Andrew Raphael brings New York style to the East Village.
Writer: Bryce Jones
Photos: Duane Tinkey
For nearly a decade, Andrew Raphael has traveled the country to create suits that are perfectly tailored to his clients. He got his start designing menswear in his native New York City with high-end brands like Purple Label and Loro Piana before switching to custom design for a small fabric house on Long Island. Since then, he’s established a clientele up and down the East Coast — and now here in Iowa with Bespoke Custom Clothing, his new shop in the East Village.
He’s already tapped into a regional market, building a customer base by styling suits for weddings and other special occasions. “I’m getting clients from Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Wisconsin, and I’m like, ‘This is a little far for you guys,’ but I totally get it,” he said. “You don’t have to go to L.A. or Chicago or New York. You can just let me do that right here in Des Moines.”
This is Bespoke’s fifth location, following Boise, Salt Lake City, Omaha and Miami, and Las Vegas is next. Raphael opened the East Village shop’s doors last March and said he’s discovered a “tremendous amount of cool stuff” happening under the radar.
Growing up in Queens, Raphael was surrounded by a multitude of cultures and styles. So naturally, he formed his own personal style before jumping into the industry. “All of my neighbors were from different places in the world,” he said. “In a melting pot like that, you see a lot of forms of different fashion. That’s been a huge influence for me.”
He mentioned early mentors, like Westley Dimagiba and Karl-Edwin Guerre. He also learned through his work styling for celebrity DJs and brands like Argyleculture, which is owned by Def Jam Recordings co-founder Russell Simmons.
Still, it wasn’t easy to master the intricacies of bespoke tailoring, from measuring to cutting to understanding body shapes and sizing. He said it’s like starting from scratch with a piece of fabric and a new client every time. By now he’s measured all kinds of body types, 90-pound guys to football players.
Raphael takes cues these days from designers like Angel Ramos and Italian tailoring, which involves thicker pieces with more curves and wider lapels.
But it’s not the clothing that keeps him in the haberdashery business. It’s the people. “It’s the messages I get afterward, when people say, ‘Wow, I get so many compliments,’” he said. “It’s usually a six-week process, so it’s about building rapport and lifelong relationships.”