The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Made To Measure

My relationship with clothes has never been an easy one.

For a large chunk of my adult life I occupied the category of overweight that excludes from being able to buy clothes from most high-street shops. Specialist stores were the norm and they were always limited in choice.

In essence, "whatever fits" was my dress style.

For more than 10 years I have been several stone lighter, and now just look like a more typically slightly overweight middle-aged man, but I have still had little sense of what to wear. Black jeans, a cotton or linen shirt, and a waistcoat (handy for the pockets) is my default, and it's often a struggle just to find that.

High street shops seem to want me either to dress like a young metrosexual, or like my 80-something year old Dad – neither of which have any appeal.

So it felt like entering some strange parallel universe when I was commissioned by Dumfries and Galloway Life magazine to do some photos of Savile Row trained tailor, Andrew Livingston.

For those who don't know, Savile Row is a street in London is where many of the top tailors in the world are based. World leaders, superstars, and the very rich go there for bespoke, hand-made, hand-fitted suits.

His great-grandfather established Livingston tailors in 1896, making Andrew the 4th generation of his family to enter the business, with his son, Lewis, continuing the tradition. Although he was enjoying London life at the time, when his father became ill, he returned to Castle Douglas to take over running the family business.

A rural region in SW Scotland such as this isn't big enough to contain someone of his skills, and more recently he and his wife, Sue, have found themselves on trips over to China to tap into a demand for British made bespoke suits.

And the suits are beautiful.

Back in my days of being a web designer I often wore a suit to business meetings, but these were off-the-peg, and always a compromise because of my proportions. Being heavily overweight meant that I might have a large chest, but I didn't have the long arms to match. In the end I found suits that were OK, but I never felt they fitted properly.

It's now over 15 years since I last wore a suit, and I can't imagine a need for one in the immediate future. But as Andrew and Sue were talking about the processes and attention to detail, I did find myself beginning to think just how amazing it would be to have an outfit that fitted perfectly. No compromise, no "it'll do," but something actually designed to specifically fit my body shape.

The very notion of a bespoke, tailored suit has always been something that happens to people in films – a universe away from my own world. But suddenly discovering this world is literally just across the road from me feels quite odd.

Mind you, being just 130 yards down the other side of the road made taking all my photography gear much more awkward than usual. Generally all I have to do is shift it from my house to the car, and from the car to the place I'm doing the shoot, which I'm then parked right outside of. But with the shop being too close to take the car, it meant I had to carry it all much further than usual.

Although I did several shots inside, an image D&G Life particularly wanted was one of Andrew standing outside the shop, but for this I had to get the timing exactly right.

King Street runs more or less North East to South West, which means up until about 3pm, the sun hits the buildings opposite Livingston's, and so creates bright reflections in the windows, to the point where you can't see the display through them. However, by about 3.15pm, the sun has moved far enough around to start hitting the windows directly and creating a similar problem.

Fortunately we managed to grab that 15 minute window of opportunity. It meant Andrew himself was lit to one side by the sun, but I was able to fill in some of the shadows with an off-camera flash on the other side of him.

The end result I was really pleased with. The photo gives a sense of the man, the shop, and enough of Castle Douglas in the reflections to give you a sense of the street without it dominating the picture.

Andrew Livingston

Now I just have to keep working on the goal of becoming a highly paid, internationally renowned, sought-after photographer so I can afford my own bespoke suits...

For more on this, visit their website - - and/or pick up a copy of the August edition of Dumfries and Galloway Life - out now.

As it appeared in the August 2018 edition of Dumfries and Galloway Life


savannah said...

Recently, we watched a couple of shows that featured bespoke tailors that have made the MITM sigh! the closest he's come to a bespoke suit was having a tailor here alter an off the rack suit for him! it did fit better, but as the tailor said a handmade suit would take years (and pounds) off of him! At this point, he just sighs every time he has to put his off the rack blazer on! xoxo

Kim Ayres said...

Savannah - From what I could make out, they can take anything from 60 to 120 hours to create - and that's just one suit!
One day...

daisyfae said...

Great story, great portraits. i genuinely appreciate the way you share not only the back story, but you work in some educational nuggets on how to do what you do...

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks Daisyfae :)
It's only that if I find something fascinating, I want to tell other people so they will find it fascinating too :)

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