Konstantine Malishevski, the master bespoke tailor of Toronto fashion store Gotsyle, tells #EnsemblExchange that color, personality and accessories are the key to any great style and that a perfectly-tailored statement suit is just one of the essentials for a modern man’s wardrobe.
Konstantine Malishevski is a fourth generation bespoke tailor, heralding from the Ukraine. He calls Toronto home, and is responsible for outfitting some of the cities best dressed in made-to-measure suits. Ensembl sat down with Konstantine to talk about suits, style and whether it’s possible for shoes to make an outfit.
Our conversation with Konstantine.
Why do you love your job?
Bespoke tailoring is more than just a job for me - this has been a life-long journey. I’m a fourth-generation tailor, and the love of making clothes has been embedded in me from my family who have done this work before me. My grandmother, my first teacher and mentor, taught me from an early age, and my passion has grown as I’ve worked and learned about fashion. It’s all about creativity on individual level, meaning there are no two suits that are absolutely the same. Each garment I create has unique fit and individuality. It’s created around client’s body and their personalities. A typical designer develops one to two collections every season. For me every day is like designing a mini collection for each of my customers. I love creating such experiences for them. Custom tailored clothing elevates you; some receive something they’ve never had in their life. The feeling of gratitude I receive from my clients is unlike anything in the world, and I love that so much.
You’ve been in the industry nearly 31 years but as a kid you used to tinker with electronics. Could you see yourself as a tech worker in hardware or software instead of a master bespoke tailor?
Yes, for a brief period I decided to abandon fashion and go into tech. Very quickly I learned that coding was not my gig - I felt like my job was limited to doing the same work day after day. It wasn’t fulfilling enough. No room for exploration. Not for me, at least. And I quickly realized that I could never be happy doing this, and I needed something that allowed me to be creative every day.
You have many professionals who come to you - probably with widely varying taste in fashion and style. Beyond the desire to dress well and look good, is there something else that unites their needs?
Individuality. And a self-awareness of their own bodies and what makes them look and feel good. Most of my clients come in because they feel like their needs – especially in terms of a proper, professional fit - are not being met by what is available off the rack.
Why get a custom-tailored suit and shirt?
You can say that a properly tailored suit and shirt are a sign of confidence and sign of success. I guess, it is true to some degree. However, I like to think of it as also a sign of impeccable taste and a level of maturity to understand the difference between the mass-produced clothing and individual tailoring.
Custom tailoring also allows you to show off your physique in ways that would be impossible with an off the rack garment. You are more than your height and a chest measurement – the build of your legs, broadness of your shoulders, where your waist sits – tailoring around the body means taking all this into account.
Finally custom tailoring offers an endless range of customization options that are 100% personal to your tastes, values, and sentiments – again, in a way that an off the track article could never be. These details bring something extra to an article, and ultimately make the wearer happier for it.
How do you see your role as a bespoke tailor?
Ultimately, I am a hired expert. I can advise the clients as to what they need, but I also need to listen to what my clients want. This can often become a day to day inner fight!
Part of me always says it is the customer’s suit and therefore the suit I make should be the exact one the customer wants based on their wishes and preferences. However, I sometimes get requests that clearly go against my integrity as a professional tailor, and I need to interject myself into the process. For example, some clients want to exaggerate the fit of a suit in a way that would render it unusable or cause it to fall apart, or to spice up the aesthetic of their suit way beyond any “boldness’. If I feel like the request is perhaps too extreme or one they may regret when they see the final product - I know that such requests can come from not having enough experience of wearing the suits or from being influenced by the some photos from Instagram and Pinterest. In cases like that, I try educate my client and make suggestions that would allow the suit to be viable. I like when my clients are curious and ask questions. Nothing is wrong with that. However, in some rare cases when I’m unable to get them to change their mind, I‘m forced to decline to make the suit – I cannot in good conscious make something that is I know will be unwearable and that I am unable to stand behind. I am not afraid to stand my ground when it comes to this. Ultimately, I want them to be happy with what we create.
How can you tell a well-made suit from one that is not?
At the most basic level, a well-made suit will have perfect shoulders, the perfect sleeve attachment, and the perfect drape, and very subtle “perfect imperfections”, showing the hand-work done.
On a technical level, the best silhouette is achieved in suits that are made with an inner canvas. You can say it’s a “skeleton” of the jacket made with soft horsehair which holds the shape of the jacket and allows it to conform to the shape of your body while keep it from sagging or deforming. In contrast, jacket without canvas, will include the glued interlining that is fused with the shell cloth. Fused suits are likely to take on a stiff, stale silhouette and will not have the drape of a canvas suit.
What is the hottest trend in fashion today?
I recently returned from Milan to source fabrics for 2019, and I can tell you that it’s going to be all about prints and textures, both for formal and casual clothing.
In tailored pants double pleats are back, but not like we saw them in the 90s. The new pleated pants have a deep pleat in the front, which gives a relaxed fit, while the back of the pant remains slim. This is technically challenging to draft a pattern for a pant like that, but it is a very beautiful garment, and I hope men embrace this style!
For jackets, we continue looking at wider lapels, like the ones from the late 60s to early 70s. We’re slowly approaching 80s style with with a strong pronounced shoulder, a lot of detailing, and square cut panels on the jackets. Both styles remain modern, as the overall cut remains slim but not as tight as we’ve seen it in the recent years.
What are mens’ wardrobe essentials?
1. One, perfectly tailored statement suit.
2. Well-tailored basic shirts that can be worn with the suit.
3. Good quality tie. This is the essential focal point of your outfit, and a dull or poor quality tie will ruin the entire look.
4. A beautiful pair of glasses (or sunglasses)
5. Well made, high quality shoes.
6. A nice scarf (cashmere for winter, linen for the spring and fall warmer) to be worn with an overcoat.
7. A classic, well made overcoat, which will last. This is an investment item.
Do shoes make a man? Or does a suit make a man?
There is no such thing as a well-made suit with ugly well-worn shoes, or vice versa. They are one. You simply cannot invest several thousand dollars in a suit only to wear it with the shoes that have seen better days, or buy gorgeous leather shoes only to wear them with an ill fitted suit. Unacceptable!
There’s a feeling amongst Millennials today that suits are outdated and reflect a stuffy world of paper-pushers. People who do not accomplish anything “real”. The term “shed the suit” is almost an article of belief amongst a generation that wants a start-up life in tech or wants to work from home. Your thoughts?
While I agree that there may be a trend of wearing increasingly casual clothes on a daily basis, the suit is just as relevant now as it has ever been, and it is by no means outdated! Many of my clients work at hot tech startups in the city, and they come to me for the highest quality suits. Whether they are meeting important partners, pitching to investors, attending evening events and awards ceremonies – they want to look their absolute best, and they believe that that means wearing a suit. I mean, even Mark Zuckerberg has started to wear suits!
Related to that - there is always a tension between the classic styles and the new (i.e. the new streetwear). How do you strike a balance? Or are you even trying to strike a balance? After all, doesn’t all fashion - like art - move forward when someone comes along and rejects the classics to make something new?
I don’t think it’s about rejection of the classics, I think it’s about developing a better understanding of the customer. A lot of brands known for very sophisticated lines and formal styling also produce casual lines. These casual lines are not made for a completely different customer, but instead they are made for the same customer who buys formal or business wear, just for a different moment in their life. Perhaps you wear a suit during the day, but you will want a more updated casual look after hours. I think streetwear is striking that balance between a brand’s aesthetic and practical needs of a customer during a more casual moment. The essence of the style remains, even though the presentation is different.
The book “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” has been making waves in the cooking world. Their idea is these are the four common elements to all great dishes. What according to you are the common elements to all stylish looks?
Color, personality, accessory. Dial up or dial down the color. Make sure you wear the outfit, and don’t let the outfit wear you. The right accessories will complement the look, but the wrong ones will kill it.
Do you think there is truth in the phrase “effortlessly stylish”? Or is style something that you have to put effort into?
Style itself is something that you’re either born with or not. Some spend a lot of money on their designer clothing, think they have style, but in reality, all they have done is wear labels, and they look like an ad for a designer. In contrast, someone can wear jeans, a T-shirt and a great pair of shoes, then add an interesting accessory, and voila – they have style.
Effortless style comes from within and not being afraid to experiment; you will find that perfect blend of fashion and how it works for you, and that is style. In contrast, if you need to put in lots of effort, that probably means you’re trying too hard and may not be successful to pull off the look.
Is style something that can be learned?
Definitely. But you must pick your teachers wisely – what is ultimately going to be style for you may be too fashion forward for others, and vice versa. You really need to understand your own personality, your own comfort level, and what is a deal breaker. This is something that can take time to learn, but ultimately without that understanding it will be hard to achieve style. You want to always be wearing the outfit, not having the outfit wear you!
There is almost an obsession with beauty in our popular culture - looking good, dressing well, having a stylish house etc. Why do you think that is and where do you think it’s going?
I think the obsession steams from a combination personal narcissism and overall increase in available wealth over the past few decades. This has led to an increased demand for tangible things as we all try to insure we’re “keeping up with the Jones’” (or should I say, Kardashians?). I I think a lot of us start to see a change as we go deeper, as we reflect, and as we look within ourselves. I think we are beginning to realize that outer beauty is meaningless without beauty on the inside, so there will be a push towards focusing on improving inner beauty, and improving wellbeing. This shines to the outside world, not just in your appearance, but in the way you carry yourself, in the conversations you have. We are realizing one must have inner beauty and wellness and be able to let that shine in order to truly show that we have achieved.
Which TV or cinema celebrity (man and woman) do you think best represent style?
Benedict Cumberbatch - classic British tailoring with a calmness that reflects his inner beauty and inner peace.
Johnny Depp - whether he is a high or a low, his style is always very personal and he can pull off a huge range of looks while owning the style.
Salma Hayek and Charlize Theron – both perfectly encapsulate a classic, composed style, but they are not afraid to take chances and let their personalities shine through.
Final question: if you had one outfit to wear for the rest of your life, what would it be?
My double breasted, bright blue, bold contrasted pin striped suit, great pair of hand-made brown cap toe shoes, and proper set of accessories.
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