1. Styleforum Gives - Holiday Charity Auction 10: A full set of Aesop's Fables pocket squares from Vanda Fine Clothing

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Multi-sourcing bespoke

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by JDMcDaniel, Dec 16, 2004.

  1. JDMcDaniel

    JDMcDaniel Well-Known Member

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    Would it be feasible/advisable for a person of limited means (me), to acheive a virtually bespoke shirt through the following:

    1. Go to competent shirtmaker, have them measure me and make a bespoke shirt from a custom pattern, see the fit, then finalize the pattern;
    2. Send the pattern to a Jantzen equivilent for cutting and sewing everything but the sleevehead, button holes, and buttons;
    3. Bring the partially constructed shirt to the same or a different competent shirtmaker, who would hand attach the sleeves, hand sew the buttonholes, and attach the highest quality MoP buttons I can scrounge.

    Basically, what Kilgour has gone for suits with the Shanghai bespoke, could I do for shirts?  I know if I was an artisinal shirtmaker I might be enraged by this concept, and perhaps justifiably so.  But on the other hand, it focuses their work on where they bring the highest value added, designing the pattern to fit the idiosyncracies of me body (too numerous to catalogue, sadly) and putting in the handwork where it appears to be most valuable.

    All of this is premised on my perception (two shirts worth) that Jantzen is not exactly a slouch in the quality department.

    Last, any estimates on cost?
     


  2. Trilby

    Trilby Senior Member

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    I'm not sure I understand why you would want to separate out steps 2 and 3. Do you absolutely need hand-attached sleeves and hand-sewn buttonholes? Many (perhaps most) bespoke shirtmakers machine-sew the sleeveheads and buttonholes. Separating out the workmanship as you propose is likely to create a mongrel garment and increases the risks of shipments getting lost and things not being done properly. I also imagine that most shirtmakers would refuse to do this.

    If you are looking for the best fit at the lowest long-term price, why not just use your steps 1 and 2? Get a shirt that fits you really well -- either a RTW shirt that fits you perfectly or a MTM/bespoke if you wish -- and then have a Hong Kong maker copy that. If you want to upgrade the buttons to top quality MOP, then do so yourself later.

    If you really insist on a handsewn shirt, then go to one of the bespoke shirtmakers who will do it properly.
     


  3. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    Something about this idea is redolent of those stories about the guy who goes to his neighborhood hardware store, befriends the owner, asks zillions of questions and gets great advice, and then buys all the gear at Home Depot.

    It's one thing to bring a garment you like to a low cost maker, and ask him to copy it.  But the process you describe sounds to me to be a little bit beyond the pale.

    In any case, you will almost certainly NOT be able to find a shirtmaker who will give you a pattern that he has drawn, so that another maker can use it to cut your shirts.  Most shirtmakers consider patterns to be their property, not yours.  And I have a hard time imagining that any shirtmaker on either end of the process will make an unfinished shirt, or finish someone else's unfinished shirt.  You would need to find both for your process to work.  And even if you could, with all the hassle and the shipping, the cost savings would likely be negligible.  Finally, only the top-end shirtmakers in France and Italy hand-sew shirts these days, and I can't imagine them making anything but a complete shirt.
     


  4. Shirtmaven

    Shirtmaven Distinguished Member Dubiously Honored

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    Mr. McDaniel Your post disgust me. I have spent over  20 years making shirts as well as other types of garments over the years. I am even offended when customers ask for a set  of their measurements for the very reason you discribed. Sending them off to some low priced shirtmaker who pays 1/4 of my cost to produce a garment. If a customer wants measurements for a formal affair or aproximate size in a ready made shirt, I will gladly assist them. I have children to feed, rent to pay. This attitude of using someone else's time and expertise to save your self some money is truely dispicable. Go get your self measured shirt from Jantzen for $40.00. It is a well made shirt. The fabrics they use seems to be of nice quality. There is no guarentee that the measurements you sent off or the shirt you sent were even correct in the first place. I have seen plenty of poorly fitted but well made shirts. I have read the complaints of poor communication from The fellow in HK. As Mr. Kabbaz's post have mentioned. The idea of Hand set sleeves and hand made buttonholes is nice but there is absoultly no reason for doing so.  If you look closely at many of these so-called handset sleeves, there is a a row of stitches done by a sewing machine before the hand felling. I pride myself on taking care of my customers. Selling a product that I think is fairly priced and of excellent quality for the price. I stand behind my work. When a shirt does not fit, or there is  a problem. I absorb the cost of that shirt. Yesterday a customer walked in to my place that I had not seen in over 9 years. He told me a story that made me feel great.  He went to a job interview wearing one of my shirts. HE found out later that one of the reasons he got the job was the first impression that he made on his boss. Wearing a well fitting shirt that I had made for him. It took him a long time to come back to me, but he realized that the ill fitting shirts he was wearing in the interim were just not doing it for him anymore. I do not know what you do for a living, but imagine if you  worked on a project and then the project with all of your notes and details was taken to a lower bidder. How would you feel? I am not saying you need to spend more then you can afford on clothing. Just respect the people you do business with. Carl www.cego.com
     


  5. bry2000

    bry2000 Distinguished Member

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    Well said, Carl.
     


  6. j

    j (stands for Jerk) Admin

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    Carl, I know how you feel, having done similar work in the construction industry and having been similarly screwed for it. We have come up with an honorable solution, which is "consulting". We will work with a customer to find out and tell him everything he needs to do on his own, and develop plans, but we expect to be paid very well for this service. Typically the goodwill engendered by being the rare exception who will willingly do this work is rewarded by being thought of when other projects the customer doesn't want to attempt to do himself come up.

    I know, as Mr. Kabbaz stated before, that the bespoke shirtmaker expects to take a loss on the initial fitting and pattern making, so that he may make a profit on the future quantity of shirts a customer orders. This is similar to our taking a raw set of blueprints, doing take-offs, getting solid bids and fleshing out a detailed project specification, and then hoping the customer will go for the project at our bid price. If the customer doesn't go for it, or his stock options drop off (thank you MS), etc., all that time, effort and money we put into it is lost as a cost of doing business. Similarly to your experience, we have had some clients come back after deciding to hold off on the project indefinitely, to do it with us as they were impressed by our preliminary work.

    What we have done with some clients where they are more upfront about wanting a preliminary feasibility study done only, and don't try to fool us into thinking we may be doing the whole project, is to either agree on a fee for the initial work which covers our time, or agree to do it on a time-and-materials basis. For someone who considers himself an artisan above being a businessperson, this may sound abhorrent; however, for a company with "kids to feed" as you said and not enough clients at a given time to keep everyone busy, these projects are sometimes worthwhile for us to do. We do consider ourselves to be artisans and the quality of our product reflects that (along with the fact that probably 95% of our business comes from referrals). However, we are pragmatic enough to realize that such a deal is within our acceptable limits, as long as it is done in an upfront manner from the beginning. As I said, these customers are typically very satisfied, having been honest with themselves and us from the beginning, and these projects may lead to referrals for more similar work or for more typical jobs where we work from prints to a finished product.

    In short, JD, I think if you are completely upfront about it with a shirtmaker from the very beginning, and expect to compensate him much more highly than his first-shirt price, in order to make up for the profit lost in his typical "bid" shirts, IMO it is an ethical idea. Whether the shirtmaker will be offended anyway, or whether it is a practical idea, I can't tell you. What I will say is that I had a similar idea myself, though it would more likely involve my having a "close" shirt altered and then sending it over to be copied, rather than asking for a pattern.

    And for the costs involved, the only worthwhile step I can see in your step 2-3 process would be the sewing on of good MOPs after the shirt is delivered. Personally, I would do this myself or enlist a seamstress to do it to my specification. I don't see any benefit to the handsewn work, especially for the cost involved.

    Good luck.
     


  7. Shirtmaven

    Shirtmaven Distinguished Member Dubiously Honored

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    What I will say is that I had a similar idea myself, though it would more likely involve my having a "close" shirt altered and then sending it over to be copied, rather than asking for a pattern.


    The only problem here is with Arm holes.
    The shape of an altered armhole is different then a shirt where the armhole has been raised on the pattern. It will fit differently.

    If a customer is willing to pay for a pattern then I will sell it.
    Most shirtmakers do not like other peoples patterns. EVery one has their own methods.

    Carl
     


  8. j

    j (stands for Jerk) Admin

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    True, and that's probably something I'd end up working out with Ricky, or if I felt adventurous, maybe take the shirt apart and make a pattern from it, then adjust and figure it out myself.

    I expect so, but I don't think Jantzen is the type to be picky about that.
     


  9. retronotmetro

    retronotmetro Distinguished Member

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    Seems to me that this is a recipe for a very expensive shirt, not a less expensive one. Multiple shipping expenditures and the multiple individual cost structures of the various artisans/vendors would wipe out any cost advantages that would result from having a low-labor-cost shop do lots of the work.

    What Kilgours has, and an individual doesn't, is the advantage of economies of scale. Kilgours likely spreads out the shipping costs between its facilities across multiple customer orders. They probably have fixed labor rates for their overseas employees and charge their markup based on their aggregate costs of production when all is done. Outsourcing on a DIY basis would mean you'd be paying your own shipping at each step, as well as the individual markups of each entity involved in production.
     


  10. minimal

    minimal Senior Member

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    I feel uncomfortable being the first one to say that I'm not sure this is really a useful, or even appropriate, response. The original poster was not, I believe, proposing a method of cheating shirtmakers, but rather a commonly-used method of dividing work. The proposal seems ineffective at best in this case.

    How would you like it if some UBER-artisinal shirtmaker, who grows his own mollusks for buttons, AND weaves his own cloth tells you what he thinks about the shortcuts in*your* operation. Heck, you buy your cloth from mass-producing mills in order to undercut him. Disgusting.

    Although I think the idea proposed is silly in the poster's implementation (i.e. it will cost more not less), many high-end manufacturers follow this model inhouse and out: the skilled workers do the complex work, the less-skilled and machines do the simpler work. There is no shame in this, nor is there shame in the analysis that is required to partition the work between these two modes. And those that want it all done by the most-skilled (whether or not it makes a difference in the final product) pay a premium.

    Accept my apologies in advance if you do no such analysis.

    Aside:
    For those who want to see clothwork with no such limits, check out the sails on some of the America's Cup yachts: cost: up to $100,000 each; size: about 250 square meters, useful life: 10 hours. each "syndicate" can have up to 60 sails....
     


  11. brescd01

    brescd01 Senior Member

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    I think the significance of "accurate measurements" and the difficulty in obtaining them, has been greatly exagerated. I provided my own measurements to Jantzen and Liste Rouge, as well as the measurements of my bespoke shirt from the local bespoke shirtmaker that Carl recommended in fact. The local maker's two flaws is that she is very unpleasant and that she has a very limited selection of poor quality fabrics. Her shirts, however, were very nice and I happily wear them (115-160/shirt, plus a tariff for lousy MOP buttons). Their construction by any standard is elegant.

    So I have ventured elsewhere. My Jantzen shirts were short in the sleeves. My Liste Rouge shirts fit perfectly the first time around.

    Jantzen service is awful and delivery time unpredictable. But these are actually not the biggest problems ordering from Ricky, in my opinion. The biggest problem is that figuring out what his fabrics actually look like is impossible.
    Liste Rouge is efficient though pricey at 200/shirt, with double-needle stitching on the sides. They deliver in 3 weeks and guarantee their first shirt. If you live in NYC, Liste Rouge even has a boutique where you can see their fabric.

    But had I lived in NYC, I have no doubt I would have gone to Carl. He is a very nice guy and by reputation only Kabbaz has as good a selection of fabric. My understanding is that his shirts cost around 150/shirt.

    One flaw I think in this whole discussion is that you ignore that shirt fabric is alive, at least for the first ten times you wear it. I swear my shirts fit slightly differently from when I first wore them. So the idea of precise measurements strikes me as a bit ridiculous.

    Maybe the best thing you can do is find a RTW shirt that fits you well, and figure out how you could improve it, and then send that information and the shirt to Ricky. Just an idea I have not tried.

    The CHEAPEST method is to deal with Ricky, and really, really press this forum for fabric recommendations. I just got a twill I liked very much, the first really nice fabric Ricky sent me (my fifth shirt). I think he did deliver the shirt in about 6 weeks, as he promised. And never, never send him email expecting a reply, call him on the phone (I always do).

    But were I in NYC, I would definitely give Cego (Carl) a try.
     


  12. Alexander Kabbaz

    Alexander Kabbaz Distinguished Member

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    JDMcDaniel
    When first I read your post, I too felt like Carl and almost reacted as such. As a matter of fact, Joelle asked me why the blood was running out of my ears. However, having had pleasant converations with you before, I have decided that your post was made honestly and with naive innocence. Therefore, I shall explain the error of your thinking quite simply. The shirts I make for you is yours. The pattern I make, from which I cut your shirts, is mine. Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine. My stock in trade is my fabric, my knowledge, and the 3-4,000 patterns I own. In law, the pattern is considered to be intellectual property. Pardon me if I seem adamant on this subject, but I am exactly that. Although rare in the bespoke world, I have had unscrupulous R-T-W shirt houses and M-T-M- resellers try to steal my patterns. Just over 20 years ago, one of the major sports clothing brands did manage to do exactly that with a line of tennis clothing I designed. Think about going to Auto Zone, buying a muffler, and then going to Lee Myles and asking them to install it. Fuhgettabouddit.
     


  13. JDMcDaniel

    JDMcDaniel Well-Known Member

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    I apologize.  My proposal was not conveyed in enough detail.

    I want to *buy* the pattern from the shirtmaker described in #1, not steal it.  I tried to convey that by saying "send the pattern" to Jantzen in #2.  Looking back, this was not at all clear from the post.  I would commission a shirt from the patternmaker so that we could be sure the pattern had been perfected.

    Many thanks to Minimal for his thoughtful post; it conveys my views perfectly.  Specialization is a normal part of business.  My idea is simply to use highly skilled US shirtmakers for their pattern making abilities, and lower skilled workers for their sewing machine work (and tap into jantzen's discount fabrics).  The fact that I would like to do it through contract, rather than through organizing a firm, is neither rare nor necessarily more costly.

    I could see a shirtmaker being very happy with this model.  It would mean that the bulk of his time would not be spent sewing, but interacting with customers and fashioning unique patterns to suit the idiosyncracies of each customer's body.

    ****************************

    Now, as to the question of hand-sewing the armholes.  I have read that this is superior to machine work for two reasons.  First, hand stitching is less tight than machine stitching, and so the sleeve and shirt body are more disconnected.  The result is that the shirt front moves less in response to arm movement.  Second, it allows for a wider sleeve to be fit into a narrower shoulder hole, as the Napoli tailors do.  This is ostensibly more comfortable, affording greater freedom of movement.  Can our resident shirtmakers opine on whether there is any merit to these two points?  Why exactly does Kiton use the shoulder it does?
     


  14. minimal

    minimal Senior Member

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    On this matter: because (as is clear from the above posts) the pattern encapsulates such a great deal of the creative talents of the shirtmaker, it might be better to think of it as a corporate asset that is patented or "trade secret".

    In these cases, a company might grant you manufacturing rights based on their formula, design, invention, or pattern. They typically charge an initial fee, plus a fee based on the number of times the product is made. So for a chemical formula this would be the number of tons you manufacture, for a patent this would be the number of widgets made.

    One would expect your theoretical shirt idea to work similarly: the "patternmaker" will charge you either per-use, or barring that, base the fee on an estimate of the maximum number of shirts you will make in your lifetime. Plus the initial costs.

    Of course, for patents this is all supported by the complex legal machinery of large corporations; it does not necessarily scale down to individuals. In particular, how will the patternmaker be sure you are not bringing their brilliant pattern to poor manufacturing downstream, forever besmirching their good name? And so the good patternmaker (or inventor, etc.) will have to charge an additional fee for "insurance", so that he can hire the lawyers to write the contracts that protect him in this instance. And, typically, the downstream manufacturers want the pattern in a particular configuration to fit their money-saving processes. So "dovetailing" the patternmaker to the manufacturer adds additional cost. [I'm being purposefully general here, any of the clothing experts can fill in the details]

    And so on. There is a point, of course, when it makes no sense to subdivide some work. This often happens when the individual parts of the work are highly integrated, as in many of the arts.

    For myself, when I find I want that much control over something that appears to not divide well, it's notice to me that I do not know enough about the process involved. It's *possible* that I just came upon some quality-preserving money-saving idea that no one has ever thought of before, but it's not likely. Therefore, either I will soon be very rich, or (more likely) I don't understand why dividing up the work in that way will not either preserve quality or save money (or both.).

    There's one other solution: do it all yourself. I'm sure there are more than a few people for whom shirtmaking is their dedicated hobby. Often dedicated hobbyists can outperform all but the best manufacturers.

    Apologies for all my so-called "writing". As they say, "Nothing can stop me, not even common sense".

    Best regards to all,

    M.
     


  15. Shirtmaven

    Shirtmaven Distinguished Member Dubiously Honored

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    I am not sure if an apology is necessary. Accepted just the same.

    Your thinking is misguided.
    You could contact a pattenmaker in the garment district to make you a shirt pattern. Most Pattern makers are set up to make stock RTW patterns. They are not used to dealing with the Idiosyncrasies of custom clothing. What do you think a patternmaker charges these days?
    Pattern and first samples can cost well over $500. The needle work may not be as good as you want on the sample because again, pattern makers and their sample hands make all sorts of garments.

    I have considerd making first sample in the city and then having a friend in Venezuela make additional shirts for the customer. My friend does excellent work at a price 1/3 of my present cost. The whole concept of sending fabric,and patterns back and forth seems way to complicated and time consuming.

    I have had my business for over 20 years. MY mistakes over the years have taught me plenty. I don't get tired of customers asking me questions about fabric and fit. I do get tired of customers asking me why my shirt is better or worse then "Joe's" Shirt. I get tired of customers who question the Quality of a specific fabric. If we have determined your price point I will not show you inferior fabrics. If you can only afford $100, I will not embarrass you by showing you a fabric that you can not afford.

    I am the first to admit that I am a salesman not a shirtmaker. A salesman who has skill with a tape measure and the ability to ask the right questions to get the right fit. Fortunately I have people who work for me who are skilled shirtmakers who can follow my direction.

    I have fixed plenty of shirts with Handsewn sleeves. Again, look for that row of machine sewn thread.
     


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