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post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Hi, I thought of this while in the bathroom (where most thoughts seem to occur): Do tailors make their own clothes, or do they get other tailors to do it? If not, why? And, let's say I took up apprenticeship at Savile Row and many many years later was finally ready to become a full-fledged tailor. And today, I decide to set up a shop on the Row. What would be the factors (other than, perhaps, being perceived by other tailors as anti-competition) preventing me from charging less than 1000 pounds for a full bespoke suit of the highest quality (and three piece, too) that is done all in-house? I understand that although the materials might cost quite a bit, the workmanship is the one costing the most. What if I do not place as much value on my workmanship as other tailors despite not putting in any less work and quality into the suit? The price of one's skills is priced by one after all, right? Perhaps customers would think I do not have much pride in my work? Hmm... I don't even know why I thought of this question... and actually asking it. Yikes. : And lastly, what is the fastest possible time for a high-quality, fully bespoke suit to be made and ready? WJTW
post #2 of 6
Sorry that I cannot accurately answer any of your questions, but while reading your post the first thought that crossed my mind regarding the rationale for high pricing was the cost of rent. I can only imagine that given the highly recognizable name of the street (and area), the cost of renting as much space as can be contained within a thimble must be exuberant (to put it mildly). This would certainly have an immense impact on what you would have to charge customers.
post #3 of 6
Most tailors that I have known at the very least cut their own clothes. Whether they sew them or not is another question; some do, some don't, and of those that do, they may not do so all the time. They generally have another tailor in their shop (if there is one) do the fittings, or else have a tailor friend come by and do it as a favor. Remember that tailors buy cloth direct from merchant-distributors, with whom they very likely have great relationships. Which means that for one piece every now and then for their personal use, they won't be paying the full retail per meter price. The simple answer to what would happen if you opened a shop in the West End and charged 1,000 GBP for a 3-piece suit, made entirely on the premises, is that you would go broke. Rent would be high. Cloth costs would be high. The kind of customer who orders from tailors in that neighborhood would not be ordering cheap cloth, but gravtitating to the Lesser, Smith, Harrsions and Minnis books. That's another source of high cost. Then there is labor. If you sew everything on the premises, you either have to do it yourself, or hire people. In the former case, you would not be able to produce enough volume to stay in business. In the latter case, you would have to hire a lot of tailors -- which would be hugely expensive, given salaries and benefits, etc. -- and rent a lot of space for them to work -- also hugely expensive. So even though you might be able to churn out the volume, the costs would eat through your gross like locusts, leaving you with nothing, and very likely with debts. A full bespoke suit can be made in a day, if need be, and there are Savile Row stories of this being accomplished in moments of dire need for a favored client. But it takes at least three people to do it.
post #4 of 6
Addendum: one of the reasons why nearly all Savile Row firms (big and small, old and new) send their clothes out for the actual sewing is that British labor law makes it punitively expensive to keep people on staff. The benefit requirements (health, pension, etc.) are especially costly, and the payroll taxes are quite high. Thus the industry long ago adopted the system of outworkers to do the sewing. These tailors are all "self-employed", so the British payroll requirements don't come into play. I believe that this is one of the reasons that Huntsman ran into trouble recently; they had, if not the largest staff (that might be Poole; I'm not sure), then certainly one of the largest. Therefore, WJTW, if you hired a lot of tailors so that you could have the honor of claiming that all your clothes were made "in-house", you would bump up against this economic difficulty in very short order.
post #5 of 6
WJTW, You are correct that there is nothing stopping you from going into the bespoke business and selling suits by charging less than your competitiors.  Given that you have the same fixed costs (cloth, rent, etc.), if you are willing to value your labor at less than other firms, the price of your suits will be less.  You will not go broke doing this.   One thing you are leaving out of the pricing equation is that each bespoke tailor has, to some extent, a monopoly.  A&S has a monopoply on A&S suits - the cut, the workmanship, the name -  and it prices like a monopoly.  The same is true of Richard Anderson or Dege & Skinner or whoever.  This has nothing to do with how much a suit is "really" worth or what its "true" value is.  The supply and demand curves for A&S suits intersect at a certain price and that's what A&S or anybody else charges.  A&S wants that price to be at the profit-maximizing point: it wants to produce neither too many nor too few suits.  Savile Row tailors have been in business a long time and each probably knows that level from experience.  The fact that these prices are higher than the competitive price is what draws other entrepreneurs (like your hypothetical cut-rate shop) into a business.  We've seen that on the site: Darren Beamon or somebody else offers to deliver the A&S cut at two-thirds of the price.
post #6 of 6
The way to make a small fortune in the bespoke business...is to start off with a large fortune  Marry well, which will help you sustain yourself.  Berlitz can help you with the British accent, which will be effective in seducing American clients, and if you apprentice at A&S or another prominent house, fewer though they may be today, you can trade off on your "pedigree" when you leave to set up your own shingle.  You can even state on your business card you once cut for HRH, when you never really did.   Everyone will be impressed.  Just try to keep the snickering to yourself, and, most important, stay away from mirrors so you won't have to look at yourself in one.   Grayson
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