A sartorial conversation with Simón Martelo, Martelo Bespoke, Bogotá
Dear readers, it’s been a relatively long time since I did some conversational blog until the last one in a couple of weeks ago, part of the reason is due to the pandemic and upheavals in the past few years which makes it difficult to do so, thankfully as we gradually resume to our normal life, I am thrilled to invite another passionate gentleman to be our Q&A guest this time! Mr. Simón Martelo, Founder and Cutter of his own tailoring company, Martelo Bespoke, based in Bogotá, Colombia. Simón has established his reputation as refined bespoke tailor locally in Bogotá for more than a decade, taken up an apprenticeship with a Colombian tailor after his formal study, his bespoke clothing has been a sought-after by elites, discerning clients and even diplomats locally in Bogotá, besides his busy schedule, Simón also organizes trunk shows in New York from time to time. Unlike many bespoke tailors whose based in some of the glamorous key sartorial capitals in the world, Simón’s practice locates rather remote, somehow away from the sartorial spotlight yet I find it rather intriguing, especially for a bespoke tailor like him who is very dedicated to create refined tailoring clothing, and homage to the heyday of well-dressed gentlemen. Today, I am pleased to invite this Colombian bespoke artisan to talk about his passion over men’s tailoring, the sartorial culture in Bogotá and his point of view about gentlemen lifestyle and so on, so here we go:
My Modern Darcy: Hi Simón, a pleasure to have you with us today. I came across one of the interview you did before, you have mentioned about how the way men dressed in Colombia, and the seasonality etc., can you share with us a bit here as well? And how do these factors have an influence over your craft, and even your personal style?
Simón Martelo: We’re based out of Bogotá, Colombia, this is a great city for dressing elegantly. People call it the "eternal fall". There are no seasons and we’re 2.600mts up in the mountains — so tweed, flannel, peached cotton, heavy chinos and, chunky knitwear are all things you get to wear here year-round.
It also happens to be the political and business hub of the country and a very big city, so people are usually more elegant here than in all other places around the country.
Looking at old footage and magazines of events from the 1970’s, it’s an evident that this was once a very elegant city. I’d say by comparison with the rest of the country, and even the rest of the region, it still remains the most elegant one.
MMD: I find it very interesting about the social hierarchy of Colombian tailors in the past, as well as the so-called ‘sartorial bible’ that every tailor would study in Colombia, can you share with us a bit more in here? And how 's the change of the perception over your local tailors now compare with the past?
SM: There is this one tailoring book that arrived in Colombia at some point in the past and influenced local tailoring a lot. It’s called “Metodo De Sastreria Rocosa”. My guess is that it was the only tailoring book in Spanish, that’s why it became so popular. It’s a very complete book that includes cutting and building methods of all the classic men’s staples.
There is a new frame of mind with which we regard all craft, I’d say this is a global trend, not just locally. A renowned sense of value and admiration for craftsmen around the world that I think is very positive. At the same time, snobbery and classism still remain as common attitudes in our social fabric. That, I don’t think is very positive.
MMD: Situated away from those key sartorial capitals such as Napoli in Italy, London in the UK and Paris in France, do you somehow feel a bit isolated or neglected? And what motivates you find your sartorial work and contribution worthwhile even being such far apart from the traditional sartorial spotlight?
SM: Very interesting question. Now that I’ve been doing trunk shows in New York and getting more regular contact with non-Colombian clients, we’ve had to question our global standing with regards to tailoring. But we’ve taken this as an opportunity — we have no strict tradition or heritage to be loyal to, and that has granted us freedom. It allowed me to explore the different dimensions of tailoring with very little predisposition, and come up with what I believe are very genuine, valuable expressions of tailoring — both in our style and in our service.
Our interpretation of the garments and how we build them, and of the service that we provide to our clients is the result of our own process of reflection, and I really like that.
MMD: In your bespoke tailoring journey, can you share with us what are the challenges that you have encountered? And how did you overcome them?
SM: There is one that I think is worth mentioning: In tailoring there are always things that can go wrong, it’s a very human process. Either because you forgot a detail, or because you don’t know what to do with a particular alteration, or because you simply made a mistake. Knowing how and having the courage to face your clients with integrity when that happens has been something I’ve had to hone.
Other times, clients are just difficult and intentionally “naggy”, so knowing how to face that is also an important skill.
MMD: Alright, let’s go back to your tailoring work, can you tell us more about what is the ‘house style’ of Martelo Bespoke?
SM: There is a short essay in our webpage: I call it "subtle". It’s all about being noticed because there’s nothing to notice about it.
MMD: In your opinion, what defines an excellent, well-made bespoke suit? What are the key elements?
SM: The basics of fit are always fundamental and they need to be mentioned: how the collar grabs the shirt, the overall silhouette and the comfort.
The other dimension (and the most important one I think) is how much you love the piece, how much you actually love to wear that piece. That it looks and feels like you. That it actually works its way into your day-to-day wardrobe, and serves a purpose in your life. That might be even harder to accomplish.
MMD: I realized that you enjoy very much on doing a one-on-one session with your client first before going right in to make a bespoke suit for the sake of just making a suit; can you elaborate more and why is that crucial to you when it comes to making a bespoke suit?
SM: To me, there is a fundamental difference between a tailor shop and a suit store — a relationship. My best work is done not when I’m making you a suit, but when I’m your tailor. My interpretation of that job is to help my client to navigate dressing in a way that serves how you live your life. And for that I need to know and understand them.
MMD: Can you let us know what is your favorite ensemble? Do you pick up any references from style icons or actors to shape your own style?
SM: As much as I love many different things from the tailoring universe, I personally never feel more at home than with a pair of jeans, a shirt and a Harris Tweed jacket. It has been that way for a long time, and I think it will continue to be the case for a very long time to come.
On the other hand, I’m always extremely happy when I got to wear my Tuxedo.
MMD: Can you define what ‘style’ means to you? In particular for a modern-day gentleman.
SM: Knowing yourself, in a deeply socratic way. ‘Style’ means knowing who you are, what you’re about, what you’re out to do in life, how that is of value to others, and dressing accordingly — I’d say dress “like you care”, but no, because you actually should care, not pretend you care, so I’ll better say “dress and express how much you care”.
Know how to beautifully navigate between being yourself and being in an environment with others, and with a specific context.
MMD: Besides being well-dressed, in your opinion, what are the other qualities that a modern day gentleman should have?
SM: Deep self-awareness, clarity of purpose, open heartedness, spontaneity, sense of humor, integrity…those to me seems like a great list of qualities for any aspiring gentleman to embody.
MMD: if one day someone approaches you and ask you how to become a great bespoke tailor, what will you tell them and what is your advice?
SM: Let yourself get consumed by the love you have for this profession, and at the same time, regard it as the most irrelevant of all endeavors.
Special thanks to Mr. Simón Martelo.
Image courtesy of Martelo Bespoke, Bogotá.