A sartorial conversation with Sven Krolczik, Bespoke Tailor of Sven Krolczik Maßschneider, Kassel
Dear readers, back in few years ago, I had done a Q&A with a reputed German menswear and style author as I am keen on discovering more about German men’s tailoring and classic German style for men, perhaps due to the influence of the TV show ‘Babylon Berlin’ and the latest season, I somehow have a craving to revisit some topics about German men’s tailoring lately, and serendipitously, it lands me to an understated German tailor, Mr. Sven Krolczik, who based in Kassel. Sven has founded his namesake atelier shop, Sven Krolczik Maßschneider, which specializes in refined men’s bespoke tailoring, with all the refined tailoring clothing done on his own. This young German artisan has recently become a member of "Die Herrenschneider", an organization for professional German tailors, which makes him an ambassador on representing German tailoring craft and guild. Before becoming a dedicated bespoke tailor, Sven has studied art at the University and Art Academy of Kassel, and he has a heart of appreciating handwork, as well as doing the work himself. Today, I am very pleased to invite this German bespoke tailor for a conversation to talk about his work, German bespoke tailoring, men’s style and so on.
My Modern Darcy: Hi Sven, a delight to have you with us today! First of all, I’d like to ask what makes you so fascinated about men’s bespoke tailoring? And what makes you decide to become a bespoke tailor as your life career?
Sven Krolczik: Hi My Modern Darcy, and thank you for the invitation. I´m feeling honoured to be here today. Well, it’s definitely the craft that make it so fascinating to me. You create something with your own hands, putting a lot of effort and heart into the work that -in the end- becomes something truly unique; it’s such an intense process you even feel with your body; psychologically and physically. The initial idea and the design may change during the course, sometimes you make mistakes and you have to undo and start it again. The tools are extremely sharp and hot. You cut or burn yourself, prick yourself with all kinds of needles. In the end, there is another human who enjoys the result of all your sweat, who takes care of it and gets into some sort of relationship with it. I see clients gently touching and stroking the finished suit as if it was some kind of „living being“, seeing how their body language changes when wearing my garments- this feedback makes me proud of what I do.
MMD: In your opinion, what is the typical German silhouette when it comes to men’s bespoke tailoring? And what is the distinction between the German style compare with other European styles such as Italian, French and even British ones?
SK: I have books that outline such „country-specific“ differences, however, these books are really old, mainly from the pre WW2 era. During that time, the Germans liked to emphasize masculinity, the „typical“ German suit produced a strong silhouette, for example: a broad shoulder, a strong chest, wide and full arms etc., that was the zeitgeist of the 1930s and 1940s. Some really good and internationally renowned tailoring schools and printed magazines already existed at the beginning of the 20th century, and concentrated on articles and papers about various International styles too. Most attributes highlighted here are the same one can be found even today when it comes to other country´s fashion styles. Italian suits are said to be light and soft, close fitting, with little padding or even unconstructed; British suits in contrast are considered well-constructed, heavier, with strong waist suppression, adding some flare or skirt and so on, but tailoring changes as the time changes, I do see English tailors creating soft and light-weighted garments- sometimes even with „spalla camicia“- and Italian hacking jackets, it’s mingling, becoming more diverse like our culture becomes more diverse, and I really enjoy that. Today, I don’t see many well-dressed Germans on the streets; Germans are pragmatic people, they dress pragmatically; easy to care garments like functional clothing or jeans are dominant, and if there is any suit or jacket on the streets, it’s most likely off-the-rag and off-style. It’s easy to spot bespoke garments since they stood out from the mass, and yet, there is some kind of conformity amongst German bespoke garments- and Made-To-Measure by the way. Most of the German tailoring schools and systems disappeared after WW2, very much of the knowledge died in the trenches. Until the 1970s, the few remaining systems faced the problem of renewal and regeneration and where step by step taken over by the biggest of them, Müller and Sohn Munich; in a nutshell, most tailors and factories today are working with that system, it is easily accessible even for untrained personnel, offers some good first fittings but leads to some sort of sameness regarding style and look.
MMD: You have established your own atelier studio, Sven Krolczik Maßschneider, in Kassel. Can you tell us about how does it come about? And what kind of challenge that you have encountered, and how did you overcome them?
SK: I guess running one´s own business is always challenging, maybe the challenge itself changes from time to time as life changes, I don´t have any apprentice or employee and do everything on my own, and this is something I really underestimated right from the beginning. Networking, advertising, book-keeping, acquisition, all these things take a lot of time and patience from you. The simple reason why I started the business was a very strong desire to do it; I started tailoring during my time at the university and art academy here in Kassel, the initial idea was becoming a painter one day and I got a state exam for teaching English and Arts for high schools, but at certain point I realized that I was studying tailoring instead of arts. My single room flat was flooded with old historic books about tailoring, pattern and trial pieces, most of the money I spent for cloths and tools instead of oil colors, some good and heavy irons, shears, hams, boards and so on, so there was this moment right after I finished my studies. My son was only 3 months old and my wife and I sat down and decided: Now or never! The first few years were really hard, and I am deeply thankful having the full support of my wife all the time; finding clients is in a way the most challenging thing for a new bespoke tailor, those who already have their tailors usually don’t switch and there is always some risk in trying a new tailor. Running a bespoke tailor shop is always ups and downs, periods of lots of work in a very short time- and periods of no work at all for weeks or even months. You earn a bit of money and you instantly loose it again during periods of no commission, and these periods repeat again and again. I´m still looking for more clients even nowadays, it is a long process and requires a lot of perseverance, and I am growing with it, but it’s still a long way.
MMD: Can you tell us what is your ‘house style’? And how does it speak, or relate, to the heritage of German men’s bespoke tailoring yet it’s desirable in our current time?
SK: You quoted the word „house style“; I come across this „house style“ pretty often these days and I think it’s some kind of buzzword. Assumed that you are one of the few big renowned tailoring houses around the globe that have a history of tradition and style, then you have experienced many decades of politics and fashion. These houses have seen generations of tailors and cutters, have met, advised and clothed many citizens, politicians, celebrities and royals, and the term „House style“ makes some sort of sense with these houses, they created and shaped their 'style' over a very long time, based on a huge pool of influences and ideas- and people can even see and distinguish between Henry Poole, Anderson & Sheppard, Liverano & Liverano and so on. I am far away from that, yet, I do have my own `postion´, it’s a collection of things I personally like and favour, such as a high and tapered waist, a pronounced chest, wider lapel with a good belly, muted colours and appearance, wide and high armholes; I like my trousers pleated with a higher rise and side adjusters- for me, this is the most comfortable combination by the way. Many suits I see today are -in my opinion- too close-fitting with little or no room at all, however, you´ll find a good amount of room in my garments, since this was the key to comfort and movement, to give you an example, I can hardly stand the look of these modern tight-fitting trousers legs that turns even worse while seated. In addition, this means a lot of stress for both cloth and seams, when I cut my trousers, I make them falling clean around the legs, without any drags or `sitting´on the calf, this is the one crucial point for me, I try to cut my garments like that, but in the end, it’s all negotiations between me and my clients- and most of my clients like my initial proposals. Sometimes I catch myself keeping my eye on the 1930s German tailoring, and I mean the early 1930s until the mid 1930s, before the shoulders turned extremely broad and displayed, it’s pretty close to what I find desirable today.
MMD: Do you have any men’s style icon or even bespoke tailor that you look up to? If yes, who are they and what makes them became an inspiration to you and your work?
SK: Oh, there are so many great tailors out there! From Britain for example it’s Tobias Tailors for Stephen Hitchcock, Desmond Merrion; one of the best trouser makers I know is Daniel Kozyra, Keiichi Satowa for Archies Bespoke in Japan, Hedwig Rochowanski from Vienna / Austria, Manuela Leis produces outstanding overcoats in Berlin / Germany, Musella Dembech- an incredible family-run business from Milan / Italy, just to name a few; seeing other colleagues’ work is always both, fascinating and inspiring. In tailoring, there are many ways to reach a certain goal and observing how other tailor is sometimes pretty eye-opening, you can learn a lot from other tailors’ work. When I started sewing, I searched a lot for inspiration in terms of craftsmanship and style, this is how I mostly chose them, it’s either the way things are executed or stylistic features like a certain silhouette or cut.
MMD: For this summer season, what will you recommend when it comes to bespoke tailoring? In particular of which fabric, color, pattern and silhouette?
SK: The classics - Linen, high twisted light-weight open weave wool, mohair and seersucker. I am not a big fan of cotton twill, I simply think it doesn’t look good. A bit of colour, all kinds of green are great, one pale blue striped seersucker jacket paired with some toasted mauve wide leg trousers. Both cut a bit casual with a half lined back and little structure / padding, I would like to see or even make that.
MMD: With the dress-down culture that we are living in now, what makes bespoke tailoring menswear still has its value of existence? And why?
SK: As you pointed out, one of the main value of bespoke tailoring today is being or playing some kind of counterpart to a dress-down clothing culture, the sense or feeling of what is a good fitting, well dressing garments gets lost somehow. I see this pretty often with new clients who do have no bespoke experience, and who are totally surprised when trying on their bespoke trousers or coats for the first time. They never expected and experienced such a good looking and good fitting garment, it’s a statement that I hear quite often. Sure, it makes me proud since this was my work, but it also highlights the great value of contemporary bespoke fashion.
MMD: Alright let’s talk about you, can you tell us what’s your personal style when it comes to menswear? What is your favorite outfit of the day, and what are they?
SK: Interestingly, I don’t wear ties, I don’t like them though I know they can look great. Wearing ties always evokes some stifling feeling to me, so I like wearing my shirt with the two top buttons unbuttoned and rolled up sleeves. My favourite shirt collar is a Kent collar, I do own one or two button down collar shirts but no cutaway collars at all. Cutaway collars do only look good on thin necks and faces, when it comes to rounder faces, it even intensifies and emphasizes this impression. My favourite trousers are a tad wider in the leg, with a higher rise and side adjusters. No belts. Sometimes I like wearing suspenders; slippers and loafers are my first choice, toe cap Oxfords for the more formal occasion. Today I’m wearing a pale eggshell yellowish shirt, soft green pleated wool/mohair trousers paired with Oxblood Italian Moccasins and a simple 1970s leather Seiko.
MMD: Besides well-dressed and well-groomed, in your opinion, what other qualities that a modern-day gentleman should have?
SK: Oh I don’t think that well-dressed and well-groomed are features or qualities inevitably liked to be a gentleman, I prick up my ears when people talked about themselves as gentlemen, especially in the sartorial word I often come across folks who creates a rather strange image of what they think a gentleman is about. You don’t become a gentleman by yourself, it’s others who calls you a gentleman by your actions. Altruistic behaviour, without hesitation, all kind of classics, offering your seat to the elderly or disabled, opening doors for others, offering your help or advice to anybody anytime who needs it and so on, it’s more a concept of living than a question of public image.
MMD: If one day someone approaches you and ask how s/he can become a great bespoke tailor, what is your advice?
SK: I have absolutely no idea, I don’t consider myself being a great tailor and never was it my goal. My only advice is- and I strongly believe in it: Whatever it is you do, be sure this is what you really want to do, make sure it’s you and your deep -intrinsic- wish to do it, Don’t fall into any „social-pressure-trap“ like bad reputation or a better income. One of the most difficult question in life is „Who am I“, and many keep searching the entire life for an answer, when you followed your vision, you become authentic, authenticity is the key, I am convinced that other people do see and feel authenticity, and this will inevitably push you forward.
Special thanks to Mr. Sven Krolczik.
Image courtesy of Sven Krolczik Maßschneiderei, Kassel.