What do former US president Ronald Reagan, California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the legendary Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop and today’s Hollywood heavyweights such as Nicolas Cage, Keanu Reeves, Ben Affleck, Robert De Niro, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Michael Douglas and Steve Martin, have in common?
They have all worn shirts (on and off screen) made at Anto Distinctive Shirtmakers. This Beverly Hills atelier, founded in 1952 by the late Anto Sepetjian, specialises in handmade, handfinished bespoke shirts and neckwear for men. It is now run by Anto’s sons, Jack and Ken Sepetjian.
Talking to Emirates Business about their father’s exacting standards and how he made them work hard until he was satisfied they would be able to carry on his tradition of personalised service and attention to detail, Jack Sepetjian says: “My father was a master shirt-maker since the early 1950s. In 1984 I joined the family business and soon after my brother Ken joined us.
“For the next 15 years our father taught us every aspect of making shirts and made us work in the trenches until he was confident we knew all aspects of the business.
“Then from 1998 onwards he turned the business over to us and would just help us out until his death in early 2005.”
Indeed, they learnt well from their father because so personalised is their service that they boast a library, wherein they save a long list of details of their clients, including their size, style and preferences.
Jack says: “All our shirts are handmade and all patterns are made to the specific measurements of the client. We have a personal file in our library so we always know their preferences about collar and cuff styles.
“The kind of designs they prefer, the cloth they usually go for and the size changes. So in a way, we have their style history through the decades.
“When we have a new client who we’ve never made a shirt for before, it usually takes two fittings before we decide that it meets our standards. However, clients who have a file already may order without coming to our store unless they need changes.”
And so particular are they about attention to detail that they have developed a set of shirt-making commandments.
Jack says: “After five decades of catering to discerning clients, we have developed a set of shirt-making commandments. The cuffs should cover the wrist, even when driving; the collar’s tips should just touch the chest; fabrics must be Italian, Swiss, or English cotton; all finishing from pockets to collar tips must be hand-done.
“But the key rule is to have every aspect of the shirt tailored to the individual. That means the shape of the wearer’s face determines the collar width, while the slant of his shoulders dictates the angle of the shirt’s slope and the sleeve’s width.”
It is this attention to detail that transforms a simple garment from bit player to top-of-the-marquee star that costs anything from $325 to $1,500 (Dh1,193 to Dh5,508).
Going into the details of what makes their shirts so expensive Jack says: “It depends on the fabric, style, detail and size. Our shirts start from two-ply 120-thread count cotton up to two-ply 240-thread count.
“All of our shirt fabrics are selected from the ultra-fine European mills in Switzerland, Italy and England.
“The cloth that we usually make our shirts from is Sea Island cotton, popeline, voile, twill, royal oxford, piquet, zephir, cotton, linen, and silk in solids, stripes, checks, classics weaves and jacquards.”
But the celebrities and movie stars are not the only people who get their shirts made at Anto’s. According to Jack, young executives are increasingly approaching them. In fact, 2007 was the biggest year in terms of business since they opened five decades ago.
Recalling an incident Jack says: “I’ll never forget on a Friday afternoon at 2.30pm we received a call informing us that Michael Douglas was getting married the next day in New York and needed a formal shirt. As Michael is a long-time client, we did not want to disappoint him on his special day. So we had the shirt made and couriered to him by 5.30pm the same evening.”
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