Belltown’s Kuhlman is the ideal place to get sized up — or shop for designer threads.
We all know how good it feels to step into a custom-fitted garment. But in this modern age of outlet malls and retail stores, finding a good tailor can be nearly impossible. So, if you’d like to be fitted – or that 10-year-old suit of yours just needs a couple alterations – your best bet in this city is Belltown’s Scott Kuhlman.
Perhaps a title like ‘best tailor in Seattle’ is purely superlative, but as far as reputation and press coverage are concerned, Kuhlman could rightly claim the honor. A downtown fixture since 1999, his namesake tailor shop/boutique has generated a devoted following among Seattleites, and beyond. GQ Magazine calls him “the best known-tailor in Seattle,” while Details mentioned the Kuhlman shop in a feature article titled, ‘Where to Find the Perfect Suit’.
“We’ve gotten a very good response,” Kuhlman said. “I’ve always liked English tailoring, since they kind of invented it.”
He says this method is characterized by form-fitting designs that accentuate one’s shape and physique, rather than conceal them. When Kuhlman opened up shop in the late 90’s, the trend in suits leaned toward formless, looser models. “I decided to open a place to focus on well-fitted styles,” he said.
Prior to setting up shop in Belltown, Kuhlman studied art at Western Washington University. He experimented with different styles and mediums of art in college, but all of them failed to keep his attention – except one. “I never got bored with sewing,” he claimed. “I just wanted to do it again and again. That’s how I knew I was probably destined for this field.”
After graduation, Kuhlman found work in retail for Daniel Smith Art Supplies. He also began sewing for himself, and was able to sell badges and string ties through a boutique that spotlighted local designers.
He moved to Japan soon afterward, where he spent four years studying and admiring the visual arts and textiles of the Japanese people. Upon his return to the United States, he spent some time working for the Seattle Children’s Theater, and learned many garment construction techniques in the process. By 1999, he had earned enough to make the transition from salesman to store owner.
Today, Kuhlman’s shop functions not only as a tailoring studio, but also a designer boutique. The garments he sells vary from plaid men’s shirts by Descendant of Thieves and polos by Fred Perry to stylish womens’ tops by Gentle Fawn and spring dresses by Skunkfunk.
There are also a handful of accessories available, including hats by Coal, bowties and neckties by J. Lindberg, jewelry by Good HYOUman and eyewear by Paul Frank. He even sells the local artwork that adorns the walls.
According to Kuhlman, all of the store’s merchandise appeals to his own aesthetic sensibilities. “I just respond to what I like,” he said.
After 12 years in the clothing business, Kuhlman claims Seattle fashion has changed immensely — but some aspects have remained the same. “[Seattle’s] gotten very cosmopolitan and there’s some stylish people in town,” he says, “but there’s still a casual aspect as well. There’s still a little prejudice against dressing up. This area has always had a big following for vintage clothing and thrift stores. I respect it, because I like vintage clothing myself.”
For aspiring tailors, Kuhlman says, a good starting point is determining the aspect of the craft which is most appealing to them. “Identify what it is about the garment you like,” he said. For reading material, he urges young disciples to choose the older, traditional guidebooks, rather than titles intended for ‘home sewers’.
Kuhlman added that one who wishes to pursue professional tailoringneedn’t leave the Northwest, since both Seattle Central Community College and the Art Institute of Seattle have fine tailoring programs.
Kuhlman | 2419 1st Ave., Seattle | (206) 441-1999