Tinker, Tailor, Image Maker!

Merrill at 17As a teenager one of my favorite films was Great Gatsby. I watched it countless times which may have advanced my maturation process by ten years. When Jay tossed his multicolored French cuffed shirts on the bed for Daisy to admire, I was sold on Fifty Shades of Pink…..! (This was 1974 when hippies and Mad Men were not merging well). My father was in the textile industry and allowed me, once every other year, to get a suit and a few shirts made by his Hong Kong based tailor. When Gatsby came out, I knew I had to have two things before my 16th birthday:

A) A vintage Rolls Royce
B) Robert Redford’s 3-piece Irish linen winter white suit and lots of pastel shirts

I accomplished “B” quickly. “A” took two years. Finally my father took me to Sam’s Tailor in New York and we got to work on my dream wardrobe. I pulled out my GQ magazine and noted my requests and the quality of shirts. He allowed me to order the exact suit from the photo and four shirts in exquisite fabrics of pinks and powder blues.
Can you believe it?!

IMG_535341 years later, I am fortunate enough to be in Hong Kong and find Sam’s tailor shop down an alley in the middle of Kowloon, slivered in the street with a few million people. It’s really smaller than my drawing room in Charleston, but the bees hummed and the tailors tailored and the fabrics were a candy land of a designer’s passion of elegance and selection. After India, my interest fell back to the bright finishes and textures of solid cottons and stripes. So much is re‐introduced from decades ago and back in vogue, but style is always in style! The two President Bushes and Clinton had their clothes made by Sam’s Tailor along with hundreds of other famous folks. In fact, I noticed a photo in Sam’s dressing room of Churchill having his girth swaddled in Italian wool and Chinese silks, taking him onward and upward in style.

After selecting a knock off of Tom Ford’s blue silk tux with striped silk lining, they started to write up my order and asked if I was a returning client. I shared the story about New York and the beautiful clothing I had purchased several decades ago. The kind gentleman helping me left for a moment then delivered a chilled local beer and asked for me to wait. He returned with a worn, yellowed note card with the name John Kuykandall Benfield, Jr. for son, Merrill IMG_0793A. Benfield. I couldn’t believe it, they still had my account number on file after all these years from my father’s original order for my 16th birthday! When my tux was ready for fitting SIX hours later, the man noted that my information would be updated on the account and my personal number added after my father’s passing. The next day my faux Tom Ford tux was ready, my 41‐ year‐ old number stitched inside my jacket (As only Sam’s does), and off I went to Jamaica for the Sugar Cane Ball with grand memories and my hand‐tailored tux. The value of the bespoke suit is they really create a private masterpiece that understands “your body”… And prices are very fair over the price of rack clothing, thus great value. MY CREDO is always “spend well, once!”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me. One more travel installment to come, stay tuned… this one will be the best yet!
Sent from Heaven,

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