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Needles and shears

Who are L.A.'s top tailors? It's one of the fashion crowd's best-kept secrets, but we'll clue you in.

January 13, 2008|Emili Vesilind | Times Staff Writer

Finding a good tailor in Los Angeles -- someone who can make a store-bought suit or dress look like it was custom-made for you -- can feel like digging for gold in your backyard. And it's not because we don't have our share of nip and tuckers here.

It's because the best tailors in town don't have to advertise -- they're already swamped with clients. And those clients are often loath to even speak the names of their secret weapons, for fear they'll become even less available to them. This busy pool of L.A. tailors, many of whom grew up with parents in the rag trade, are most in demand during awards season, which was supposed to kick off with the Golden Globes tonight and wrap up with the Academy Awards. (Apparently, despite the Globes' cancellation because of the writers strike, the red-carpet set is convinced at least some shows will go on; all the tailors in this story said they are as busy as always this year.)

But though getting in good with Drew's and Denzel's people goes a long way in cementing a tailor's reputation, fitting Versace gowns and Armani tuxes isn't the bread and butter of most of them. Hemming pants, taking in waistbands and shortening jacket sleeves are their daily pursuits.

But even these less complicated tasks can go awry in the wrong hands. Hasn't everyone had a garment ruined by a tailor who either didn't listen to a request or didn't put forth the necessary TLC?

The tailor you choose should always depend on what you need tweaked. Although tailors will often say they can repair, alter or re-create anything, most specialize in certain categories of clothing -- be it denim, suits or gowns (the three most complicated garments to construct and, therefore, alter). So at the risk of revealing the style set's most closely guarded secret weapons (bring it on, Mrs. Beckham), here's a rundown of some of the best alteration artists in town.

Suiting up

The dashing salesmen at the Beverly Hills outpost of British gentlemen's brand Turnbull & Asser turn to Harold Keleshian, tailor and owner of Novex Custom Tailor, to finesse suits and shirts for themselves and their customers. Keleshian and his staff do everything by hand and are known for being able to flatter extreme body types. "Suits are the most difficult thing to tailor," Keleshian says, "and few tailors really understand how to do it." In business since 1961, Keleshian also makes bespoke suits and has custom made glittering get-ups for Siegfried & Roy and Neil Diamond. Prices start at $45 for simple fixes.

Novex Custom Tailor, 9709 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 855-1770.

What was good enough for Frank Sinatra, President Truman and the duke of Windsor should be good enough for you. Tailor and custom suit maker Jack Taylor is an institution in Beverly Hills, known for outfitting some legendary men of style during the last 55 years. The 90-year-old sartorialist, who was the subject of a 2006 documentary called "Jack Taylor of Beverly Hills," got his start in New York's garment district in the 1930s, outfitting radio personalities.

Though he doesn't alter what he doesn't make or sell in his shop (a selection of Brioni suits starting at about $3,000), he's the man to hit up when you've graduated from off-the-rack ensembles. Bespoke suits are priced according to the fabric (cashmere can be around $700 a yard) but start at $3,950. For a ground-up suit, you'll go through three fittings with Taylor, who will create a custom pattern that can be corrected for weight gain or loss with every order.

"A man comes into my place because he cares for clothes and he knows he can't get anything better anywhere," Taylor says. "There's no baloney about what I do." The new generation of dandies has already caught on -- indie actor Jason Schwartzman is a regular client.

Jack Taylor of Beverly Hills, 188 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 274-7276.

Dress doctors

Doris Raymond, owner of the influential vintage boutique The Way We Wore, relies on Turkish-born tailor Pinar Demir, co-owner of P&J European Tailoring, to mend and alter her gorgeous inventory of delicate gowns, cocktail dresses, jackets and coats. Bridal and evening gowns are Demir's forte, and she's been known to track down rare fabrics and notions when necessary (she recently re-created beading and fabric on a disintegrating swath of netting).

"She actually took a size 4 Leonard gown and made it a size 10," Raymond says. "I couldn't figure out how she did it." Demir also makes custom clothing and has whipped up dresses for Angelina Jolie, Ricki Lake and Bridget Fonda. Alterations on dresses and gowns start at $50, but it's $10 to hem a pair of pants.

P&J European Tailoring, 2370 Westwood Blvd. Suite L1, Los Angeles, (310) 475-8089.

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