ldfw4: tailor family — bullish bespokeBack
Leaving Savile Row for Leeds, Geoffrey, David and Daniel Bullen, three generations of experience in the tailoring business, came here in 1998 because of this city’s long textile history. In Leeds they established their own brand, Bullish Bespoke.
Since last year, bespoke tailoring has shown signs of growth; it is only natural in the fashion industry that when fast fashion is the mainstream, things that are more personal and custom made should start to spring up. In January, Savile Row legends like Gieves & Hawkes, Anderson & Sheppard, Kilgour and Hardy Amies offered expanded ready-to-wear lines, even though there was still discussion on the street about whether this move would damage the most important element of bespoke tailoring: the heritage.
In the more northern parts of the textile world, the way Bullish Bespoke keep their heritage but adapt to the new styles of the tailoring business is, in my opinion, much more clever. Instead of jumping straight to ready-to-wear, they have been using digital printing on fabric for their lining and collaborating with many young Leeds creatives like photographer Joseph Dawson, graphic designer Tom Pitts and Dave at Laynes Espresso.
– David, you are part of three generations of the tailoring business, can you tell us more about your history?
My father Geoffrey Bullen used to run a tailoring business in Coventry, so I grew up in the trade wandering around the workroom and talking to the tailors and cutters and admiring all the unusual bespoke features people used to ask for. They would be working on garments for all kinds of people from city gents to magicians!
I started in the business back in 1977 when I was just 17. I found the whole process from concept to completion really exciting. The fact that you would sit with a client and help him choose and create something completely unique and then measure him and tailor a suit which would make him look amazing. I think there’s a great deal of satisfaction in knowing you’ve enhanced someones image!
My father retired in the 80s and I worked as a visiting tailor for a Savile Row company in London. I’d visit their clients in many European countries and also in Japan. This period I believe gave me a wealth of knowledge about high end bespoke tailoring and led to me moving to the Leeds area and starting my own company in 1998. From that point I have developed the business and visit clients in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, the UK and the Channel Islands. The nature of the job involves discretion and building relationships with the clients which leads to a natural word of mouth effect, which in turn has developed into something quite diverse! I could be visiting a television presenter in Holland, a Premier League football player in Manchester or a Judge at the Old Bailey! Other clients include entrepreneurs, lawyers and artists.
My son Daniel, who is now 22, has grown up in the business in a similar way to myself and has always had aspirations to work with me. Although still quite young, he has a profound grasp of our industry and we knew at some point we would be working together as father and son. For some time now we have been working on a new idea which takes the bespoke suit or jacket to another level of detail. This is how Bullish Bespoke was born!
– Leeds has a long line of tailoring heritage, is this something you are proud to be part of?
We moved to Leeds because of the tailoring heritage. There’s a unique array of know-how in both designing, tailoring and cloth weaving. We can procure almost anything we like right on our doorstep! It’s also right in the centre of Britain, making Glasgow and London equidistant, which is excellent for a service which depends on visiting clients wherever they are. Leeds Bradford Airport is also an excellent gateway to visit our clients, not only in the Netherlands, but with great connections via Amsterdam to everywhere else! We couldn’t work from or live in a better place for what we do!
– Can you tell us more about your collaborations with artists like Mark Evans?
Mark Evans was very inspirational in the development of Bullish Bespoke. Mark travels around the world and wanted to have a special jacket made for a client’s wedding in Malaysia. Much of Mark’s work involves the U.S. Dollar and I suggested we made a lining from a piece of his art (a one dollar bill) and put it inside his jacket. The effect was fantastic! Furthermore this represented a totally new direction in making the most personalised garment possible. Really, the ultimate bespoke garment! This is how Daniel and I started to develop the idea of digitally printing art and images onto jacket and suit linings to give the client something truly personal to them.
Part of the development of Bullish Bespoke involves working with and helping both young and established artists in the UK and abroad. Our website, which launches fully in the summer, will show works from an array of artists which can be digitally printed onto jacket linings to create a bespoke garment both unique and very special. The idea is to inspire people with creative ideas for their suit lining. One of these artists is the famous Leeds based Alan Flood. We’re also working with up and coming artists from the Slade School of Fine Art in London. We are keen to fuse the world of art with bespoke tailoring!
– Can you tell us about the series of photos you’ve done with Joseph Dawson?
We’ve just done a photo shoot with Leeds based photographer Joseph Dawson. One of the locations for the shoot was Leeds coffee house Laynes Espresso, because we believe that Dave Laynes reflects the same passion we have, and aspires to make the best cup of coffee possible! We also think the mix of coffee, art and tailoring is a great mix of three creative industries. This series is going to reflect our cutting edge designs as well as ideas for those who aspire to look great and desire that unique twist on the inside!
Recently we made a three piece suit for the London Coffee Festival where both the lining inside the jacket and the back of the waistcoat was an image of coffee beans. Walking around a coffee festival with beans on your back certainly creates a stir!
– We often hear that so and so’s grand father will never leave the house without their three piece suit and pocket watch, but nowadays people can stroll out of the house in pyjamas. What do you think is the importance of being ‘properly dressed’?
To us, the importance of being properly dressed is paramount. People who like to look good like all the attention to detail as well as a well cut garment. Knowing you look great also enhances your confidence and gives life a different perspective!
– Anything more you’d like to mention?
Bullish Bespoke is a visiting tailor service. We are a father and son team who visit clients at their work or home and advise them and create the ultimate suit, jacket etc. We love to be as creative as possible to give that person a unique experience and tailor a garment which will make them look great and feel fantastic. We return to fit the garment and make sure that the fit is perfect and that they love their new image!
Leeds based Graphic Designer and Web Designer Tom Pitts has developed the Bullish Bespoke Bull logo and is currently designing the new website. Naturally, we like to keep the business local and feel it’s important utilise great creative people in the Leeds area.
Originally published in The City Talking: Leeds, issue 13