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Would You Take Perfect Machine Made or Imperfect Handmade?

andy b.

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I know I'm replying late to this thread, but just an hour ago I had witness to a situation I complain about every day. My mom needs a new hearing aid. The company she used to deal with is no longer around, so she found a place with a decent price, but it is all remote. The company sends a kit, and basically does a zoom meeting to diagnose the hearing issue and provide an initial fit assessment.
It was a total disaster. Imagine trying to give a hearing exam to someone who has trouble hearing, and isn't network savvy. My mom said thanks, but no thanks. She is going to find a local audiologist even if it is a bit of a drive and costs more.

My point being, keep on ordering remotely, and one day when the network is down, or you need that service now, it won't be there. That's why I try to support local businesses as much as possible.

I was in Walmart two days ago for about 5 minutes. I regretted it and didn't purchase anything. That was the first time I stepped foot in a Walmart in over 2 years.

I'm going with the imperfect local guy every time.
 

ijustknow

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This is the bit that isn't realistic.

There are three reasons why such a thing would exist: choice (as you mention); the 'perfection'; and the price. And there is no way, in reality that they would be the same price. In fact the differential is likely to be even more as handmade would increase in price with rarity and machine-made would have an economy of scale. Also:

Hypothesis 1: Such as system would allow more people buy a really good suit who couldn't afford the current / handmade version, but this wouldn't make more people dress 'better' by CM standards, because they would get perfect versions of whatever was fashionable not what is considered 'classic'.

Hypothesis 2: People here might say they would always choose handmade, but many of them are posturing, or answering entirely hypothetically. A better questions would perhaps be: at what price difference would you choose the machine-made suit? Given a real choice, and the realistic difference in price, many would atually choose machine-made perfection.

Hypothesis 3: In the end, there is always going to be a market for handmade / artisinal, whatever the price, and it's going to be an elite / niche market.
Truly insightful reply.
Although more and more people can afford bespoke service, economically it is purposefully for elite/niche market, just like the true luxury brands (not fashion houses) otherwise, it perishes due to the competition of industrial manufacturing.
 

Brendon

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I suppose my skepticism comes from having tried so many tailors. Have tried about dozen bespoke tailors at this point, roughly eight or nine MTM makers, and two bespoke shoemakers. After so many commissions, my impression is the same as Andy's when he speaks about the difference between high- and mid-tier audio equipment (I don't know anything about audio equipment, so I can only take him on his word, although I've heard his view from other very sensibly minded friends). Depending on the specificities of teh comparison, I often can't tell the difference between handmade and machine-made, bespoke and MTM.

I've seen a lot of bad bespoke tailoring and have experienced it myself. I've had bespoke shoes that were way worse than Allen Edmonds Factory Seconds. Have seen bespoke coats that fit worse than even low-priced ready-made. Have seen coat dissections at JefferyD's blog that shocked me regarding the construction -- machine padded chests from reputable Savile Row firms. Shockingly bad pattern matching. Poorly made coats. Bad patterns, etc.

It also seems to me that the line between MTM and bespoke is not so clear anymore. Many bespoke tailors, including ones on Savile Row, use block patterns and pre-made pieces. Not always the case that the tailor shapes everything by hand -- even on Sailve Row, some use pre-made shoulder pads. When I visited Anna Matuozzo's workshop -- surely among the most respected of bespoke shirtmakers -- I saw block patterns. I also know that A&S used block patterns after Edwin and Tom left. Supposedly, this was done to bring the trouser cutter up to speed.

I've also been shocked by the quality tailoring I've seen from MTM firms and even ready-to-wear, including people on this forum who buy from brands as low priced as Spier & Mackay. This morning, a friend showed me a photo of his new Spier & Mackay pinstriped flannel suit and it's better than some of the bespoke tailoring I've seen at The London Lounge and here. Often, it seems that people are unwilling to speak critically of bespoke tailors, either because they have financial relationships with that tailor or they're just too polite. After so many years of seeing bad bespoke here, and seeing everyone in the thread just be silent about the shoddy work, it really makes you wonder.

IMO, the real value from bespoke comes from getting to work with a cutter, a technically trained person, rather than just a sales associate. This means that, sometimes, this person can give you better feedback about whether something fits. I've been impressed with two people here -- DavidLane and Parick R -- for how they've been able to develop really nice wardrobes in a short period of time. I think this is because they've had good advice from tailors. But this assumes you've found a good and honest tailor, which can be its own challenge. I also think that certain shops can provide this advice, although they are also a challenge to find.

Back to balance: I have some ready-to-wear coats that fit fine on the front-back balance, but needed adjusting on the left-right balance. I took them to the best alterations tailor I know in my area and had them adjust it. I think the work turned out well. They've also adjusted close to a dozen bespoke garments for me. These are garments from Ambrosi, Napoli Su Misura, and Steed -- nearly all trousers. Most of this local tailor's business comes from sending off work to a MTM factory, but they have an in-house tailor that can do a wide range of work. This experience has also made me a little more skeptical about the lines between bespoke and MTM.
You have a great deal of experience with this and I hear you. I would agree it is a moveable feast of quality and fit. As I noted previously MTM of factory made suits are always fairly consistent with finish and tailors will vary greatly depending on who they have at hand to make. I am in New Zealand so other than my interest in tailoring there is no business benefit to this for me. I made 5 times the income as MTM than as a bespoke tailor man but would rather go on a strict diet of bread and water than go back to that.
So lets go through some points that we agree on. 100% if you can. The cutter is the important one to develop a relationship with. He is the one that should be coming out to do the fittings. I take photos without the face as it may be weeks until you get back onto the job and notes are only so good. I strongly counter this with that if you are young say under 40 the chances are that what you think of as a good fit is going to be different to that of the person cutting the suit. The number of suits I have seen on this site that are so ill fitting because they adhere to tight and tighter. Arms that poke well out beyond the natural shoulder line, sleeves that are so tight the sleeve of the shirt cannot travel through the sleeve of the cuff. Coats that are so crooked and tight in the chest that they bow off. Vents that open from tightness and buttons that look ready to pop. Trousers that are all tapered wrongly, ie ideal if you are riding a horse but make a man look bandy in the legs and get stuck on the calfs.
I would not have a problem with someone using a block pattern if they know what they are doing. OK it has less fell good that the tailor is not keeping one just for you but all that is happening is that 2 dimensions are made into a 3 dimensional form. Remember tailors use massive inlays compared to factory made so they have some leeway.
Some tailors use a little pad stitching and some a lot. So this is the best way I an convey what is happening. Horse hair is a very straight and strong fibre. By bending it as you sew, you put it under pressure. For developing the chest, it is sewn inverted and the small almost lumps of domette you create with the herringbone stitch contact the chest and push it once developed with the iron. The horse hair does the leg work but a well padded chest is need for more drape. The chest cut away as younger lads wear needs not a lot of pad stitching as the effect of the extra chest is cut out of the job in the first place.
You might say the line between MTM and bespoke is blurred but I think the MTM folks would be happy with that.
The challenge for bespoke may be to imitate the machine in finish. You need young eyes with an experienced body. Having a young person to do the buttonholes and an experienced hand to set the sleeves. But the challenge for MTM is definitely fit and this is one they can never achieve. You might as a tailor need to crooken a coat 1/8th of an inch and then have to add a little to the front edge at the next fitting because of it or vice verse take off after straightening. You cannot be that methodical with MTM considering you are unmaking the coat each time pressing a cutting and assembling again.
I have to go and help someone for a bit, apologies. But will come back to this later on. I do hear you and will try and add constructively to what you say
regards
Brendon
 

ijustknow

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I suppose my skepticism comes from having tried so many tailors. Have tried about dozen bespoke tailors at this point, roughly eight or nine MTM makers, and two bespoke shoemakers. After so many commissions, my impression is the same as Andy's when he speaks about the difference between high- and mid-tier audio equipment (I don't know anything about audio equipment, so I can only take him on his word, although I've heard his view from other very sensibly minded friends). Depending on the specificities of teh comparison, I often can't tell the difference between handmade and machine-made, bespoke and MTM.

I've seen a lot of bad bespoke tailoring and have experienced it myself. I've had bespoke shoes that were way worse than Allen Edmonds Factory Seconds. Have seen bespoke coats that fit worse than even low-priced ready-made. Have seen coat dissections at JefferyD's blog that shocked me regarding the construction -- machine padded chests from reputable Savile Row firms. Shockingly bad pattern matching. Poorly made coats. Bad patterns, etc.

It also seems to me that the line between MTM and bespoke is not so clear anymore. Many bespoke tailors, including ones on Savile Row, use block patterns and pre-made pieces. Not always the case that the tailor shapes everything by hand -- even on Sailve Row, some use pre-made shoulder pads. When I visited Anna Matuozzo's workshop -- surely among the most respected of bespoke shirtmakers -- I saw block patterns. I also know that A&S used block patterns after Edwin and Tom left. Supposedly, this was done to bring the trouser cutter up to speed.

I've also been shocked by the quality tailoring I've seen from MTM firms and even ready-to-wear, including people on this forum who buy from brands as low priced as Spier & Mackay. This morning, a friend showed me a photo of his new Spier & Mackay pinstriped flannel suit and it's better than some of the bespoke tailoring I've seen at The London Lounge and here. Often, it seems that people are unwilling to speak critically of bespoke tailors, either because they have financial relationships with that tailor or they're just too polite. After so many years of seeing bad bespoke here, and seeing everyone in the thread just be silent about the shoddy work, it really makes you wonder.

IMO, the real value from bespoke comes from getting to work with a cutter, a technically trained person, rather than just a sales associate. This means that, sometimes, this person can give you better feedback about whether something fits. I've been impressed with two people here -- DavidLane and Parick R -- for how they've been able to develop really nice wardrobes in a short period of time. I think this is because they've had good advice from tailors. But this assumes you've found a good and honest tailor, which can be its own challenge. I also think that certain shops can provide this advice, although they are also a challenge to find.

Back to balance: I have some ready-to-wear coats that fit fine on the front-back balance, but needed adjusting on the left-right balance. I took them to the best alterations tailor I know in my area and had them adjust it. I think the work turned out well. They've also adjusted close to a dozen bespoke garments for me. These are garments from Ambrosi, Napoli Su Misura, and Steed -- nearly all trousers. Most of this local tailor's business comes from sending off work to a MTM factory, but they have an in-house tailor that can do a wide range of work. This experience has also made me a little more skeptical about the lines between bespoke and MTM.
I see some great points.
Speaking about product, Ready made is not necessarily worse than bespoke, just like machines can do a lot of jobs better than human.
My personal view is that a commission is a visit to an amusement park. sometimes, the journey is great, sometimes it is a disappointment, not as good as people claim.
You won't go to the bad park again, but you still like going to amusement parks, that is where you can find joy, that is your passion.
Yes, people seldom say bad words about tailors even the garment is bad, because they have a feeling they are preserving the perishing trade. This may be true, or just an illusion.
It is not bad to care for someone need to make a living.
 

ijustknow

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I know I'm replying late to this thread, but just an hour ago I had witness to a situation I complain about every day. My mom needs a new hearing aid. The company she used to deal with is no longer around, so she found a place with a decent price, but it is all remote. The company sends a kit, and basically does a zoom meeting to diagnose the hearing issue and provide an initial fit assessment.
It was a total disaster. Imagine trying to give a hearing exam to someone who has trouble hearing, and isn't network savvy. My mom said thanks, but no thanks. She is going to find a local audiologist even if it is a bit of a drive and costs more.

My point being, keep on ordering remotely, and one day when the network is down, or you need that service now, it won't be there. That's why I try to support local businesses as much as possible.

I was in Walmart two days ago for about 5 minutes. I regretted it and didn't purchase anything. That was the first time I stepped foot in a Walmart in over 2 years.

I'm going with the imperfect local guy every time.
I like to persuade people that bespoke is a local business. However our perspective is different. Being local means personal connection and trust. I don't think Walmart is any bad as long as the products are decent.
 

ijustknow

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For whatever it’s worth, I truly believe the search for perfection/optimization is just a road to unhappiness (at best) or madness (at worst). Nothing is more freeing than realizing not everything needs to be perfect or “the best” version of something. Good enough is good enough.
The what about machine can give the same good enough product at least 10 times cheaper than human?
 

dieworkwear

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The more I think about it, the more I think the process of the sale means more to me than the garment construction. For some reason, I can't see myself buying a suit off Amazon. It has nothing to do with that specific company or its issues. Mostly the idea of pressing a few buttons and getting a suit that pops out from the other side. This is while recognizing that I buy casualwear from Mr. Porter, which, while not Amazon, has a facelessness to it.

I have suits and sport coats from The Armoury, which are almost entirely machine-made. To the degree that they have handwork, it's the sort of handwork you find at every high-priced suit (e.g. collar and sleeves attached by hand). If they were to do a MTM version, I would be fine with that, too.

I also have bespoke garments that I like (and some that I don't like and have since sold off). The commonality is that the process of acquiring these things was a bit more human-centric than buying off Amazon.
 

gdl203

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1/8 of an inch ? :confused2:

is that before lunch or after lunch?

the idea of seeking 1/8” perfection on a suit made of fabric that drapes, floats and stretched, worn on a body that moves constantly and with a volume that changes more than that with a little bit more exercise this week or a little too much turkey that one, is a theoretical (and impossible) pursuit. Give me great (not perfect) fit, quality and comfort in fabric, and I’m more than happy to let good people do what they do well, without ever having to worry about 1/8”.
 
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Brendon

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1/8 of an inch ? :confused2:

is that before lunch or after lunch?

the idea of seeking 1/8” perfection on a suit made of fabric that drapes, floats and stretched, worn on a body that moves constantly and with a volume that changes more than that with a little bit more exercise this week or a little too much turkey that one, is a theoretical (and impossible) pursuit. Give me great (not perfect) fit, quality and comfort in fabric, and I’m more than happy to let good people do what they do well, without ever having to worry about 1/8”.
I know it doesn't sound a lot but 1/8 of an inch at the neck point where you crooken or straighten a suit makes a significant difference.. everywhere else on the coat, you are right it doesn't matter. It could be sewn out in error. One other significant thing is unless you are careful people never stand the same for two fittings in a row. People always stand a little more upright as if they are being judged on a parade ground. Thier ideal posture rather than the reality you wish to fit. The before or after lunch wont matter too much unless it's a Friday?
 

joacimbylehn

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I would go for man made, simply for the x-factor. Having a interaction, building a relationship with the maker etc.
While you could still browse swatches at home, it's not the same as having a discussion about it, going back and forth, getting professional insight to the properties of some fabrics etc.
The exceptions for me would be if I for some reason needed a suit at a certain time, assuming amazon would deliver it faster, or if getting the machine made option meant a significant cost save.
But I would never get the machine made perfect fit just for the sake of the perfect fit. I'm just one meal away from a bloated belly or something that would interrupt that perfection anyway, perfect doesn't exist.

As a side note, I'm totally with you @dieworkwear on the unappealing nature of zoom fittings. I've only had limited experience, but propping up my iPad and slowly spinning around to assess fit, well it's not a pleasant experience. I've never felt more on display. Even though it was for a maker that I love catching up with irl, the whole thing felt forced and awkward.
 

Viral

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1/8” is almost imperceptible…..but then you’d have nothing to obsess and split hairs and argue about so I guess I see the point 🤷🏼‍♂️
 

Enfusia

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I would absolutely go with the human made garment for these reasons:
1. The machine made is actually the imperfect garment. The artisan builds in stretch and play into the seams that allows me to move in a hand made piece.

2. It's those little imperfections of the pic stitch and others that give your clothing character that the others will never have.
Almost to the point of saying if these were people instead of suits would I rather have to deal with a human with all their quirks or a robot. I'll take the human, much more interesting.

3. When surrounded by people in the know, wealthy or sartorial minded, I'm going to want to be as good if not better than they are. They will spot that machine made suit and know I'm below them. Unacceptable!

4. A suit can bring you confidence. There is no better confidence than knowing you're wearing the best.
 

smittycl

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I would absolutely go with the human made garment for these reasons:


4. A suit can bring you confidence. There is no better confidence than knowing you're wearing the best.
I feel the same way but also realize that we're talking about the adult version of Rocket-ship underpants. :bigstar:
 

dieworkwear

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3. When surrounded by people in the know, wealthy or sartorial minded, I'm going to want to be as good if not better than they are. They will spot that machine made suit and know I'm below them. Unacceptable!
Under this logic, wouldn't a machine-made suit be the bigger flex because then you're flexing on noobs who fetishize handwork?
 

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