Custom Everything

By Carol Tisch August 1, 2009

asset_upload_file245_28305.jpgWhat defines luxury today? Not a stratospheric price tag, or even the stamp of a famous designer’s name. The greatest luxury is something that was creatively crafted just for you, to fit your tastes and the way you live. Custom-made goods speak volumes when it comes to quality, but they don’t scream excess. Custom is a romantic concept that conjures up images of Savile Row and legendary brands bestowed with royal warrants. But it’s also a thoroughly modern trend, and a democratic one, from kids’ Crocs decorated with individually chosen Jibbitz charms to Nike sneakers you design yourself on the computer. Sarasota retailers and designers are on top of the trend, with a world of personalized products that help you stand out from the crowd. Consider some of our favorites.

Savile Row in Sarasota 

The uncompromising custom clothier.

You don’t have to travel across the pond for true bespoke menswear: Hank Battie of Cravats Custom Clothiers provides the quintessential custom experience right here at home. From selecting the fabric to measuring, cutting, fitting and sewing, Battie specializes in suits

and shirts that are tailored just as they are on Savile Row to the client’s taste, physique, coloring and personal style.

The heady process is all the more exciting because the shop offers the same quality and choices in designer fabrics as the most renowned British clothiers do—wools, cashmere blends and more from Loro Piana, Holland & Sherry, Ermenegildo Zegna—to name-drop just a few. The Washington, D.C.-based Georges De Paris (known as “the president’s tailor” because he’s made custom suits for every U.S. Commander-in-Chief since LBJ) just selected fabrics from Scabal for two suits Barack Obama recently commissioned. Battie has carried Scabal’s exquisite cloth for years.

“Bespoke clothing involves making a pattern from scratch for every garment, as opposed to adapting an existing pattern to a client’s size. Nearly 80 percent of the guys who shop with us are really fashion-conscious and don’t want to buy anything they can find in stores,” Battie says. Shirts run from $85 to $700; at the high end, a sport coat in Zegna’s top-of-the-line cashmere and silk blend costs $3,000. Cravats Custom Clothiers, Studio 5, 1530 Dolphin St., (941) 366-7780

Bespoke Furniture

For interiors apart from the crowd.

Sarasota Collection Home Store does more than just sell custom furniture; this one-of-a-kind showroom will customize an array of decorative products from window treatments to bed fashions to accommodate your personal one-off style. Owners Pam and Marcus Anast produce custom furniture for a cult following of interior designers from New York to Los Angeles, as well as retail customers lucky enough to have discovered the store. “We can customize any piece in any style—from sofas to media cabinets, from Louis XIV to Miami modern,” Pam explains. A small side table starts at $250. A totally customized built-in media unit replete with solid wood shelves and drawers for a 15-by-10 foot wall starts at $17,000.

The shop has an ownership interest in its Peruvian factory and therefore offers exceptional values on dozens of exotic wood veneers, high-gloss enamel finishes, even gold and silver leafing. “Come in and tell us what you want, or bring in a photo from a magazine. We’ll create a mechanical plan for approval, measure your space and produce a piece that’s exclusively for you,” Pam says. Sarasota Collection Home Store, 622 Central Ave., (941) 955-8313

Magic Carpets

Creating the floor of your dreams.

You love calla lilies and want them strewn across your needlepoint carpet. Or perhaps you’d like a favorite oil painting reinterpreted into a work of art for your floor. No problem. It’s already been done at Rugs as Art under the discerning eye of Gale Emmott, who heads the store’s custom design center. “Some people paint by numbers [when designing custom rugs]; I don’t do that,” Emmott says. Instead she conceives one-of-a-kind rugs—custom motifs, sizes, colors, shapes and borders.

“Our rugs are totally unique and personalized,” she says. “We make templates, do the design on paper, color it in, produce a computer rendering, then do a template with the furniture on the rug for motif placement. Customers are involved in every step, and they get an actual rug sample for approval before they are committed.”

Hand-knotted rugs start at $65 a square foot; gun-tufted or needlepoint rugs start at $55, with price depending on weight and fiber. Emmott prefers to custom-dye yarn to match fabrics, paint chips and more, at no extra charge. Rugs as Art, 6650 S. Tamiami Trail, (941) 921-1900

Fairytale Nurseries

Pamper them properly with custom.

Once upon a time there were no celebrity babies—only royalty had nurseries fit for, well… royalty. 

That changed with rock star tots like Suri Cruise, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt and the J-Lo twins. The media frenzy over their Moses cradles ($300) and bassinets ($1,000) from Lulla Smith, bed linens by Nava Designs (from $700 to $1,800) and custom furniture from Plenty’s Horn or Art for Kids introduced us to a new world of personalized luxury.

You’ll find it all—and more—at A Bun in the Oven in Lakewood Ranch. The store customizes nurseries from floor to ceiling and will set up an appointment with Sarasota artist Leisa Watts to paint a fairytale mural on the walls. Choose from exquisitely detailed carving and appliqués and painstakingly applied designer finishes on cribs and dressers. “A baby nursery is a celebration of life—and our bedding is an heirloom for your child,” says Nava Writz, whose handmade-in-America baby linen confections grace the nurseries of Hollywood and sports superstars. The store will work with customers to help them choose crib fabrics from Dupioni silk to cotton batiste, and will customize patterns, colors and sizes. A Bun in the Oven, 8205 Natures Way, Suite #105, San Marco Plaza (941) 907-6667

Romancing The Wall

Custom papers replace gallery art.

The blogosphere is seething with lust for hand-painted Chinese scenic wallpapers. Call it the epitome of eclecticism: The ancient designs and materials seem fresh and new in 21st-century homes. Veranda and Architectural Digest love the look, which can run as high as $30,000 for a dining room scenic from venerable suppliers like Gracie (c.1898).

One of the names designers are blogging about is artist and former Sarasotan Paul Montgomery, founder of the renowned Paul Montgomery Studio. In one of those blogs, Paul’s chinoiserie paper called “Selby Garden” caught our eye. Montgomery attended Ringling School in 1972 and lived in Sarasota for nearly 10 years. “I was inspired by the work of Dr. Kiat Tan, the first director of Selby’s orchid identification center,” says Montgomery, whose silk papers are hand-painted by Chinese artists in the same style used for Chinese export wallpaper in the 18th century.

Each design in the Chinoiserie Collection has at least 20 continuous panels with no repetition of design elements. That allows for an uninterrupted scene of at least 60 linear feet that can be customized in color, background paper and more. The Antiquity series depicts historical scenes dating as far back as the Tang and Qing dynasty (1200-1900 BC). Hand-painted Chinese wallpapers begin at $544 per panel with a one-panel minimum. Designer’s Source of Sarasota, 1785 Northgate Blvd. (941) 955-4109

The Light Fantastic

Slippers for Cinderella and her prince.

If you can’t get to Palm Beach, Manhattan or

Southhampton for custom slippers, Stubbs & Wootton will bring them to you. Embraced by East Coast bluebloods (and coveted by everyone else in the country) since 1993, the company visits Addison Craig during season with a trunk show of styles you’ve spied on Mary Kate Olsen, Sarah Jessica Parker, Denzel Washington and more.

But Stubbs & Wootton’s signature slipper isn’t a house slipper at all. It’s an incredibly comfortable outdoor shoe that cognoscenti wear from day to evening paired with everything from tailored trousers to jeans or Bermuda shorts. “When we come to Sarasota, we offer two personalization programs,” explains Gregory D’Elia of Stubbs & Wootton. “You can change an existing style with a different running line color or fabric. Or you can customize with your choice of any logo, crest, color and fabric.” Slippers with classic embroidered monograms are $600 a pair. For $900, myriad choices are possible, even hand-worked monogramming in England with gold bullion or silver wire. Addison Craig, 28 S. Boulevard of Presidents, (941) 388-3400

Color Me Beautiful

Unique artist-made apparel for women.

When you bill yourself as an art-to-wear store, you attract customers with creative flair and a penchant for individuality. That’s exactly the type of woman Dream Weaver on St. Armands Circle caters to with unique clothes and accessories from 75 of the continent’s most important textile artists. But it doesn’t stop there. Designers and artists visit the store regularly for trunk shows and personal appearances, and many of them are ready to customize garments to suit a particular client’s body type and skin color.

“It’s a unique shopping experience,” says Joan McKeon, founder of what is now the largest art-to-wear store in the country. Dream Weaver’s staff is trained to work with customers on customizable collections from Kiss of the Wolf’s hand-dyed silk shirts and jackets to celeb designer Mark Heister’s pants, tops and dresses (available in a choice of 60 silk colors). “Thirty percent of our business is special order,” McKeon says. “One of our jewelry designers, Susan Green in Santa Fe, will even create a necklace to match an outfit if we send her a fabric swatch.” It’s all about personal style—and not seeing yourself coming and going at social events throughout the season. Dream Weaver, 364 St. Armands Circle, (941) 388-1974

Portrait In A Bottle

Customize a signature scent.

Follow your nose to Lotus, where Wendy Getchell

is appealing to Sarasota’s olfactory senses with customizable fragrance brands like Eau de Yosh and Zents. “Commercial fragrances are like watching silent black-and-white films; customized fragrance is like Blu-ray digital Technicolor,” says San Francisco celeb perfumer Yosh Han, who created a signature scent for Getchell during a personal appearance at Lotus.

Yosh creates custom scents by appointment in her Bay City studio or by correspondence (fees from $2,500 to $10,000 for from 30 to 300 ingredients). For instant gratification and a lot less money, Getchell and staff will help you blend and layer Yosh’s fragrances to create your own “eau de me.” Yosh offers six distinctive perfume oils in her Luxury Elements collection ($144 a bottle) and Sweet Suite sampler with vials of all six for $38. Try a different scent on each wrist, rub your wrists together and you’re on your way to a custom blend.

Zents, a new collection, was invented explicitly for customizing. “We can blend a personal scent by layering different fragrances for their toilet water ($52), body oil ($52), and roll-on attar ($39). It’s really fun; everyone wants a scent of their own,” Getchell says. Lotus, 1451 Main St., (941) 906-7080

Kodak Moments 

Your photos immortalized in tile.

The art of adorning walls goes back to prehistoric cave dwellers. But how do homeowners in the 21st century personalize their floors, walls—even backsplashes over the kitchen range? The answer, says Marshall Alexander of The Tile Market, is reproducing favorite photographs, posters, perhaps even a scan of a fabric swatch, onto gorgeous tumbled marble or travertine tiles.

The possibilities are endless: Wildlife shots from an African safari, photos of beach sunsets or Tuscan hill towns can be converted into truly customized murals in weeks. “The color consistency, depth and clarity are as good as if not better than hand-painting, but this process is much less expensive,” Alexander says. Client artwork is transferred to digital format and then sized, colored, and modified until the rendering is approved.

Custom murals average under $200 per square foot (tiles come in 4-by-4-inches or 6-by-6-inches and are offered with coordinating filler tiles and trims). The manufacturer bills prep time at $150 an hour, estimated in advance. “Wine cellars are big for us. We’ve had customers do vineyard scenes they’ve photographed in Tuscany and California—someone even had us plug in their name on the sign outside a favorite winery,” Alexander says. The Tile Market, 1724 Main St., (941) 365-2356

Sleeping Beauties

Flawless custom bed linens.

For a fresh approach to a centuries-old European tradition, Square on the Circle offers the ultimate custom bed linens of impeccable quality and craftsmanship. The difference is these linens can be completely coordinated to your interior design scheme—even if it’s contemporary. “You begin by selecting from an array of Italian-made luxury fabrics,” explains Bill Horrigan, the only retailer in the area authorized to carry the Bespoke by Matouk collection. “Depending on your preference, the program offers everything from a no-iron 50/50 Egyptian cotton/polyester percale blend to 1010 threat-count Egyptian cotton sateen no-iron.”

The program includes 150 embroidery thread colors and custom embroidery in 16 patterns from classic chain and Greek key motifs to climbing floral vines. Extra couturier touches include contrasting top sheet cuffs to match embroidery colors, three-inch flanges on pillow shams and duvet covers, and fitted sheets customized for pocket size. It’s all finished to the highest standard with classic cording or hemstitching and monogrammed with crests or initials if desired. All custom orders take five to eight weeks. A queen set with flat and fitted sheet and two standard pillowcases will run from $430 to $1,400 with pattern on the cases and top sheet. Monogramming is additional. Sweet dreams. Square on the Circle, 25 N. Boulevard of Presidents, (941) 388-1322

Leather Luxe 

When your own initials are enough.

Custom leather commissions are rarely available outside the fashion capitals of the world. But in Sarasota, women can procure a personalized handbag from T. Georgiano’s. Quietly elegant, the personalized styles, leathers and colors are as beautiful as any elitist status bag—and just as difficult to acquire outside of Sarasota. “We’re the only store in America authorized to carry Ema G.G Firenze,” says Tatyana Sharoubim (the “T” in T. Georgiano’s).

Pelletterie Ema G.G., a renowned custom house in Florence, Italy, personalizes items for the store, from a genuine ostrich pet carrier ($1,600 in a size suitable for an eight-pound pup), to a handbag custom-crafted in your choice of color and leather ($770 to $8,000). These carryalls include all the bells and whistles of “It” bags without the infamous two-year waiting lists.

There is a wait of six to eight weeks, depending on the material chosen. “We’re licensed to import exotic skins into the country, and even if all the paperwork is in order, it’s complicated to get exotic skins like alligators through customs,” explains Sharoubim. Less patient customers will find Sharoubim’s elegant boutique brimming with exclusive in-stock goodies. “We go to Milan once a year to work with our factories. We personally select the colors and heels for our shoes and have them made especially for our store,” she says. T. Georgiano’s Shoe Salon, 1409-B First St., (941) 870-3727

A Charmed Life 

Amulets are so this century.

How can so many celebrities wear the same Love Letter necklace and look totally different? Customization is the answer, says Brenda Michel of the Met Fashion House & Day Spa. “Every necklace comes with a cluster in your choice of gemstones surrounding a gold disk monogrammed with the initials of a loved one. The initial could be your spouse’s, a new baby’s—and as your family grows, you add more,” Michael explains. Designed by Mauri Pioppo, the necklace is $420 in 14K gold; additional gemstone clusters with initialed disk are $150. Felicity Huffman wears one in coral; Penelope Cruz chose turquoise; Debra Messing got one as a gift with her newborn son’s initial;, and Cameron Diaz created a three-cluster amethyst Love Letter for her three BFFs bearing each of their initials. The Met Fashion House Day Spa & Salon, 35 S. Boulevard of Presidents, (941) 388-3991

If you doubt the public’s love affair with personalization, consider the meteoric success of Pandora charm bracelets. Launched in the U.S. in 2003, the Danish brand is already sold at 11 stores here from Bradenton to Venice. “Pandora appeals to women interested in creating their own style and telling their own unique story,” says Ron Saba of Ashley Avery’s Collectables.

It’s fun to watch customers pore over the hundreds of charms and beads offered in sterling silver and 14K gold ($20 to $400). With even more variables—gemstones, pearls, Murano glass beads—the possibilities for individuality are endless. Unadorned silver bracelets start at $21; but you’ll be set back $990 for the most expensive bracelet in gold. Ashley Avery’s Collectables, 1425 First St., (941) 955-9593; Wish on Main, 8111 Lakewood Main Street, Lakewood Ranch (941) 907-9125

Driven To Perfection 

Giving your golf swing an edge.

A set of clubs that fits just right is every golfer’s Holy Grail—and the passion of Nick Arthur, assistant golf pro and master club fitter at the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club. Arthur likens a Members Club custom fitting to the work of a bespoke tailor. “There is a standard for men’s and women’s golf clubs, just as there are standard sizes in clothing,” he explains. “If you bought a suit and it didn’t fit off the rack, you’d get it tailored. It’s the same thing with a golf club.”

But not all fittings are equal. The Members Golf Club (the only pro shop in Florida named to Golf World magazine’s 2009 list of the 25 Best Private Club Golf Shops in America) uses state-of-the-art fitting carts from TaylorMade and Titleist employing the newest “interchangeable club” technology. This technology can tailor clubs to an enormous range of individual traits and skills. TaylorMade’s SelectFit cart, for instance, can create 186 driver combinations and 258 iron possibilities.

Arthur analyzes the player’s swing on the driving range, fine-tuning until the club matches his swing for consistency, impact, launch angle trajectory and curvature of the golf ball. When the session is complete, the client takes the test club out on the course and plays with it. “Once players see the difference on the course, they come back and buy,” Arthur says. A set of custom-fit golf clubs will run from $399 and up; the club fitting fee is $100. The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, Members Golf Club, 15150-70th Terrace E., Bradenton, (941) 309-2900.

Made to Measure

Personalizing the designer label.

The appetite for custom has triggered new personalization options for off-the-rack suits and shirts from several luxury men’s fashion labels. The Met offers made-to-measure Armani suits, sport coats, tuxedos and even overcoats, according to owner Geoffrey Michel. Once a customer selects a style, the pattern will be adjusted to his measurements. Clients also get the option of choosing from Armani’s selection of hundreds of fabric swatches. “The result is a truly perfect fit and a unique look, which are important to the discerning client,” Michel says.

That client should like a new custom sport shirt program Michel is about to launch. “Options include fabric, collar, cuffs, buttons—and the fit is amazing: there are 29 different points of measure,” he says. The Met Fashion House Day Spa & Salon, 35 S. Boulevard of Presidents, (941) 388-3991.

At Saks Fifth Avenue, made-to-measure shirt programs from names such as Ike Behar are garnering praise from customers. Measurements are taken by the store’s alterations staff, and clients choose from at least 50 colors and patterns, with options on everything from cuffs and collars to pockets and tapering. Angela Bailey, menswear department manager, says prices average $270. “It’s a question of introducing customers to the program and explaining why made-to-measure is better. Once they try it, they’re hooked,” Bailey says. Saks Fifth Avenue, 3501 S. Tamiami Trail, (941) 364-5300 ❚

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