Christopher Schafer has always had a bit of wanderlust. After graduating from school in Anne Arundel County, he attended the local community college for a few semesters before dropping out to work for an airline and travel the world. Traveling was fun and exciting; it allowed him to experience the world. In 2007, he took off again for London, following his wife for her job. The adventure ended up leading to a career. Despite being on a work visa, he landed a job with Tom James of London. Under the guidance of polished English gentlemen, he learned the art of measuring and designing suits, shirts, jackets, trousers, and tuxedos. Before moving to London, he didn’t even own a suit. But once he experienced having clothing custom-made for him, he was hooked. When he arrived back in the States, he decided to start his own label. “It is the ultimate form of self-expression and style,” says Schafer. Most of his wardrobe is now custom-made except for a few jeans, shorts, and tees. “People are always surprised to see me dressed casually,” he says, “They think that I sleep in a suit.”
Q: When did the focus shift from tuxedos to custom suits? And why? A: I still do quite a few tuxedos. If an event is truly a formal affair, then a tux is to be worn. A classic black tuxedo with modern features always looks smart. I see many grooms who opt for the custom suit because it is a garment that they will be able to wear again after the wedding.
Q: What trends are you seeing for grooms and groomsmen? A: I’m seeing grooms and groomsmen who are really putting together some smart outfits for the wedding day. The focus is to make the groom stand out and to have the groomsmen all match each other with touches of colors that match the bridesmaids. We usually have the groom pick his outfit first and then pick fabrics for the groomsmen that complement his choice.
Q: What’s the difference between ready-to-wear, off-the-rack, and made-to-measure? A: The big differences in suiting are as follows: Ready-to-wear or off-the-rack is what you can purchase and walk out of a store with the same day. Made-to-measure is custom-made clothing that is designed for you using standard size patterns, whereas bespoke suits are individually patterned and sewn by hand.
Q: Why would a groom choose one over the other? A: Price and intended use is usually what drives a groom to choose one or the other. The more laborious the garment is to make, the more expensive it will be. I always recommend that people buy the best that they can afford—it pays off down the road.
Q: How far in advance do you recommend that a groom comes in? A: When it comes to weddings, I prefer at least 12 weeks to deliver a suit or tux. The usual turnaround is 6 to 8 weeks, but with weddings I don’t want to be an additional source of stress to the bride and groom. When the groom’s attire is planned out properly, it is a much more enjoyable process for everyone involved.
Q: What is a typical groom’s first meeting like? A: There is no typical first meeting—everyone is different. Some guys bring their fiancée and others do not; sometimes we meet at their home or my studio. I do always like to take the time to get to know the person who I am working with and vice versa. It’s a fun process with lots of detail choices to make that give the garment personality.
Q: After the first meeting, how many fittings do you require, or is it up to the groom? A: The number of fittings will vary depending on how well the garment fits during the first fitting. It also depends whether the weight of the groom has fluctuated since the measurements were taken.
Q: What kinds of fabric are available to the groom? Does it depend on the season? A: The choices of fabric are vast, but there are some tried-and-true fabrics that always deliver. For tuxedos, I find that a mid-weight black gabardine with a subtle luster looks amazing when photographed. When choosing a suit fabric, I like to know what the suit will be used for after the wedding and keep that in mind as we design the suit. Rarely do I use a very light-weight fabric unless it is for an outdoor summer wedding because most weddings take place in a climate-controlled venue. Most of the time, the biggest decision is picking out just one fabric because there are so many beautiful choices of colors and patterns.
Q: Can grooms and groomsmen choose their own suit lining? Is this a good way for different personalities to come through? A: Yes, you can choose your own suit lining and it really gives the suit its pop. I prefer a funky lining or a high contrast between the color of the suit and the lining. There are many conservative options, as well, if a groom prefers.
Q: How can a groom show off his personality with a suit? A: The personality of a suit comes from the fabric choice, detailing of edge stitching and functioning sleeve buttons, jacket lining, lapel width, name label, and the overall fit of the garment.
Q: What inspires your work? A: My work is inspired by feeling that I am part of the wedding day with each tuxedo and suit that I design for grooms and groomsmen. When I see how excited the gents get about looking great on their wedding day, it’s contagious. When I see the wedding pictures, I feel like I was a part of their special day.
Q: Is there something romantic/nostalgic about a husband being able to re-wear the suit he wore on his wedding day? A: Going out to dinner on your anniversary wearing the suit you were married in is pretty cool. I also like to put the couples’ names and wedding date on the name label inside the jacket, which makes a nice touch.