The Ramie Suit
Written by Drake's - 9 March 2018
Our Creative Director, Michael Hill, extols the many virtues of an oft-overlooked fabric.
The start of a new season can mark a period of sartorial reflection. A time to take stock of one’s wardrobe, and to identify the gaps to be filled. With the warm weather impending, one absolute essential is a lightweight suit. Linen is an obvious choice – its breathability and inherent stylishness make it the consummate summer fabric - but the way it rumples and corrugates isn’t for the faint of heart.
Cotton is another option. Our Creative Director, Michael Hill, has long been a champion of the cotton suit: ‘Cotton isn’t always a popular fabric for tailoring, but you can’t beat it for sheer comfort and character. If you opt for a heavy drill cotton, it will mould to the wearer’s shape in a way that other fabrics don’t. In that way, cotton suits have the lovely effect of being a very personal item, in the same way as a pair of raw denim jeans, or a waxed field jacket.’
Looking for a slightly unconventional take on the cotton suit for SS18, we came upon a beautiful mix of cotton and ramie – a natural fibre with a myriad of uses - which we cut in our relaxed house style. ‘The ramie we’ve woven (blended with cotton so it’s sufficiently robust) is lovely and soft, which is impressive given it’s one of the strongest natural fibres, and although not well known in tailoring circles, it has actually been used in textile manufacture for centuries. The yarn is known for its ability to hold shape and reduce wrinkling – both key qualities for a summer suit. It also gives the cloth’s appearance a kind of silky lustre, which is a nice point of distinction.
‘Ramie is said to have a natural resistance to bacteria, so another factor which makes it perfect for Spring/Summer! And in addition to all of that, it’s also sustainable – no end to its greatness!’
Though of course it’s one thing for a cloth to be great on paper, and quite another for it to wear well in practice. But what drew us to the fabric is how well it works on the body, as Michael will attest: ‘First off, the cloth feels amazing to wear. The hand is wonderful – soft, but with just the right amount of body. To me it feels reassuringly robust but certainly not heavy. The first time I put the suit on I thought it was such an interesting evolution from cotton: it still moulds to the body in much the same way – the cotton in the mix helps in that regard, of course – but the ramie gives it a wonderful suppleness.
‘It has a great drape, far more forgiving than pure cotton, say. And despite having something of the look and feel of linen, it holds form far better than linen would. My feeling is that it will endure in the warmer climes just as a worsted wool twill would through the Autumn/Winter season.’
One drawback to ramie is that it does not take colour well, so it cannot be dyed in the usual range of colours one might expect from cotton suits. For that reason, ours remains in its natural, undyed state. Thankfully this is a pleasing shade of summery beige.
There are few sartorial joys greater than wearing a breezy, casual suit in the warmth of the summer. This cotton-ramie iteration is elegant and unconventional in equal measure.