The Fashion Folk S01 ep5 : Ashley Dormeuil, Dormeuil Fashion, [Paris]
Interview with Ashley Dormeuil
I once said to an American reporter, 'You like going to Saville Row and you get suits made, what do you think of them?' He pondered for a while and he said 'Well if I get three suits made, one will be absolutely outstanding, marvellous and I'll wear it very often. Another one is probably a suit I like, I'll wear it now and then but the third one he says, is probably for one reason or another, I am not very fond of'. It can be irregular depending on the day which the tailor cut it, if he had he gone to bed earlier the previous day or was in an inspired mood when he made the suit. Each suit is unique and individual.
Domeuil is traditionally a cloth merchant; a provider of cloth for tailors
originally. If you go back in time to the 19th Century when there were no
benefactors of suits, you needed someone to present a collection of cloth to
tailors; you needed someone who could provide small quantities; three yards
or six yards or nine yards. You could present a total collection, cashmere,
mohairs, suitings, overcoats.
Originally our business is French and so I suppose that all our cloths came
from France and we realised rapidly the importance of British cloth, and the
British mills from Yorkshire and Scotland were very important and in the 1870's
we set up our business in London in addition to Paris and we created really two
poles, two centres - Dormeuil Paris and Dormeuil London.
KM – When did it all start?
Great, great grandfather who came from the North of France and joined the
business in 1842 called Dumont Freres and Dumont had no children interested
in the business and within 10 years, young Dormeuil had not only joined the
business but had become a partner in it. In fact in those days cloth was I
suppose a lot less colourful than today. It was substantially heavier, you would
wear cloth that was twice, three times the weight of cloth we wear today.
I joined the business in 1972 and since 1972 I remember my first suit must
have been a cloth probably 'sportex' which weighed 600grams per metre,
which is 20 ounces and the cloth I am wearing today is 300 or 330 grams per
metre, 10 or 11 ounces ...
KM – Half the weight
So it is about half the weight - so that is the first thing, that the weight is
substantially lighter. The weight of the cloth and hopefully the weight of the suit
in so far as the tailors are we hope using thinner, lighter linings and interlinings
to make the suit.
I guess that 1926 would have been my grandfather who was inspired
somewhere to bring colour to suits and to bring the idea of branding a cloth as
opposed to just providing cloth to a tailor, we'd say this is a Dormeuil Cloth.
We want the Dormeuil name to be important to you and we want to give this
cloth a brand name.
I once said to an American reporter, "you like going to Saville Row and you get
suits made, what do you think of them? Do you like them?” And he pondered
for a while and he said "well if I get three suits made one will be absolutely
outstanding, marvellous and I'll wear it very often. Another one is probably a
suit I like, I'll wear it now and then but the third one he says, is probably
something for one reason or another, I am not very fond of. It can also be
immaculate depending on the day which the tailor cut it, had he gone to bed
earlier the previous day, was he in an inspired mood when he made the suit. It
is an individually, individual cut suit.
The designers were an important factor in bringing off the rack clothing. I think
another factor was that the tailors could no longer provide the customers with
what they wanted. They were not able to find workers to make the suits. This
is a very big problem we have in our tailoring industry is that there are very few
A hand made suit will take let us say 40 hours, 1 week for one person to make.
An off the rack suit in those days would take 5 hours and a made to measure
suit which was hand cut, individually cut to the measurements and to the style
that the customer wanted might take 6 or 7 hours. So you could get individually
made suits at a reasonable price, you might pay 20 - 25% more than an off the
rack suits but you might still be paying half of what you would have paid if you
would go to the tailor.
For men’s designers or for men’s style and taste you would have to say there
is either British taste or Italian taste. British taste is more traditional, more
classic and it is survived in time. Even though it may look stale or outdated the
British have none the less maintained their presence and are still important in
today’s fashion. And then there is the more creative the more colourful side of
fashion, which is the Italians, which are the Armani's, the Versaces, maybe a
Zegna, maybe a CanalI and other people which have today produced nice
clothes, and nice cloth but which isn't always adaptable. The Italians like
cottons, linens in England you don't see people running around in cottons suits
or linen suits - the climate doesn’t dictate that, the British way of life doesn't
dictate that. So those are the two important poles of fashion today.
KM – How do you come up with the cloth for the next season?
Technically two collections come out a year - Spring/Summer collection and a
Winter or Fall collection but fashion is a constant everyday business and my
function is more on the commercial and the marketing aspects of the business,
But in our business where we are in merchanting you cannot dissociate selling
from styling and buying. You've got to sell what you buy, you’ve got to buy
what you can sell and the two functions are inter-related. So my brother
Dominic is chairman of the group, he is the designer, he's the one whose
handwriting is on the collections and he is the one who probably has more
vision looking forward as to where the collection should be and what collections
we should have.
I remember one day a lady coming in, and this must have been right at the
beginning of my first years in Paris, a lady coming in and asking us for the best
material we had and at that time the best material, the most expensive
material was cut suit Vicuna, now Vicuna today is outlawed.
KM – That is a goat from Argentina or the Andes or somewhere?
From the Andes, from Peru. It is a goat that lives hight up in Peru. It is a rare
animal that became well not close to extinction but endangered because too
many people had killed Vicuna for its hair which is rare and which is finer than
that of Cashmere in essence. We said to her, well how much would you like, is
it for an overcoat or is it for perhaps just a sportscoat. And she said no, how
much would I need, I need it for the back of my Rolls Royce to put on the seat
to ensure my dogs have a most comfortable ride.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Ashley Dormeuil, Dormeuil Fashion, Paris