Industry Insiders: Stephen Seo, Adman of Action

Once a New York adman, Stephen Seo was so inspired by the bespoke tailoring of London’s Savile Row that he decided to study the process on his own. Now based New York, Seo works with Scottish wool and Italian silk, meeting with clients to discuss design options, select fabrics, and take measurements. A typical suit starts at $1,800, rather reasonable, we think, for the estimated 50 hours Seo and his team invests in each garment. Seo is looking to the ready-to-wear market for future seasons, though he maintains that each garment will keep a personal touch. See his creations on Entourage this season.

On finding his calling: I was working at an ad agency and traveled back and forth to London. One trip, I got a suit made on Savile Row. My body never really fit in suits off the rack. I had a nice denim suit made. When I got back to New York, my clients and friends kept saying, “Where did you get that suit?” I decided to start making them, and that’s how it started off as a hobby. Then I decided to leave the industry and open up my own store. It’s just my passion. I like glamorous things.

On the process of making a suit: Now, we’ll get a call from a client through friends and referrals. Before that I had a store in Princeton for about two and half years. I closed September 2009. I work in my studio and then I travel to different places. Basically, we make an appointment, they come in and then if they’re new clients I like to get to know them. We talk about what type of profession they have, and what type of wardrobe they need to build. Then we take measurements. Picking fabric, design, cut, is all done together. About three weeks later, we’ll cut the fitting molds. No buttons, no zippers, very rough molds that we try on them. And then we do a lot of pinning and adjusting with sleeve length, jacket length, waistline, and shoulder to create the perfect silhouette.

General misconceptions about men’s fashion: Big guys always think they don’t deserve a nice lean cut because they have bellies, shoulders, and large chest. So they always tend to go for the very boxy American suit. Once they’re here, we accentuate the waistline to make it very sexy. Men have curves, so we like to accentuate those and highlight the right parts. I cut the jacket length based on his proportions. Most of time when you go off the rack, the jacket length is the same. But once you put on my finished garment, you look like you’re a model. I try to give everyone the confidence that they’re six feet tall. I understand the frustration of not having everything fit perfectly. That happened to me all the time.

On the ready-to-wear line: It will still have a very limited-edition concept. Each one will have all the serial numbers and certificate. It’s like when you adopt a puppy, you want to know where it came from. It’s all very high-end lifestyle.

Number one client request: I get a lot of wedding consultations. People come in here to get a tuxedo. I always say, ‘Tuxedos are very high-end and very formal.’ If you’re going to only wear it once or twice, why would you spend time and effort, why don’t we make a tuxedo suit? I cut it a certain way, so that they can wear it as a suit. They can go to work.

Least favorite trends in men’s fashion: There’re many details that I look at on the street. People still wear three button jackets. It makes your upper torso really long. If you eliminate two or one, it’s simple. It makes you feel that you have the right proportion. On all of my designs, the pocket flaps are slanted. This simple trick looks slimmer and taller. It’s comes from my own experience but the same time its become my signature. People love it.

On future hopefuls: I met Mickey Rourke a few times, and we kind of kept in touch. One day I’d like to change his look. But that’s a risk because he has his own, distinct style, and he does have very high-end, bespoke, tailored clothing. My ultimate goal is to dress the new 007.

Go-to’s: For sushi, I go to Morimoto. I also go to Nobu 57. I like Capital Grille and Delmonico’s. If I go for a quick drink after work, I go to Trinity Place. I use to hang out a lot at SoHo House. I like Greenhouse as well.