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Clothier Tony Woods takes one of dozens of measurements needed to craft a custom suit for Ben Hildebrandt.

Speaking of Bespoke: A Word on Custom Fashions

It’s undeniable that the workplace has gone casual, but Ben Hildebrandt and his custom-made suits will have nothing to do with it.

"If you dress up, you show respect for the people you’re dealing with," says Hildebrandt, president of strategy and public relations firm Carpe Futura.

Helping him show this respect are Pat Langel and Tony Woods, of custom tailors Langel & Woods. The two have fitted out hundreds of business people from their shop in Valley Junction. Langel started the company in 1991 and was later joined by Woods.

Will their bespoke suits give you an edge business wise? Langel, who once designed suits for then-Vice President George Bush, says studies have shown that dressing up makes you a better worker. He even has persuaded his son, who lives and works in New York, to suit up when he’s working at home.

But in Des Moines, by appointment, Langel and Woods host clients at their shop, where they select a design and a fabric and take more than two dozen measurements—of arms, legs, chest, girth—so that the cutting of the suit fits the individual.

"Nobody’s built like a mannequin,"  Langel says. "These suits are built to fit the man." That doesn’t happen with suits sold off a rack. And the custom work is surprisingly affordable: typically $900 to $1,500 for a suit made to your precise measurements.

When you wear a suit every day, Hildebrandt says it’s important to have the proper fit that bespoke material can give you. It’s also key to have quality fabric that will stand the test of time. Langel said he prefers merino wool from sheep raised in Tasmania, as they produce a fiber that is straight and keeps its shape.

Des Moines is fortunate enough to host several custom tailoring operations. A few are based inside retail shops, such as Mr. B, in Clive, and Badowers, on Ingersoll Avenue. A stand-alone here is Berardi Brothers in Clive, which has been knocking out bespoke suits since 1951.

Anthony Berardi (son of a founder) and John Berardi (grandson) collectively have 70 years of experience in hand-making suits for Des Moines customers. This lifetime of learning is deployed on customers who count on their skills to build a suit with the right fit, the right feel.

"Besides a tape measure, our eyes will tell us what’s going on" to match a human frame to a bolt of finely made wool. The piece de resistance at Berardi is a bench-made suit that takes 90-plus hours to construct over a two-month period at their shop.

Service on this clothing is exceptional, says Hildebrandt. Quality tailors will always alter suits as body shapes change. And both Langel & Woods and Berardi will make house calls; if you’re too busy to call on them, they’ll swing by your home or office. For the younger set, Langel & Woods even stretches out payments.

Young or old, the overarching call for a good suit is a desire to have nice clothing. Or maybe just a desire to have something that fits really, really nicely ("like pajamas," says Hildebrandt.) Either way, says John Berardi, "they reap the benefit of their hard work."

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A Pro's Touch Helps Your Shoes Stay in Step with Wardrobe

If you want to look your best, from head to toe, look up Tanya Manatt for help in the well-shined shoe department.

Manatt is a consultant to Langel and Woods, custom tailors based in Valley Junction. While working there, she says, she saw more than a few customers come in with shoes that were scuffed up and really didn’t properly work with the custom suit they were getting. She likes to work with her hands and believed she could bring some value to these worn shoes. So she went online to learn about shoes, leathers and proper ways to care for them.

Manatt got a video tutorial on shoe-shining from a professional on Seville Row in London. She even bought shoe care products he offered, and she has now launched a shoe shine service available through Langel and Woods.

First, there is conditioning of a shoe under her care. After a rest of 20 minutes or so, there is a waxing of the shoe. In due time, polishing. All of which Manatt (515-205-4998, or, accomplishes within a 24-hour turnaround time.

Manatt specializes in men’s shoes but says she recently took on a pair of women’s boots that were destined for the trash and mollycoddled them sufficiently to extend their life for a few years. You can help your own shoes by deploying shoe trees; they help eliminate moisture and preserve the footwear’s original shape.

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Cruise Lines Battle Over Amenities

When the $1.35 billion Symphony of the Seas steamed out of Barcelona on its maiden voyage last April, it instantly claimed the title of world’s largest cruise ship.

At 228,000 gross tonnes, Symphony is a tad larger than the previous titleholder, its two-year-old sister, the Harmony of the Seas. But dive deeper into the stats and the victory looks iffy. It’s actually the same length and carries fewer passengers, a maximum of 6,680.

Owner Royal Caribbean Cruises, which has continually led the industry with its ever-larger vessels, says size won’t matter as much as it used to. Of the 16 ships the company has on order, only one will be larger than Symphony, and just barely. Icon, the new class of ships the company is building in a Finnish shipyard, will be smaller.

"We don’t expect that there will be a leap in the size," said Harri Kulovaara, the naval architect who has led ship construction at Royal Caribbean for 23 years. "There might be some tweaks, but not quantum leaps."

Instead, the Miami-based company is focusing on how to make guests happier on those big boats, which can run close to a quarter mile in length. With eight of the 10 largest cruise ships in the world, Royal Caribbean is looking to speed the boarding process and get the fun started sooner. It’s introducing technology to give guests more control over their vacations and is creating on-board entertainment that’s more personal in nature.


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