Bespoke flannel trousers from Toronto’s Sebastian Richard
One morning, a little over a year ago, I arrived early for an appointment at Sr. Francesco‘s. The doors weren’t open yet but I noticed one of his assistant tailors, Sebastian Richard Espinosa, sitting in a car in the parking lot. He was working on a pair of his own trousers, sewing the waistband. We chatted for a bit and an idea hit me. I had known Sebastian for a few months and could recognise not only his skill but his desire to learn and develop into a true sartorial tailor. I liked the style of the trousers he was working on and so I commissioned a pair for myself.
We proceeded to meet at his father Riccardo’s shop in Yorkville. I wanted forward pleats, cuffs, a lightweight waistband, full rise. Similar to what Sebastian had made for himself. (This is a lesson I’ve learned over the years: ask tailors to make what they already make well). I brought him some lovely brown flannel I had found at Sultan’s. We met for a couple of fittings, as he made the trousers completely bespoke. I was impressed, as the process went on, by how easily he understood my concerns and especially by his humility: he would regularly pull his father into fittings for advice. Riccardo used to be Signor Francesco‘s trouser maker so he knows a thing or two about tailoring.
My first pair of Sebastian Richard trousers, in brown flannel.
I was very pleased with how the trousers turned out. The fit is excellent through the waist and hips which is a challenge with me as I have what tailors call a “full seat.” I was especially pleased with the finishing. Sebastian pulled out all the stops with expert top stitching along most seams, hand-finished button holes throughout (even on the inside of the waistband where they cannot be seen but the experience of doing and un-doing them is a pleasure for the wearer), a DAKS waistband tightener, and clever touches like buttoned cuffs (so then can be opened up and dusted). I was so impressed with his work I became more interested in his story.
Sebastian’s father Riccardo was a tailor in his native Ecuador before moving to Canada. He worked first at Tip Top Tailors and then opened his own business. Sebastian was regularly babysat in his father’s tailor shop or home workshop and went on to work with his father during summers as a teenager. But after finishing high school, Sebastian took a year off. In that time, he realised that tailoring offered him not only a creative outlet but an employment opportunity: people were taking a new interest in tailoring and he was in a good position to take up the craft full-time. However, his father was too busy, as with many tailors, to take him on as an apprentice and student.
So Sebastian returned to his family’s roots in Ecuador. Quite literally: for a few years, he attended the same tailoring school in Quito where his father had trained. Sebastian would study for a semester then return to Canada to work and save up for tuition for another round. He tells me the school focuses on an Italian approach to cutting, even working in centimetres. Despite the continental approach, Sebastian dreamed of working on Savile Row, “like an actor dreams of working in Hollywood.” He also dreamt of entering the Golden Shears Competition, a bi-annual contest that recognises the best up-and-coming tailors in England.
So, in his late twenties, Sebastian convinced his new wife to move across the Pond. With the skills he’d already built up, and the confidence of youth, he knocked on door after Savile Row door, inquiring about apprenticeships. Everyone turned him down. Then, as now, the tailoring industry was caught between a traditional craft and contemporary economics: it takes years for someone to learn the trade but a tailor cannot afford to pay someone to learn. Even if you show up with some skills, you might be a burden on the tailor until they’ve taught you enough to start contributing.
Eventually, to make ends meet, Sebastian took a position with Cad & The Dandy as a salesman. He worked alongside Michael Browne, who himself worked part time as a tailor at the respected house of Chittleborough and Morgan. (He would later move on to work under his own name). They both became frustrated, however, because they wanted to focus on the craft of tailoring not measuring people for suits someone else made. Sebastian quit and found a new job with a relatively unknown coatmaker. He wasn’t on Savile Row but Savile Row tailors would subcontract to him when they got too busy. Over time, Sebastian proved his usefulness and commitment and became the coatmaker’s right hand man. He taught Sebastian a lot but what was especially useful was getting to know the different approaches and styles of various Savile Row houses. Not the most glamorous job, but at the same time, supremely useful for someone who wants to learn.
And then another of Sebastian’s dreams came true. He applied for the 2015 Golden Sheers competition and of the many submissions, his was selected for the top 20 finalists, based on the accuracy, craftsmanship and style of his submission. He created a tweed hunting suit that I’ve seen in person and is quite impressive. Sebastian didn’t win, but he’d already accomplished more than he’d hoped.
Eventually, in mid 2016 as his travel visa was expiring, he and his wife decided to return home to Toronto. Sebastian was at a crossroads. He could return to work with his father but that business, mostly alterations and some made-to-measure, is not what Sebastian wanted. Then he heard about LeatherFoot and their vision: to create a sartorial destination that combines finely crafted shoes and accessories with supreme tailoring. Sebastian had known Signor since he was a child – Signor tells me he remembers little Sebastian crawling along his cutting tables – so he applied and worked alongside the master for about six months. Once again, however, Sebastian decided to go his own way.
The DAKS fastener on my first pair of trousers.
Some of the finishing on my first pair of trousers, including a buttonhole built right into a seam.
Striking my pattern on the flannel fabric.
Shaping the fabric before construction begins. As Sebastian says “Making the garment before making the garment.”
The back of my new trousers, which feature a pocket placed close to the side seam.
And that’s when I decided to commission another pair of trousers. I needed a proper pair of flannels in my wardrobe and wanted something light grey. Sebastian recommended a complex, heavy 14oz worsted flannel from Huddersfield’s Dugdale Bros & Co. In terms of the trousers themselves, the only changes I wanted from my first pair were side adjusters instead of DAKS, just for variety, and a slightly trimmer fit around the crotch and behind, as my first pair had perhaps a bit too much fabric.
Sebastian did a number of fittings to insure this second pair was even better then the first. We met at his father’s old location in Yorkville, then his new location near Davenport and Avenue Road. The trousers are indeed an improvement on the first pair, as the shape around the middle is even slimmer, while remaining comfortable both standing and sitting. The finishing is of the same high level as the first pair and the fabric is as good as I hoped: it hangs like a dream, the front crease sharp enough to slice bread.
I want to make it clear, however, that Sebastian is not exclusively a trouser maker. He is a full tailor, able to cut and make jackets and trousers. This is something rather rare in the tailoring world but a lesson he learned from his father, who told him early on “it’s important to know how to do everything.” I have not had a jacket made by Sebastian so I cannot comment on that aspect of his craft, but I like the pieces he’s done for himself. His jackets are softer and lighter than traditional British tailoring, while not as light as southern Italian. He prefers some shoulder padding, a bit of a shoulder line, sometimes with a touch of roping, a one-button closure, a clean front with a bit of drape in the back, a barchetta pocket. It seems a very international style, like his training: influenced by various schools without being exclusively one or the other.
Sebastian offers two services for custom suits: bespoke and semi-bespoke. The former is fully canvased by hand, hand finished and Sebastian does all the work, including the trousers. Semi-bespoke has a pre-assembled canvas, more machine work, like machine button holes, and the trousers are made off-site. However, it is all cut and overseen, as well as finished, by Sebastian. Pretty good for half the price of bespoke.