He’s always felt in a suit like a fish in the water. After years of working in the financial sector, Andreas Kreutz decided to devote himself professionally to his hobby – fashion – more precisely to custom-made suits for men.
And so together with his wife Barbara they flung themselves into business. With a smile he says that he was partly motivated by the fact that he would be able to dress himself exactly according to his own ideas.
For eight years now he has been doing business in the field of men’s fashion; together with his wife they own the TAILOR MADE salon, where men can have an exclusive suit, shirt and shoes made to measure and also find luxury accessories such as neckties, buttons, umbrellas, leather bags and so on. The married couple offer their clients not only professional advice but also help customers find their own style. You can visit the salon 7 days a week at Polus City Center in Bratislava. For more information, visit www.tailormade.sk and Andreas’s blog at kreutz.blog.sme.sk.
What kind of vision did you have when you began doing business in fashion?
We didn’t have an extremely large business vision or extensive expansion plans. Rather, it was more about fulfilling an inner need, a dream, because this decision arose at a time when my wife and I had the opportunity to stop and to change something in our lives. We could have either continued as before in the world of finance or completely changed the path we were walking and set off in the direction of fashion, something I’d been thinking about for a few years before. We didn’t intend to dive into the fashion business, because we found it lucrative. Fashion was something very close to us, and that’s the main reason why we started doing business with it. Of course, we decided to do everything to make it work financially, too, but we never slacked off in the commitment to make truly quality men’s tailor-made suits with everything that goes with them, to bring to Slovak men the best from all over Europe at a price that precludes us from being shop for the broader public.
After all, what we wear determines the first impression we make on others.
A suit for you never was and still isn’t only a work “uniformˮ or very likely a necessary evil. It looks like you are very happy to wear one…
It was absolutely clear to me that when I finished school I would come to work in a suit and a tie. No one had to tell me or order me to do this. I started out in insurance, and my co-workers dressed this way as well. Such was an unwritten rule of dress code, and for me it was a matter of pride to go to work in a suit. It was a kind of satisfaction that I was a graduate, that I was getting somewhere and working in an environment where suits are worn. Unfortunately, nowadays, in this regard, even high-ranking managers are backsliding, and as they stop doing it, the dress code in companies is also falling by the way side. It’s a shame, because I never saw the suit as something I have to endure, but as something I can take pride in. I spend most of the day at work, and how I look, the effect I have on people, and how I represent a business I’m working for has always been important to me.
What charmed you about custom-made suits? You have a slim figure; many would say it can’t be a problem for you to buy a suit off the rack…
That’s not quite true; most things don’t fit me perfectly, because my sleeves are usually long, the waist of a jacket loose… And especially if a person is more demanding on how his clothes fit, how he looks, how he feels in it, an off-the-rack garment is not the optimal solution. I looked for a long time for something that I’d be happy with, so I got to my shirts and suits custom fit. Because I tried several of them, I had experience as a customer. Once it turned out better, once worse, and I was convinced that a lot could be done better, with higher quality and more precision. That’s where it all began, of course, and I found out that I’d enjoy doing business in this direction. And, moreover, I was attracted by the possibility of finally dressing exactly according to my own expectations.
It’s said that clothes make the man; certainly there is something in this. For example, an actor, if he wants to play the king faithfully, needs to feel like a king. And what he wears also contributes to this.
I really agree with this. When I worked as a business manager, I had colleagues who also had a home office and worked from home. I told them – if you’re going to call a client, dress as if you are sitting in the office; you’ll feel different than when sitting in pyjamas and slippers. You can’t only see, but you can also hear whether a person is properly dressed. Indeed, clothes do make the man, and it is not just a visual influence on others. Clothing also influences how a person feels, and this is reflected in his communication with the environment. Of course, what you have in your head is important, if have a big heart, but how others perceive you is significantly affected by how you are dressed and how you look. You also show in this way the degree of seriousness you attach to the person you’re communicating with. If my financial consultant came to me in shorts and flip-flops and wanted to advise me on how to handle my investments, I wouldn’t have anything to do with him. I would think that he’s not taking our meeting seriously enough, and I, as his client, am not sufficiently important to him.
On the other hand, isn’t it a bit shifty? A suit can also be mere mimicry, not to mention that people, aware of its effect, can also misuse it, manipulate with it…
Perhaps that may be, there are even a number of books on how to use both verbal and non-verbal communication to make the person more trustworthy, to gain employment and to be presented in the right light, etc. Of course, clothing is a part of this. On the other hand, this is also about people learning to communicate both verbally and non-verbally, so that they know how to dress properly for the given occasion. And if someone is just playing a part, society will find out quickly.
Regarding fashion, which historical period do you most like?
It doesn’t relate so much to period, but the men’s suits that haven’t changed fundamentally over the last hundred years. Of course, different periods bring about changes in fabrics, patterns, cuts; the lap width changes, the length of a jacket, the trouser width, but a suit is still in its classic form. The 1930s were very elegant, for example, but so were the 1950s and 1960s. And I love all the Bond films, even the old ones. James Bond is still the prototype of a gentleman, who always dresses right and whose suits always fit perfectly.
What are Slovak men like in terms of fashion? Not too long ago there was a tradition that a real man should “smell” of sweat and horse…
We are preventing something that looks bad at first glance and doesn’t suit the customer, and which would be bad advertisement for us.
I perceive this on two or three levels. The first is that a man who is trying to dress well, to dress elegantly and is not afraid of colour, is perceived by the Slovak population as a homosexual or a so-called metrosexual. This rather angers me, because I think that not even the male world should be just black and white or blue and white. The second level is the difference of the dressing of Slovak men from the rest of Europe, though only from those from the Czech Republic. I don’t mean to say that Czech men are a textbook example of elegance, but a few years ago in our western neighbours a wave formed associated with the term gentleman, and tailor-made suits and a number of accessories like bowties, ties, suspenders and cufflinks began to appear on the market, and the men became more interested in how to dress and shoe elegantly. However, this happened only marginally in Slovakia.
The third, explicitly negative level is the development that in Slovakia clothing is going downhill in terms of clothing for work or for social events. I notice that people are dressing less formally, which is also supported by today’s young managers in companies going to work in leisurely clothing. I don’t know why the impression has arisen that a suit and tie are just necessities, something I don’t naturally want. It’s as if our society has dropped a level, which I am very sorry about. This can also be seen at cultural events, on television, in parliament… For all that, a man looks best in a suit, and the idea of dressing nicely and properly for a given occasion has its justification.
So if we want to rank among countries with an advanced culture and a higher level of society, we should think about this.
A lot of men think that a suit is not only formal but in particular very uncomfortable clothing…
This is nonsense in my opinion. For example, Italians realize that a suit, shirt and tie are the most important pieces of clothing for a man, in which they can look great, even if they don’t have a perfect figure. It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable, and it doesn’t mean that a suit should be worn only for a formal, festive occasions or, obviously, for a funeral. After all, suits exist in summer or more leisure-time versions; there are materials, colours… The same with a shirt, too, if it’s the right size, a collar that doesn’t strangle you; there is no reason to perceive it negatively. Indeed, a man looks much better even on the beach in a linen shirt than in a baggy t-shirt. And the same also applies to a tie. It can complete a formal suit, but a tie also revives an independent jacket and khaki trousers, for example. This should be a kind of game – a game with colours, combinations, accessories…
Not everyone knows how to dress well; for example, a stylist can help. But in your opinion, we have few such experts. Is this evident in how celebrities or politicians dress?
With politicians, we would expect them to be the most formally dressed, but that’s not the case. In my opinion, it’s a mistake that they let themselves be advised by their marketers about how to dress. This can also be seen in campaigns, on social networks and billboards. Perhaps they advise them well in terms of how politicians can get closer to the people, but I don’t think they advise them well in terms of how a politician should look. The highest measure of elegance on billboards today is a white shirt without a tie, an unbuttoned collar, without a jacket. This is inadequate in my opinion. It’s okay that rural people and those who work in rubber boots also vote for politicians, but… We all have different jobs, and politicians should look as it is convenient in politics. Unfortunately, even in parliament, despite the dress code, politicians go often in a corduroy jacket, without a tie, without a jacket, in jeans… This looks untrustworthy. And many Slovak celebrities participating in various gala evenings are no exception.
Often stylists help celebrities with their clothing. Is this visible?
They can’t always discern if a stylist is advising them well or badly. In addition to the lack of people concerned in men’s styling, we also have very few fashion designers who are dedicated to elegant men’s fashion, since making a suit is a technologically demanding process. This is why most of the work of stylists is focused mainly on ladies, and men thus remain on the margin of interest. This is also evident in the low amount of publicity of men’s fashion in the media. Everywhere you can read about what women wear and what cosmetics and accessories they use, but they say almost nothing about men. There are few experts in men’s fashion here, so often people comment on the subject who don’t really know what they’re talking about. You know, it’s not a problem finding something on the Internet, but if you don’t live this, if you’ve not tested it yourself, you can hardly advise others.
If we are convinced that the client’s idea is not a good one, we try to direct it, and we usually have no problem with this.
The benefits of your salon include not only that you offer custom-made top-class suits to clients, but also professional advice…
In addition to common things – like putting together a whole outfit and creating the right combinations – it happens, for example, that a client may tell me that he doesn’t know how to dress properly even according to an invitation. Of course, we’ll explain the dress code and help. Sometimes, however, I can’t even advise him, because the invitation may be badly written, and the organizer doesn’t know how to deal with it. There are even curious cases when, for example, “black tieˮ is written on the invitation, which means dressing up in a smoking jacket, but with the note that the men should leave the bowties at home, which is at the very least is confusing.
In your opinion, it is very important to choose a salon or shop associated with the tailoring, in which a man can have a suit made to measure or a shirt tailored. On your blog, you advise about what to look for, how to choose one. What is your concept?
When we were creating it, we considered what would be the most interesting thing, the most comfortable for the customer. A suitable location is very important, and in a city centre could be the ideal place to be. The centre of Bratislava, however, is not a very lucrative solution in terms of shop, as there is not good access and cafes and restaurants prevail here. That’s why we decided to set up in a shopping centre. We wanted to allow our customers to have easy access by car and longer opening hours. We are open seven days a week and, of course, we have the comfort of parking in the underground garage, so our customer can come and go with dry feet and doesn’t have to worry that his shoes or suit will get damaged, even if it is snowing out.
With regard to tailor-made sewing, for a well-tailored suit or shirt, the experience of the staff is very important, how you’ll be able to help the customer, measure him, what all you’ll notice, how you’ll test things. A lack of experience may ruin many things. Communication is also important, knowing how to understand what the client wants. He himself often does not know exactly what he wants, so we have to ask the right questions and get to understand correctly, to make the client satisfied in the end and happy to come back to us.
Would you go against your own taste convictions if a client insisted on it?
To a certain extent, yes. If we are convinced that the client’s idea is not a good one, we try to direct it, and we usually have no problem with this. I recall one customer who was used to wearing suits by two sizes larger. He did not want to let go of this, but finally (thanks in part to his wife’s support) we reached a compromise. We made him a comfortable suit that would be too loose for many other men, but in this case the result was much more fine-looking than the previous one, and at the same time he did not feel constrained by it.
As for a complete no-go, you certainly will not find with us a shirt with short sleeves for formal dress. We think that this simply does not belong with a jacket. We are preventing something that looks bad at first glance and doesn’t suit the customer, and which would be bad advertisement for us.
After all, what we wear determines the first impression we make on others. We have only once chance at a first impression, and it comes before we can even say anything.
Text: Miriam Bartošová, photo: Petra Baranovičová