When you should go bespoke

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Blackhood, Jul 28, 2013.

  1. David Reeves

    David Reeves Affiliate Vendor Affiliate Vendor

    Messages:
    3,112
    Likes Received:
    2,061
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Location:
    New York
    

    Well we must always remember we are only talking about suits here, it's not some avante garde piece by issey miyake, stylistically and in many ways you can say one suit is pretty much the same as another so from a design perspective it's not too tricky for a designer to put on a ticket pocket, it won't set the world on fire. However, and this is why I like designing suits, you have these constraints and you have to work within them so it's all about subtlety and this is what is hard for people to get their head around and I think it takes years of experience and a certain innate knack to get it right.

    I have worked all my adult life with bench tailors and no one will respect what they do more than me, you can be a tailor making the best hand worked garment in the world, but if that breast welt is 3/4" too low or that button stance is wrong you've killed that garment and often clients and tailors just don't get this until its too late.

    How did I come up with my basic suit? My suits are actually purposefully quite simple in style I think, I try to make truly classic, timeless pieces as much as I can. After 15 years of producing suits I think I've boiled things down to placements that just "work" but this is a style in itself. I try to calibrate it all so it sits on that fence of being chic but classic. Understanding like muscle memory what makes a suit look boring, or young or ugly or stylish allows me to do this.

    Add to that great cloths and trimmings and then make sure that the fit is good and you don't have to reinvent the wheel because quality is always in style. Whether you think I'm succesful at doing these things well that's up to you but this is my honest take on how I approach my suits.

    Now there is variation in what I do in terms of style sometimes. I may want to make the suit look a touch 60s or 70s. I play around with the basics just trying to stay on that knife edge to keep it classic Savile row, but give it a feeling that is evocative of the era, while being careful not too be too authentic to it, because then your creating costume.

    Does any of that make sense? It's late for me.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2013
  2. jcmeyer

    jcmeyer Senior member

    Messages:
    1,470
    Likes Received:
    4,004
    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2010
    Location:
    RWC, CA
    

    :nodding: Absolutely. I very much appreciate it as I think at some point this question probably runs through most people's heads if they've been involved with commissioning a suit. And no worries, it's late here too and we're talking in generalities but you added some really great context to the tailor/customer interaction.

    There is no doubt a wide spectrum of eye for design among tailors, and I'm genuinely happy with my guy but that's why I asked about trying out others, same as you would stroll into several different stores while out shopping -- you don't know what will catch your eye until you see it, and that's a lot more difficult when it comes to custom clothing. The question then becomes, is there enough difference between similarly-priced bespoke options to warrant losing the momentum you've built up with one tailor to try another, if the general pattern for a classic piece such as a suit is not going to vary widely enough to matter. Might not even really be an answerable question; just one that strikes me from time to time.

    Thanks again for the reply.
     
  3. Blackhood

    Blackhood Senior member

    Messages:
    2,904
    Likes Received:
    364
    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2010
    Location:
    Cambridge, UK
    

    No once incident, just a culmination of recent advice on SF/AAAC and customers walking in and using the phrase "I read some advice on-line and bespoke seems to be the way to go..."

    I feel very passionately that we are on a knife edge of tailoring; on the one hand the generation of men for whom it was standard practice to have their suit made is gone and the trade is on it's knees. On the other hand we are working in an age where information spreads like wildfire, and the right advice in the right location can support multiple businesses and cause a resurgence. I think it is important that instead of allowing bespoke tailoring to be mythologised by armchair sartorialists we must be frank and honest about what can be achieved, and what cannot. Setting ourselves (both tailors and consumers) a realistic bar is the only way to make sure that this interest in the very highest level of custom clothing doesn't burn out because a few too many people didn't come away with what they were expecting.

    I'm not trying to make any real point with what I wrote, I just feel that it is the kind of thing that should be said occasionally, especially when we are in an environment that advocates going bespoke so readily. Bringing balance to the force, if you will :hide:
     
  4. Blackhood

    Blackhood Senior member

    Messages:
    2,904
    Likes Received:
    364
    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2010
    Location:
    Cambridge, UK
  5. archibaldleach

    archibaldleach Senior member

    Messages:
    5,235
    Likes Received:
    2,237
    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2006
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Subscribed.
     
  6. Sander

    Sander Senior member

    Messages:
    2,893
    Likes Received:
    6,176
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2006
    Many wise things have been said about the realistic process of bespoke vs its glorified internet version. I'd like to add that there is also the potential for immense frustration - customers with extensive bespoke experience will readily tell you that it is absolutely possible to waste 1000s of €/$/£ because the tailor got your order wrong, cut something wrong and there is no more cloth to rectify it etc, etc. Just something to keep in mind.
     
  7. David Reeves

    David Reeves Affiliate Vendor Affiliate Vendor

    Messages:
    3,112
    Likes Received:
    2,061
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Location:
    New York
    

    Yeah but that's my point, shouldn't you get a refund or some kind of compensation if that happens? How do people get away with it?
     
  8. bourbonbasted

    bourbonbasted Cyber Eliitist

    Messages:
    4,027
    Likes Received:
    1,629
    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2011
    

    There is a level of romanticism around tailoring I will never understand. People are willing to put up with a lot of shit that gets swept under the rug of "the process." That is one of the main reasons I agree with all of the statements about forging relationships and knowing who you're doing business with (as it is with everything else).
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2013
  9. archetypal_yuppie

    archetypal_yuppie Senior member

    Messages:
    2,877
    Likes Received:
    574
    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2010
    

    There's definitely a large "it's a risky pain in the ass" angle with bespoke. Maybe this is minimal with the biggest names, if they are local.

    Since most people probably do not fall into the particularly "hard to fit" category, the key criteria is 1) when one has tons of excess cash and 2) enough vanity.
     
  10. archibaldleach

    archibaldleach Senior member

    Messages:
    5,235
    Likes Received:
    2,237
    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2006
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    

    +1.
     
  11. David Reeves

    David Reeves Affiliate Vendor Affiliate Vendor

    Messages:
    3,112
    Likes Received:
    2,061
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Location:
    New York
    

    Mind you I'm fairly young, flash and I'm English. So when I do get things wrong people don't show me as much mercy as they would the old Italian guy that delivers really expensive pants two years late.
     
  12. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Jewfro Dubiously Honored

    Messages:
    8,356
    Likes Received:
    4,533
    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2011
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Maybe it's just payback for all those decades that English gentlemen would order entire wardrobes without paying for them.
     
  13. David Reeves

    David Reeves Affiliate Vendor Affiliate Vendor

    Messages:
    3,112
    Likes Received:
    2,061
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Location:
    New York
    

    I think to be honest you have to be very well off for bespoke, you need to have "arrived". If your a barista and your like OMG I'm spending 3 months of my bushwick rent on this, then your probably going to find some way to be disappointed because at the end of the day, it is (shock horror) just a suit. It won't fix your life for you. I think buying bespoke clothes should be a little painful in time and treasure but it shouldn't be like torture for you, if it is then your investing too much.
     
  14. David Reeves

    David Reeves Affiliate Vendor Affiliate Vendor

    Messages:
    3,112
    Likes Received:
    2,061
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Location:
    New York
    

    They still do. One of my first tasks working for a very fancy tailor was to try and call up and collect balances, there was literally a million pounds owed to this company from outstanding balances....that wasn't a fun task I can tell you.
     
  15. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Jewfro Dubiously Honored

    Messages:
    8,356
    Likes Received:
    4,533
    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2011
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    I hate to self-promote, but this post from a couple months ago on my blog seems relevant, so I'll put it here below the spoiler:

    "Going Bespoke"
    Inevitably in any online discussion of ready-to-wear clothing, someone will recommend as refuge from any ailment clothing can inflict: “Go Bespoke." The solution to all your problems, real or imagined. Go Bespoke, young man. Travel to this fabled land where dropped shoulders are raised, where bird chests are swelled to heroic proportions, and beer bellies made to appear six-packs of San Pellegrino. How? It’s bespoke, anything is possible! If, that is, you are worthy. Pure of heart, wise in fabrics, and sagacious of fit.
    This is not how bespoke works. That’s not to say that bespoke tailoring isn’t worth the time and expense that it requires. For many, there is no substitute for it. But it is not a magic elixir. Nor does deciding to spend an equivalent amount of money on ready-to-wear clothing represent some personal failing of either judgment or morals.
    I hope to give an idea of what bespoke clothing can and can’t offer. This will vary from tailor to tailor. My comments are meant to be as general as possible, drawing from my experience with four different custom tailors (plus five shirtmakers and a couple of custom tie-makers, but this article is mostly meant to refer to jackets and trousers).
    The closest analogy I can think of is the difference between a dinner in a restaurant and one made for you by a personal chef, except that in each case you have to commit to eating that dish once a week for years.
    Ready-to-wear clothing is like food in a restaurant. You are presented with a menu of options. You may be able to change each dish slightly at the margins, but essentially everything that’s available is on the menu. Before committing to eating a dish for years to come, you can try a sample off the production line and see what you think. Of course, there are all sorts of restaurants. Some are very good and very expensive, some are terrible and expensive, some are just terrible. Finding very good and reasonably cheap is rare but not impossible.
    Bespoke clothing is like hiring a personal chef. Although your dinner is made just for you, a chef tends to specialize in a certain type of cuisine. He may be talented and versatile. But even though he knows how to use a knife and stove and can look up a recipe on the Internet, it doesn’t make much sense to ask Mario Batali for Kung Pao Chicken. The fact that it’s custom-made for you doesn’t mean that you can or should ask whatever you want of a particular chef.
    Since your chef is cooking just for you that night as opposed to working in a big kitchen designed to pump out hundreds of dishes a night, it’s likely (although not certain) that he will take more care with each production step, and put more thought into each design choice. You can give him general direction on what you want (what sort of dish, what kinds of flavors you like most, what will be required for a particular occasion) the vast majority of these design and production choices (what kind of pots to use, where to source the meat, how much salt in the marinade) will be made by the cook without your input, and likely without you ever even knowing that there was a choice to be made.
    Nor is the personal chef guaranteed to be “better" than a restaurant. You can hire the guy flipping burgers at your local fast food joint to be your personal chef. You’ll probably get a better meal by going to a three-star Michelin restaurant. Even hiring a highly acclaimed personal chef is no guarantee of satisfaction. You may not communicate with him well. He may execute his dishes well but in a style that you don’t like. He may have a fondness for using some ingredient to which you are allergic.
    Nor are you necessarily going to get a better meal by asking your personal chef to make you cobia just like they make at Le Bernardin, except just for you. Even if your chef is as talented as Eric Ripert, there are many variables that go into making the cobia at Le Bernardin. If what you want is the cobia at Le Bernardin, make a reservation there and order the cobia.
    Finally, there’s no particular expertise necessary to just turn your nightly menu over to a talented chef. If you aren’t too picky and like his general style, and just want high quality food that will nourish you and be acceptable to the vast majority of guests that come to your house for dinner, choose a generally acclaimed chef (this is going to be expensive) and put yourself in his hands.
    All the same concepts apply to the differences between ready-made and bespoke clothing. When you buy clothing in the store, you have a pretty decent idea of what it is going to look like on you, even after alterations. And there is high-quality RTW that looks great.
    If you’re satisfied with the way off-the-peg garments look on you, there’s no need to “go bespoke” in the hopes that it’ll be the same, just better. It will almost certainly not be the same, and whether or not it’s better will likely be open to interpretation. Bespoke represents a risk, since you don’t know what the finished product will look like. You have some idea based on what you see on other clients, and you have some control over the development of the product during the fittings, but uncertainty remains.
    On the other hand, when a bespoke piece really gets it right, which quality tailors are able to do fairly reliably, fellow travelers and, more importantly, its owner, will recognize it as a beautiful and unique thing that nothing from a store could ever match. The wearer also has a personal connection to the garment’s origin and development, a comfort as dignified as it is archaic. To those who recognize the value in these things, there is no substitute. They will continue to chase the woolen dragon until either their lifetime or their bank account has been exhausted.
    If you have seen such a garment, and have this sensibility, then you’ll know what I mean already. We may not agree on which are the truly inspirational masterpieces. But we will share the experience.
    If you haven’t had this experience, you can, of course, still commission quality bespoke clothing, if you have the money and patience for it. There are no secret code words you have to whisper to the tailor to earn his attention. It will be helpful if you can express some ways that you’re dissatisfied with the ready-to-wear garments you already own, but it is not necessary. Just answer his questions honestly and let him do his thing. As I indicated above with the chef analogies, once you have chosen your tailor, most of the stylistic decisions have already been made. You have to trust him. If you no longer trust him, it’s time to find a new tailor.
    If all this sounds really scary and bothersome to you, then you’ll probably be a happier person if you just stick to ready-made clothes. It doesn’t make you any worse of a person, just as owning bespoke suits does not make you a better person.
     

Share This Page

Styleforum is proudly sponsored by