These Japanese Suits Fit and Feel Like Bespoke Right Off The Rack
Of course, you'd never have to worry about style or fit if all your clothes were made-to-measure or bespoke, but let's face it: it’s not always possible to spend a good chunk of money and be a dressmaker’s dummy for a day (or two fittings).
Enter renowned Japanese clothier Ring Jacket, with its killer value proposition: the quality and fit of a bespoke garment but in ready-to-wear form. When you wear a Ring Jacket suit, it feels tailor-fitted to you. Needless to say, you pay only a fraction of what it would have cost to travel to Italy, hunt down that special craftsman, and have something made to measure.
Ring Jacket has been at this sartorial game since 1954, when founder Jhoichi Fukushima became a fan of European tailoring and decided to bring the Ivy League look back home. Thus began their meticulous production of beautifully-crafted suits, using a combination of hand and machine work. Until today, you’ll find that they still hand-sew collars to the lapels for better balance and optimal fit, as well as hand-stitch seams, buttonholes, and other design elements.
Jhoichi’s son, Kunichi, is cut from the same cloth as his dad, joining the company in 1983 and continuing the family tradition of excellence when he took over management in 1995. “Style changes, but not policy,” the president of Ring Jacket said when he was in Manila to introduce their latest collection at local men’s specialty store Signet. “We have to change the mindset and style. Despite the different seasons, the different years, our policy is still very good sewing.”
When Italian clothing rose to prominence in the 1980s, Ring Jacket embraced the casual and ever popular Neapolitan style, heralding an era where Japan arguably became the new mecca of sprezzatura (that Italian catchword for careless or nonchalant cool). Nowadays, the company makes some of the best Neapolitan suits outside of Naples.
While the look itself projects effortlessness, there’s actually a history of hard work behind Ring Jacket’s softer tailoring. “We worked closely with the tailoring masters of southern Italy to learn and adapt their craft to Japan,” Kunichi says in Ring Jacket’s brand book. “Today, we offer a Japanese garment with an Italian flavor. Our clothes are beautiful but never stuffy, lightweight but with a clear and rakish shape.”
For Kunichi, “the jacket is the ultimate item a man can own,” as it not only makes him look more attractive but also “highlights his personality in the best way possible.” A mark of the Neapolitan jacket would be soft shoulders, a tailoring method where the natural line of the shoulder is showcased (no false advertising of your physical attributes here, just clean lines and a bit of shirring). The generous use of fabric also provides freer movement, without sacrificing the just-right fit of the jacket. The focus is the shoulder, lapel, and chest, and there’s very minimal lining—“just the canvas,” says Kunichi—so that the coat fits like a second skin. You’ll also find that every Ring Jacket piece on the rack has basted elements, to adjust as needed for the end-user.
“We do only minor alterations because, usually, Ring Jacket is perfect, the fit is perfect,” says Kelly See, one of the trio of gents behind Signet store’s curated mix of artisanal and heritage brands. He also points out that the use of open-weave, high-twist fabric in the unstructured, minimally lined jackets gives the wearer extra comfort and room to breathe, particularly because the tropical weather here can be stiflingly hot. Plus it can be rolled up and packed—crushed, actually—and still emerge without creases. “The fabric doesn’t wrinkle much. And it’s sturdier, tougher,” says See.
Ring Jacket is very particular about its cloth: They design and manufacture their own fabrics, sometimes in collaboration with renowned mills from around the world, such as Carlo Barbera from Italy. For example, they created the Balloon wool, a lightweight mix of wool and linen, decorated with a windowpane of fine nylon. A jacket made from this breathable material, held up to the light, is almost see-through.
It’s usually a limited run per season, as Ring Jacket would use only two rolls of original fabric to make 32 or 33 suits. In the Philippines, Signet carries a full run of two sets, or two pieces per size. The store carries sizes 42 to 52, and a Ring Jacket sport coat could cost P55,000 to P65,000. Suits, meanwhile, could go up to P80,000, which is still nowhere near the production of bespoke suits, which Signet also offers (sometimes flying in tailors for their clients), that could cost around P200,000.
“In the past, we would just import fabric from Italy and England, but now we make our own fabric in Japan. An original product is very important,” says Ring Jacket sales director Hideyoshi Sasamoto.
Ask any of them for advice, and they’ll tell you exactly what suit to try: Ring Jacket’s 184 model, which has had a 50-year bestselling run, only getting “slimmer” through the decades. Sasamoto will push you to try something “fun to wear,” or anything with an “H” (meaning handmade). Kunichi would pick a classic peaked lapel for your tuxedo (a special line of tuxedos for Signet is forthcoming, watch out for it). And See would remind you to cover your butt—literally—as he finds the current trend of shorter jackets to be neither classy nor elegant. He sums it up with a maxim: “The right fit, the right length, and good fabric. That’s it. Very simple.”
Signet, Shangri-La at the Fort