Cut from the right cloth
Cove: Timeless with the Zeitgeist
By Aleks Cvetkovic
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What does it mean to be ‘timeless with the zeitgeist’? To the co-founder of one of Germany’s largest and best-loved custom tailors, Ulrich Hesse, the answer is straightforward.

“We are working in a classic business, and we’re concerned with the European heritage of tailoring, but we always try to find aspects of the modern world that are worth integrating into this heritage. We created a special pocket for mobile phones in all our jackets, for example; or we use fabrics that are up-to-date or technical,” he says, when we meet over Zoom. I’m dialling in from London, he’s at his HQ in Dusseldorf.

Hesse co-founded Cove in 1999 with two friends from university, Christian Tietz and Ebbo Tücking. The trio had worked closely together on an undergraduate research paper, which was a comprehensive market study of the made-to-measure menswear sector in Germany. The research spoke volumes: there was a gap in the market. It didn’t take long for the friends to exploit it. As soon as they graduated, they set up Cove in Essen with a small amount of funding won from their successful entry to regional business plan competition. With some seed capital on board, “it was easy us for us to just think, ‘okay, let’s try it and see what happens,’” Ulrich explains.

Fast forward to 2022 and Cove has no less than 20 ateliers across the country in fashionable urban hubs. True to the brand’s promise of being ‘timeless with the zeitgeist’, Cove is a trusted source for soft tailoring and contemporary styling, outfitting much of Germany’s professional class in its reliable ‘Business’ grade made-to-measure service, with other elevated made-to-measure lines and its luxurious ‘Meisterstück’ bespoke tailoring service to choose from.

Ulrich also invests heavily in the right staff. Even though not every branch of Cove has a fully fledged tailoring workshop on-site, Ulrich prefers trained tailors to run front-of-house in all his stores. “We really try to let our tailors do everything because in the end, it’s important that the guy who knows the business – who knows the craftsmanship – is a better seller than somebody who doesn’t really understand why a jacket fits better, or not. Our tailors can really build these things up from scratch.” At the time of writing, Cove has between 35 and 40 tailors on-staff – no small feat for an independent business.

Utilising trained craftspeople on the shop floor is a smart move, as is Cove’s newest product. “We call it the Cocooning Collection, which are pieces that we feel help to make your journey back into the office a little easier,” says Ulrich. “After two years of the pandemic, people have difficulties getting back into their old work suits. These garments are more easy wearing, more flexible, and softer to the touch.”

Cove uses several blocks for its custom tailoring, and the Cocooning jacket is by far the softest; with natural shoulders and a ‘convertible’ collar that can either be worn open as a pair of notch lapels, or buttoned to the throat for a cosy feel. Available in a range of only the softest merinos and cashmeres, it’s more cardigan than sports coat, which is precisely the point. “We call it the two-style jacket,” Ulrich says, with a proud smile.

What of shirts, though? Cove’s shirting programme is built two price points: the Traditional and Handmade lines, both of which offer exceptional quality. The Traditional programme is a top-end machine made shirt, with single-needle stitching and a form-fitting cut – “it’s a competitive product for the younger generation,” says Ulrich. Cove’s Handmade shirts, as you can probably guess, are truly made by hand; “this involves everything from sewing in the sleeves and major seams, to attaching the collar and finishing the buttonholes,” Ulrich explains. The shirtmaking workshop is in Poland, near Danzing, and makes primarily for Cove. This close relationship gives Ulrich and his team extensive control over the quality of their product – whether machine sewn or handmade shirts.

Cove is also known for its shirts’ playful styling, which ensures that Thomas Mason’s seasonal collections are house favourites. “We love Thomas Mason’s seasonal collections,” says Ulrich, holding a collection card to camera. “We bring them out at the start of each season and they provide so much inspiration; the newest designs and and the newest ideas. We also find that the seasonal ranges sell out the quickest with our customers. We’re known for fun prints, and Thomas Mason’s seasonal printed cottons are something special.”

Where does Ulrich see his business going next, then? “We are sure that our idea of cocooning will last. I’ve seen a lot of suits and a lot of fabrics in my life, but it’s only really in the past couple of years that mills like Thomas Mason and makers like us have mastered genuine stretch fabrics. The new fabrics we’re starting to see are flexible, but keep their shape. This is something new. Now, you can keep on a tailored jacket in the car, or on the plane, and it’ll still be super-sharp when you finish your journey. In my opinion, we’re entering a new era for truly flexible suits.”

Let’s hope so. In the hands of makers like Cove, the future looks comfortable. Very comfortable indeed.


Explore Cove’s tailoring and custom shirting services at

(Photography by Jeremy Meek)

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