-To-Wear garment that fits is better in terms of taste and elegance than a fully tailored suit. Obviously, one could argue that he is biased in his view, but I would agree with him in the sense that I have met many tailors who were outstanding craftsmen but not men of taste. Also, these tailors often rely on their customers to specify the style details. While is a dream for educated, experienced bespoke aficionados. Many bespoke novices will be simply overwhelmed by the different choices and hence their initial custom experiences are often not great.
I am sure we could have talked for hours, but he had to catch his train to the Hamptons – it is summer in New York – where he spends half of each week.
Overall, we had a pleasant conversation and I was pleased to meet him. I was surprised to hear he was already 67, though I would easily have placed him at 10 years younger. So, what would you have asked the great Alan Flusser?