Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 November 2020

Abu Dhabi’s Scallywags & Rogues – a cut above the rest for men’s bespoke suits

Finding the perfect suit in the UAE used to be a challenge. This is slowly changing, with several high-end tailors to choose from. The founders of the newest, Scallywags & Rogues tell us how clothes maketh the man.
Tim Allen is the Style Custodian at Scallywags & Rogues in Abu Dhabi. Delores Johnson / The National
Tim Allen is the Style Custodian at Scallywags & Rogues in Abu Dhabi. Delores Johnson / The National

Abu Dhabi is bursting at the seams when it comes to tailors specialising in kanduras, abayas, jalabiyas and saris. But for a gentleman looking for a top-quality bespoke suit, the options were, until recently, rather limited.

This shortcoming did not go unnoticed by former British army brigadier Tim Allen, 55, who moved to Abu Dhabi six years ago to work for a defence-technology company.

“It became very obvious to me that what’s on offer in Abu Dhabi for men is brand-driven, and very much focused around big names,” he says. “For a bloke wanting something individual, there were very few places to go.”

The capital’s ready-to-wear men’s clothing stores were particularly inadequate for men of a non-standard size, including 1.9-metre-tall former rugby player Alan O’Donnell, 43, an entrepreneur from New Zealand. He, too, hankered after a high-end tailor and had cash to invest.

While relaxing on a beach in Seychelles, friends Allen and O’Donnell hatched a plan to start a bespoke tailor’s shop in Abu Dhabi, which they called Scallywags & Rogues (a scallywag is someone who behaves in an amusingly mischievous way). The newly launched store is now open on Al Damouj Street, off Muroor Road.

“There’s always been a connection between a sharply turned out guy and scallywag behaviour,” says Allen, who is the “style custodian” of the venture. “There’s a roguish streak in quite a lot of iconic figures.”

But there is more to the name of the store than that.

“We’ll do lines based on certain roguish fashion icons from through the decades,” says O’Donnell, citing as examples of “scallywags with style” dapper gents who refused to conform such as Edward, Duke of Windsor (the scandalous British king who abdicated to marry an American divorcee), British F1 racing driver James Hunt and rock’n’roll icon Jimi Hendrix. Rebellious streaks aside, Allen admits he tries to steer customers away from “super-skinny trousers” or “ratty little lapels”. “We know that lapels of a certain width will stand the test of time,” he says.

At the heart of the company ethos lies the notion that the classic-cut men’s-suit style is as fashionable now as it ever was.

“I could find a picture of Colin Firth wearing a Huntsman double-breasted suit and put him alongside a picture of the Duke of Windsor from 50 years previously, and in terms of dress, you’d hardly be able to tell them apart,” says Allen. “Men’s suits don’t suffer from the rather ephemeral nature of fashion that blows in the wind of extremes. But there’s still a huge amount of fun to be had, while still maintaining that permanent style ethos.”

Allan shows off a newly cut double-breasted jacket with several buttons down each arm, as an example of an edgier style.

“This lifts the design,” he says. “It’s distinctive without being showy.”

Allen says that the UAE is “awash with counterfeit cloth”. The cloth used at Scallywags & Rogues is provided by Dugdale Bros & Co in Huddersfield (members of the Savile Row Bespoke Association), who have been supplying material to the trade since 1896, and Spence Bryson linen by Ulster Weavers, textile suppliers to Queen Elizabeth II.

A Dugdale double-breasted suit with trousers costs Dh3000, which Allen suggests offers “a fantastic opportunity to build up a wardrobe”.

“When you translate that to London prices, it’s phenomenal value”, he says. “In Saville Rowe, you’d be talking £5,000 (Dh23,389) for the same suit.”

Allen advises customers to view their dapper new suits as investments, and says he still wears 30-year-old favourites.

“Because they’re cut to the individual and hand finished, some of the areas that typically give out will last longer,” he says.

Head cutter Zaid Ansari is from a long line of tailors from Lucknow, India.

“I’m not a very fast tailor, but I am a classic, vintage tailor”, he says. His team of five takes up to two days to craft a suit. “I like to do tailoring as generations taught in the past.”

Sewing machines are used for part of the process – “if you’re doing a long seam then, frankly, a machine does it better”, Allen says – but finishing touches such as buttonholes are hand sewn.

Whereas with most made-to-measure tailoring, a block pattern is adapted to the customer’s measurements, Ansari and his team cut the cloth to each individual’s measurements.

Customers are measured and have two fittings, at a location of their choice, before the finished suit is delivered. Those who visit the store can browse a range of ties, pocket squares and bow ties, as well as shirts and suits.

“They get Jermyn Street (London home of shirts and shoes) and Savile Row (the home of tailoring) in one hit,” says Allen.

And his is just the start – he hopes to branch out into shoes and ladies tailoring, too, “and maybe even luggage”.

Updated: October 8, 2016 04:00 AM

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