Meet the Bristol tailor still at the cutting edge of fashion after 54 years

As the son of a Sicilian tailor, Mike Territo must have been one of the sharpest-looking pupils at Bristol’s St Bede’s secondary school in the 1990s.

“Well, I probably didn’t appreciate it at the time but I was certainly wearing bespoke trousers at St Bede’s,” says Mike, 37.

“But when you’re brought up with something it takes time to appreciate what you have – the passion for good clothes was always there but it took a bit of time to realise I wanted to dedicate myself to tailoring.”

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For the past 10 years, Mike has worked with his dad Gioacchino (Jack) in the family-run tailors on Park Street.

Accessed via a narrow flight of stairs, the first-floor workshop is crammed with rolls of material, worktops and the tools of this timeless trade.

Jack started the business in 1967 when he opens a shop on Union Street in Broadmead and he soon built up a local reputation for the quality of his suits, whether they were for weddings, leisure or work.

In 1981, Jack moved the business to its current Park Street premises and even at the age of 77, he’s still there making suits six days a week with his son.

“My dad’s been doing this since he was about six years old in post-war Sicily,” says Mike. “I think it was very Dickensian when he started in Italy and boys his age would just work with local tailors, picking up scraps of material off the floor.”

Like many Italians after the war, Jack’s uncle moved to Wales to work in coal mines and would travel to Bristol to spend his wages.

By the 1960s, the family had put down roots in the city, starting their own families and businesses, whether it was as barbers, tailors or ice cream firms.

A lot has changed since Territo Tailoring started in 1967, not least the fact that fewer people now wear suits on a daily basis as they did throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Tailors Jack and Mike Territo in their Park Street workshop
Tailors Jack and Mike Territo in their Park Street workshop
(Image: James Beck/Freelance)

But Mike says that although sales of high street ‘off the peg’ suits are falling, the high quality bespoke suits his family make have never been more in demand.

Of course, a handmade suit isn’t cheap and it’s certainly more expensive than grabbing one off the rails of your local Next or M&S.

The big differences between the two products are the quality of the material and the time involved to make them.

At Territo, the material is sourced only from the UK or Italy and a suit jacket alone can take up to 70 hours of work by hand.

Mike says: “What we pay for a length of material is twice the price of the material used in a high street suit.

“We use a lot of cloth milled in the UK, including Somerset, and it takes between eight and 12 weeks to make a suit, during which time there will be three of four fittings.”

Mike Territo at work with the iron
Mike Territo at work with the iron
(Image: James Beck/Freelance)

The average price for a suit at Territo is £2,500, which is a lot of money to most people but Mike says they are seeing a wide range of customers every week and it’s not just the traditional rich gents.

“It never ceases to amaze me the range of people who come through the door to order suits.

“If you imagine what a classic Savile Row customer is, you might think a gent in his mid-40s or 50s wearing a pinky ring.

“We do get those people but then we’ll get young men in their 20s who are following somebody on Instagram and completely obsessed with fashion and style. I get people like that on a weekly basis, people who want something well crafted and perfectly fitted.

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“We also get a lot of young Asian university students because they love classic British style and fabrics. They love our craftsmanship, they are fascinated by what we do and that has become a big market for us.”

Since the pandemic and lockdowns, Territo has upped its game in terms of social media and website design to appeal to a new, younger clientele.

“When we shut down for lockdown, there was a lot of uncertainty. After all, we’ve been open six days a week for 54 years and the idea of closing was completely alien.

“We are at the luxury end of the market, making quite an exclusive artisan product which could be the first thing people knock on the head when money’s tight. We were quite fearful but it has been very positive since things opened back up.

“People are reassessing a lot of things about their lives and even though our market is limited, it’s exponentially more expensive to have a bespoke handmade suit than buying one from a high street store.

“People are being a lot more conscious about the sustainably of fashion and they don’t mind spending more money on something that has longevity.”

Jack and Mike Territo draught a suit
Territo Tailoring has been producing bespoke handmade suits since 1967
(Image: James Beck/BristolLive)

With their immaculate suits, both Mike and his father are certainly fine adverts for the products they make.

And for Mike, it’s also something of a statement that goes against the ever more casual look seen on Bristol’s streets.

“Whereas in the old days, not wearing a suit was the rebellion, I think wearing a suit is the rebellion now.

“If you walk into any work or social environment wearing a well-cut suit, something that fits well, it’s human nature for people to think ‘wow, I’m going to take that person a lot more seriously’.

“And I think people realise that when they get to certain points in their careers. I’m certainly championing more suits in Bristol!”

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