The Artist of Bespoke


June 6, 2021

Words by: Jelena Bojic

Photography by: Naseem Abouhassan

Sam Abouhassan – Doing what he loves for over 40 years.

When 13-year-old Abouhassan quit school, he walked into a tailor shop in a small town in Lebanon and asked if they were looking for help. The shop had a very good reputation, so he wanted to learn from the best. The owner handed him a broom, and what started as a floor sweeping job turned into an apprenticeship of creating perfect garments. Hands-on experience with master trainers who specialized in making suits and shirts equipped Abouhassan to become the most respected name in bespoke menswear in Edmonton.

After moving to Edmonton at 20, he worked outside of the trade for one short year, then opened up his shop when he was 21. Abouhassan remembers his first shop in the basement of the King Eddy Hotel, where the Manulife building is located now. Having spent so many years in that same area, he’s seen downtown’s changes and the ups and downs more than any other retailer in the city.

Do what you love and you won’t work a day in your life, says an old sentiment, and it’s very true in Sam Abouhassan’s story. He’s spent his whole professional life, from his teen years to this day, tailoring and mastering his trade, perfecting every stage of building a custom suit. People think it’s a simple process, measure and make, but that’s not the case here. “The term bespoke is used loosely,” says Abouhassan, “The internet has changed the world, and has introduced us to a more disposable, fast fashion.

A lot of places use the term bespoke to promote their made-to-measure suits, but that’s not what the real bespoke means.” The technique is what sets Abouhassan apart. When you come in for measurements and to select the fabric, the fabric is hand cut, tailored and the client comes back for the first fitting. Then adjustments are made for the second fitting and the client may be back once or twice more before the final ensemble is done.

There are no shortcuts in this process and each piece is made to stand the test of time. The fabrics that Abouhassan uses are the best in the market; they come from Italy, Belgium, Germany, England, and Spain – upscale and well worth the investment.

Typically, this would be the time of the year when he’s busy with wedding season, but since we’re still in the pandemic restrictions, the traffic in the store is slower as the weddings are either postponed or very small. The suit business is taking a hit; after all, this is not something you can buy over the phone or online, at least not the quality and the type that Abouhassan makes. What he misses the most? “Visiting with my clients, catching up over a cup of coffee. After 42 years in business, you develop great relationships with clients, and they become friends. I miss them.”

Hands-on experience with master trainers who specialized in making suits and shirts equipped Abouhassan to become the most respected name in bespoke menswear in Edmonton.

Talking about the future of the business, Abouhassan proudly shares that education was a top priority for his boys. His older son, Rasheed, has finished his law degree in Vancouver and is joining a law firm, and his younger son, Naseem, is scheduled to graduate with a psychology degree from MacEwan University in a few months. He likes the business, and Abouhassan says he’s “working on getting him to like it even more.”

A conversation with Abouhassan can’t go without reflecting on the hockey world and he remembers poetically what playoff days looked like in the past. He always had a great relationship with hockey players, making over 320 suits for them. He even dressed the Great One for his wedding day! “Once the word was out that I made Wayne Gretzky’s suit, every magazine, paper and TV station was calling,” remembers Abouhassan, “And that really put us on the map.” The custom tailed, 3-piece tuxedo was something no one else in the city could do, so his expertise and craftsmanship really came to life. Kevin Lowe and Ryan Smith were also among his hockey clients, and he says, “There aren’t enough walls for all the memories made.”

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