One thing David August is not short of experience when it comes to men’s tailoring. Over the course of his career, he’s worked in three different tailoring firms right across the US, the latter two of which he’s owned and founded. But despite this, when we chat to him over Zoom – he dials in from his flagship store looking louche in a black T-shirt and dark-framed glasses – we learn that his background is anything but conventional.
“My family was in the construction business; the construction and development of hotels, restaurants, corporate buildings – that kind of thing,” he explains. “I grew up helping my dad with building projects, we’d work together on the plans for restaurants and things. When I got out of college, he said ‘Where do you want to work? Do you want to work in construction?’ And I said ‘Dad, you know what, I think I want to open a clothing store.’ He said, ‘that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.’”
Clearly, listening to your elders doesn’t always pay off, because today, David August is one of the most prestigious celebrity tailors in the business. And despite his initial skepticism, David’s father did have a role to play in supporting his son’s move into menswear. “I went for lunch with my father’s tailor and I came out of the meeting working for him,” David says, with an entrepreneurial twinkle in his eye. “I went through a training programme and then went on to the American Institute of Tailoring. I learned about quality fabrics, pattern cutting – the works.”
David stayed working with his father’s tailor for three years, before deciding it was time to spread his wings. “My Dad gave me $50,000 to get things started, so I could hire a couple of guys, buy some luxury fabrics out of Italy, and I took a couple of guys that worked with my father’s tailor and we wen out on our own. Initially we worked out of my car.” That business was called David Ricky and Co, and despite these humble beginnings, David and his two colleagues quickly found themselves helming a ‘hot’ custom clothier that anyone who was anyone wanted a suit from.
“We grew very quickly, almost too quickly, really,” David reflects. “We became the official clothiers of the NBA and that helped us really take off. We went from the three of us to a team of 65 guys in two years.” Buoyed by this early success, David Ricky and Co. had an impressive run, 18 years or so, but all good things must come to an end. In 2003, one of David’s founding partners decided to do his own thing. This gave David a chance to do his own thing, too, and David August was born. “I wanted to finally have a chance to use the family name – my grandfather was called David August, and my Dad’s business was called August Construction, so it just made sense to reflect that,” David says.
Today, the brand is based in Costa Mesa, California, a suitably laid-back location for this coolest of custom clothiers. With this in mind, David and his team work hard to offer authentic hand-tailored quality without a stuffy or ‘traditional’ customer experience. “I don’t look at myself as a tailor especially, but I look at myself as a lifestyle brand,” David says. “People come to us for a lot of different reasons; after we get a relationship going people will call me and say ‘Hey, where’s the best restaurant in St Bart’s?’ Or ‘where do I stay when I’m going to London?’ that kind of thing. Plus, things have changed a lot in the way people dress; you don’t need 25 suits in your closet any more; four or five great tailored outfits will do.”
This fuss-free philosophy has earned David quite the celebrity client list over the years; from Elon Musk and Warren Buffet to Jason Statham and Sylvester Stallone – as well as a roster of top American athletes, many of whom he’s dressed since the David Ricky era. To service all these high-profile customers, the brand currently has 10 tailors in-house, who make both suits and shirts, with plans afoot to build a new workshop in Beverly Hills that will accommodate a further six craftspeople. This growing troupe of makers is helmed by two highly-experienced cutters, Alex and Maurizio, who are brothers, and between them cut all the patterns for David August clients.
This talk of cutting brings us neatly to David’s longstanding relationship with Thomas Mason. “I’ve been using Thomas Mason since I started in custom clothing,” he says, “I love the collections they offer that work for sportswear; anything that’s a bit finer, or some of the jersey cloths that stretch. I also love the Super 140s and the 170s, as well as the seasonal collections with their prints.” In fact, these prints go into some of David’s most laid-back custom creations of all: tailored tracksuits. He introduced them during the Coronavirus lockdown of 2020, and they’ve been a real hit with regular clients. David holds his own tracksuit jacket up to the camera, showing its bright printed blue lining inside – a fun contrast to the sober dark grey jersey shell.
“When you charge somebody $3,500 or $4,000 for a tracksuit, they perk up pretty quickly,” David says with a smile, “but our clients understand the value of beautiful fabrics, a custom cut and beautiful make. We’ve found that guys start by ordering one, then order two or three more. It’s become a staple of ours. Making clients something they can wear at home, as well as to dress up in, has changed the game for us.”