ABOUT WILDWOOD BESPOKE
When you walk into the cool, dark wood and brick interior of Wildwood & Company, it feels like you have stepped into a previous time. Bolts of suit fabrics are stacked in built-in shelves along one wall; in the production room, a crew of tailors and seamstresses work on making suits by hand – suits that have been patterned specifically for each customer. In the front gallery Wildwood represents a complementary array of finely handcrafted apparel, accessories and objects reflecting the talents of more than twenty-five different artists and craftspeople.
Bespoke suits, shirts, and hand-knit sweaters are the centerpieces of Wildwood & Company. According to Merriam-Webster, “bespoke” is a centuries’ old British word used for clothing that was made to order. In the small, high-ceilinged workroom, handmade paper pattern pieces, each marked with a customer’s name and clipped together, are suspended on hangers along one wall. There is the soft whir of a sewing machine, the hiss of steam from an iron. There is music playing in the background. There isn’t the cacophony of mass-production and scores of machinery – the pace is slow, personal, with absolute attention to detail: even buttonholes are stitched by hand.
Owner Joe Mueller realizes that such a small, specialty “micro market” – one that is so individualized – can only work when customers can have a one-on-one relationship with a tailor; in this case, his small staff of tailors. For Mueller, “the most important thing is the teamwork among the staff” in order to be able to offer that kind of cohesive, individually-crafted and personalized result.
There are challenges to doing this work in a modern world: Hand-tailoring is a very old craft, the techniques and skills for which are not necessarily well-documented nor applicable to fabrics and materials that didn’t exist fifty to a hundred years ago. Mueller’s staff must adapt existing techniques or create new ones to match the new materials; at the same time they must maintain a classic and timeless quality of construction and style.
Mueller is aware that the time and cost involved in a hand-tailored suit isn’t for everyone – but through several avenues he is trying to establish “a stylish, fine-craft business,” that he intends to grow “slowly and authentically.” So far, demand is strong, and Mueller recently added the fifth member of the design and tailoring team.