Renowned Sonoma designer Andi Valo-Espina specializes in designing suits for big men with big names

Renowned Sonoma designer Andi Valo-Espina specializes in designing suits for big men with big names

Rumor has it that former President Ronald Reagan was buried in a suit made for him by Andy Valo Espina.

The Sonoma resident has designed custom men’s clothing for 38 49ers, Clint Eastwood, Tom Jones, Magic Johnson, movie stars, television personalities, and yes, the 40th President of the United States.

The list goes on, although she is unable to reveal details about every one of her clients since she has signed some non-disclosure agreements.

She sources fabrics from Scotland, Italy, France and England, but what makes Andrea Custom Tailoring unique is that she works primarily with “hard to fit” men, which is why she ends up working with professional athletes.

“When you have a passion for fashion, you go into women’s clothing, but I thought I would try it,” Valo-Espina said. “And here I am after all these years with 950 men – eat your hearts out, girls!”

Standing just over 5 feet tall, Valo-Espina is a spark plug when it comes to managing people and her business. Her favorite part of her job is working one-on-one with clients, even when she has to stand on her ladder to get their measurements.

She started in women’s fashion through her trading company, San Francisco Sweater Co., where she sold her women’s sweater designs to I. Magnin, a former high-end fashion and specialty goods department store in San Francisco that featured her designs in their catalogs and in their stores.

She eventually sold that company before pivoting to menswear with Andrea Custom Tailoring.

Valo Espina has a degree in business economics from the University of Michigan, and she’s a big numbers girl. She realized that with menswear, there was less variety, less modification, and more consistency—all of which helped float her boat.

She has developed a sizing method that she credits with giving her men the perfect fit every time.

For each of her nearly 1,000 clients, Valo-Espina has them come in for her intake process, which involves asking them to fill out forms, talk about style preferences and budgets, and take 36 individual, highly precise body measurements—all of which take just 30 to 45 minutes.

All the details are then sent to one of their production facilities in the United States, where the designs are brought to life.

Many of her long-time customers have stuck around for the great fit she produces, but also for the fabrics she makes. They have a large selection of fabric samples to choose from, although some customers insist on having exclusive rights to each other.

Randy Cross, who played for the 49ers from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s, was Valo-Espina’s first link on the roster. She ran into him at a cocktail party and noticed what she described as him wearing unflattering bell bottoms. If there’s one thing she can’t afford, she said, it’s ill-fitting pants.

I went up and commented on it — and Cross shared his dilemma about not being able to find regular pants that fit him properly. Then she offered her services.

According to Valo Espina, he had the largest thighs ever encountered with a tape measure. A few weeks later, for the first time in a long time, he was wearing pants that fit him well.

He promised to refer her to other guys on the team but only if she promised to keep some of his favorite styles exclusively for him. This was not the last time I heard this request.

But that was fine by her, and far from the strangest request she’d received over the years. When she met fashion designer Tom Jones at a conference in Lake Tahoe, they mentioned that Jones needed some unique tailoring work that they couldn’t get in Los Angeles. Naturally, Valo Espina offered to help.

Jones’ designers explained that there were wardrobe malfunctions while Jones was on stage — when he would rip off his button-up shirt mid-show, the buttons kept hitting people’s eyes. She said they would then try to prosecute Jones.

Valo-Espina came up with a solution involving false buttons and Velcro that solved the problem. So she continued to produce hundreds of those T-shirts, as well as absurdly tight trousers, for the Welsh singer for several years.

Although she has worked with many quality men – and enjoyed every bit of it – she sticks to her rule of never dating them for fear of potentially losing a client.

If there’s one thing that has remained true for Valo-Espina over her more than three decades in men’s fashion, it’s that the industry suits her perfectly.

To learn more about Valo-Espina’s services, visit her website at andreacustomtailoring.com.

You can contact staff writer Rebecca Wolff at rebecca.wolff@sonomanews.com. On Twitter @bexwolff.

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