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Remarkable Living

The tailor who'll only make five suits a month – 500,000 stitches at a time

Less is truly more, believes an uncompromising Ayres Goncalo. He's perfected his craft learning from his grandfather, who had a 70-year career suiting up Portugal's finest.

The tailor who'll only make five suits a month – 500,000 stitches at a time

Ayres Goncalo (L), with his grandfather Ayres Carneiro Da Silva, who was considered one of Portugal’s best tailors. (Photo: Freestate Productions)

Working out of his atelier in Portugal’s second-largest city, Porto, bespoke tailor Ayres Goncalo creates classic men’s suits that reveal unique personalised details upon closer inspection.

Less is truly more, believes Porto’s Ayres Goncalo, who was once commissioned to make a suit for Britain’s Prince Charles.

“What I generally do is make dark blue suits for businessmen,” said Goncalo, who also has a showroom in Lisbon, Portugal’s capital. “And if he has a hobby, for example, his cars, I’ll make him a very formal-looking suit on the outside, and with the inner lining, he has cars in baby blue or pink. I love to play with lining – I have a lot of fancy ones!”

“[Someone with] an eagle’s eye can see, ‘Oh, there is something different in that suit’. It’s a small thing, but it makes a difference, you know?” he said.

Ayres Goncalo loves to add a colourful lining to his suit jackets. (Photo: Freestate Productions)

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One might say that Goncalo had his career as a tailor all cut out for him. His grandfather, Ayres Carneiro Da Silva, was considered one of Portugal’s best tailors, with a 70-year-long career and a distinguished client list which included famous artists, sports personalities, members of Parliament, and top bankers.

Ayres Carneiro Da Silva was considered one of Portugal’s best tailors. (Photo: Freestate Productions)

Da Silva was initially not keen on his grandson following in his footsteps, but recognised his grandson’s potential when he was 12. He mentored the young Goncalo until he was 19, after which Goncalo headed to Madrid, Spain, to train as a master tailor at the Sartorial La Confianza.

“I take 50, 60, 70 hours to make a suit. That’s 500,000 stitches by hand. The point is the quality. It’s not to make 200 or 300 suits a year."

He then moved to London and worked at Gieves & Hawkes, one of the oldest bespoke tailors on Savile Row. During his four-year stint there, he was commissioned to make a suit for Britain’s Prince Charles.

Looking at the framed photograph of the heir apparent to the British throne hanging in his atelier, Goncalo recalled: ““To me, he’s one of the most well-dressed people in the world. It was God that gave me that opportunity. I was screaming, trembling at that time. It was so amazing.”

Goncalo takes anywhere from 50 to 70 hours to make a suit. (Photo: Freestate Productions)

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Goncalo moved to New York for a year but returned to Portugal at the age of 29 to set up Ayres Bespoke Tailor.

In 2010, he received the Bespoke Tailor certificate from the Savile Row Bespoke Association, an accolade that places him among the most elite in his profession.

"A very well-made suit should make the person who wears it feel that he has more power, more confidence."

Indeed, his approach to his craft can best be described as “uncompromising”. He makes only five suits a month. “I take [about] 50, 60, 70 hours to make a suit. That’s 500,000 stitches by hand. The point is the quality. It’s not to make 200 or 300 suits a year. I prefer to make a few, but good [ones],” he explained.

Ayres Goncalo holds a Bespoke Tailor certificate from the Savile Row Bespoke Association. (Photo: Freestate Productions)

“A very well-made suit should make the person who wears it feel that he has more power, more confidence. And then when I look at it, it is perfect. Most of the time, it’s perfect. It’s like an orgasm, you know?” he quipped.

These days, Goncalo travels the world to meet clients, 80 to 90 per cent of whom are foreigners living abroad.

“I have customers from Singapore, England, Italy, Switzerland, Brazil, Angola, all around the world,” he said. “We call the fitting room of a tailor ‘The Confessionary’ because the customer tells you things about his life. You are like a psychologist to your customer because he tells you about his problems, he speaks to you about his business, his tastes.”

Goncalo feels like he is a psychologist to his customers. (Photo: Freestate Productions)

Adapted from the series Remarkable Living. Watch full episodes on CNA, every Sunday at 8.30pm, starting December 1.

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Source: CNA/ds

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