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When you should go bespoke

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

  1. Sander

    Sander Senior member

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    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.
     
  2. David Reeves

    David Reeves Senior member Affiliate Vendor

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    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?
     
  3. bourbonbasted

    bourbonbasted Senior member

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    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
  4. archetypal_yuppie

    archetypal_yuppie Senior member

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    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.
     
  5. archibaldleach

    archibaldleach Senior member

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    +1.
     
  6. David Reeves

    David Reeves Senior member Affiliate Vendor

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    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.
     
    2 people like this.
  7. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Maybe it's just payback for all those decades that English gentlemen would order entire wardrobes without paying for them.
     
  8. David Reeves

    David Reeves Senior member Affiliate Vendor

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    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.
     
    2 people like this.
  9. David Reeves

    David Reeves Senior member Affiliate Vendor

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    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.
     
  10. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    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.
     
    2 people like this.
  11. bourbonbasted

    bourbonbasted Senior member

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    It depends. For someone who doesn't wear "formal" clothes often, but enjoys clothes nonetheless, you can get away with a couple suits and a few sport coats/pants. While I agree you need to be some stage of well-off, many here see clothing as a hobby and take enjoyment from the process of learning, seeking and experimenting. While there are some that order bespoke as a matter of course, they are likely not interested in clothes on our level: Rather, that is just simply how they've always lived, only wearing custom clothes because that's all they know.

    Like anything else, if you plan on expenditures and map your resources (income, time, etc) around them, you should be able to enjoy bespoke clothing without eating Ramen every night. That said, if you ever find yourself questioning if you have enough, you don't.

    In terms of vanity: it's not that I'm vain, it's just that I'm better than everyone else.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2013
  12. OxxfordSJLINY

    OxxfordSJLINY Senior member

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    A bit off topic-and I don't want to sound snide, but with the current exchange rate between the Great British Pound and the United States Dollar, £3,000 is approximately $4,500, not approximately $5,000.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2013
  13. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    If you're paying that much for a suit, $4500 is approximately $5000.
     
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  14. OxxfordSJLINY

    OxxfordSJLINY Senior member

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    Okay.
     
  15. Blackhood

    Blackhood Senior member

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    I'm glad you quoted the entire post to point out a 10% margin of error in a back-of-the-envelope equation.
     
    1 person likes this.
  16. SuitRowCharles

    SuitRowCharles Member

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    This is my first post on Style Forum but I have really enjoyed reading through this interesting thread.

    As someone who worked for Gieves & Hawkes and then ran my own 'Made in England' bespoke tailoring business, I think it really boils down to personal choice.
    Strange one but we always found so many clients enjoyed choosing a fancy lining more so then anything else..lol. They would sit for ages going through the lining bunches, then call the wife is for her view..LOL. Small thing but really made buying bespoke truly unique.

    I think the other big factor was fit. Either they wanted a sharp cut or they found it hard to buy RTW due to their shape etc.

    Many of our previous clients purchased a bespoke suit for a one off event like a wedding etc. But some would only wear bespoke and never even think about RTW.

    Anyway, I think the points highlighted are perfect.

    The only possible negative element we have found in 15 years experience is people suddenly start to find issues with their bespoke suits that they would never have even seen before. This is were a 'peoples person' is needed to manage peoples 'sudden eye for detail'.

    But overall, I think everyone should try bespoke at least once in their lives as its a truly wonder experience.
     
  17. bourbonbasted

    bourbonbasted Senior member

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    FTFY
     
  18. SuitRowCharles

    SuitRowCharles Member

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    Oh and forgot to mention, totally agree with all your points blackhood.

    Thumbs up for a great first read on styleforum...:)
     
  19. add911_11

    add911_11 Senior member

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    I find bespoke suits more durable, and they allow easier alternations. RTW does not allow radical changes.
     
  20. archetypal_yuppie

    archetypal_yuppie Senior member

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    I disagree on your first sentence, but the source of disagreement is going to come down to a difference in what we think it means to have "arrived."

    The barista is clearly a ludicrous example.

    I believe that for "mainline" bespoke (~$5K+/suit), it would be fairly egregious for a suit-wearing man making a quarter million/year to wear bespoke suits, pants, and jackets. It's not about whether you have the money, it's about whether it's a sensible use of the money, given all of the other competing uses. On SF, it may be somewhat common for people of lesser means to go bespoke, but that doesn't mean it makes sense to do so.

    Maybe you don't think $250K a year has "arrived," but that level of income equates to the top ~2.5% of *household* income in the U.S., so that would be a very tough definition for "arrival."

    Anyway, clearly subjective, and for some people, it's their obsession... But most people around the world don't save nearly as much as they ought to. But as far as the thread title goes, I think people should make a lot of money before they go that route for their wardrobe at large.
     

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