Purwin & Radczun are a rarity. Being one of the few, if not the only true bespoke tailoring company in Germany, they are trying to revive a craftsmanship that seem to have been lost. Founded two years ago, the tailoring studio located at Landwehrkanal produces shirts, suits, smokings and coats for men and women in a traditional way with over 80 hours of work going into a single piece. I visited their studio to find out more about the development of the idea and the process of creating a suit.
Their studio is a huge Berlin Altbau apartment, fully equipped with double doors, stucco and wooden floors, furnished with heavy wooden tables, copper hanging rails, glass cabinets, contemporary art and a giant piñata hanging off the ceiling of the main office space. The company is just a little over two years old, but they’re engaging techniques and methods with a long history.
While Boris Radczun is known city-wide for co-owning the most notorious restaurants and bars in Berlin, Grill Royal, Pauly Saal and King Size; Martin Purwin has a background in fashion, he used to work in sales for classic menswear companies like Kiton and Armani before stepping into the world of denim. Where after seven years he felt the urge to return to the artisanal product, to a sense for fabric, local production and sourcing. With Boris Radczun he started to research hand-made and tailored shirt makers in Germany and where surprised to find nothing adequate to the quality they knew from studios in Naples or Paris. Out of this issue arose the idea to make their own.
Trying to work with local master tailors didn’t work out though, turns out most of them insist on using a strict yet often old-fashioned pattern making rule system established by Müller und Sohn and often don’t quite understand why a sleeve needs to be put in by hand instead of simply using the machine. That narrowmindedness is the simplified yet true reason why the classic craftsmanship of bespoke is so minor in Germany today. While there are some studios left, like Volkmar Arnulf in Potsdam or Heinz-Josef Radermacher in Düsseldorf, their number is diminishing thanks to their adherence to the common patterns.
Martin Purwin and Boris Radczun both have strong skills in marketing and sales, so adding James Whitfield, a tailor trained in Savile Row, London, to the team about six months after founding Purwin&Radczun, perfected their vision of what they wanted to create: a bespoke tailoring house with a distinctive style that produces as much as possible by hand.
James Whitfield learned at and worked for the finest of Savile Row houses, Anderson&Sheppard, before he came to Berlin one and a half years ago to work with Martin and Boris. He now leads a team of four tailors, all of which were specially trained by him to understand the style of Purwin & Radczun. Creating an artisanal product takes time, it is not only made-to-measure, it’s bespoke. Which literally means to give an order for something to be made, but they’re using it in a broader sense. It starts by choosing the item you want, whether it’s a coat, a suit, a shirt, a smoking or a cut – name it, they’ll make it. Then you’ll choose the fabric in agreement with James, who tells me many first-time clients initially want to go for the bright colors, while he’ll always advice them to start with the most classic of all: navy.
After taking your measurements, James will make your pattern and just three fittings later, you’re done and will receive a timeless piece that fits and suits no one, but you. While I am at the studio talking to them, the third fitting of an unlined jacket for Boris is done. It takes only about three minutes for James to check what changes need to be done, they’re minor yet will have an influence on the final piece. All in all, it takes about two weeks in between each fitting and a total of 80 hours of work to produce a suit. The first one you’ll have made will take the longest time, once they’ve got your basic measurements the process will be faster, since your pattern might only have to be a little adapted.
Purwin & Radczun don’t do fast fashion, you’ll acquire an item you’ll keep for the rest of your life. Although their pricing ranges well below Savile Row, it’s still an impressing sum to invest. But while their artisanal products might seem to appeal to people from 60 years up, the majority of their clients are actually between 35 and 45 and working in the creative fields being writers, artists or gallery owners. People with a trained eye for the special details, that is.
If you want to start lighter, the label also offers a selection of ready-to-wear pieces as well as accessories. Next up are plans of weaving their own fabrics and, unsurprisingly, a move into the center of Berlin.