I first wrote about about this about 15 years ago but it's as relevant today as it was then. I am a bespoke cutter by trade using bespoke tailors who use their hands to create beautiful bespoke Savile row suits. Now the simple fact is that these don't come easily or cheap. I have very few of them myself. Why?? Well, it's easy to see why when you think about it. You see, skilled tailors that make the way I want clothes to be made are very rare but the demand for our bespoke clothing is very high. So there's a good reason why I don't have a full bespoke wardrobe.
I'm sure it must be lovely to be a dandy tailor wearing all sorts of bespoke suits but I'm always working on clients suits and worrying they wont be ready on time. The fact is that my tailors are too busy making for our clients for me to stop them and enjoy the luxury myself. As with all commodities and skills that are scarce there's a price to pay. I'm not saying a good bespoke from Redmayne is unreasonable at all but at about £3.8k it's still a serious investment. If you knew how much effort went into these garments then you'd fully understand why I say the price tag is reasonable. I also expect a bespoke suit to give fifteen years or so years of pleasurable service which is incredible value. The point that I'm getting to is that bespoke is something very special and feels and looks like nothing else...and I mean, nothing else.
This post is to remind potential suit buyers that the term bespoke isn't always used in the most truthful of statements. You could say anything made for an individual to their measurements, their cloth and cut choices is in some way bespoke. But in tailoring terms this is a really bad idea because it robs the trade of its identity and ultimately robs the client. The term bespoke and semi bespoke gets attributed to a host of retailers that simply aren't bespoke at all. Even though you can pick the tiniest details from the flower loop colour to the way your cuff buttons are stitched on.... that still doesn't matter and it doesn't make anything bespoke. Of course you can pick these details on true bespoke, well not mine as gimmicks aren't my thing as I only make them one way, but that's another story.
True bespoke tailoring in today's Savile Row tradition basically runs something like this. A cutter (me) discusses your requirements and guides you in every detail. I don't want you to be the latest hipster but make sure you have something timeless. I need to know that by the time your commission is complete you're not only delighted but you'll remain so for the next ten or fifteen years. It's not acceptable that you pull out a suit from you wardrobe in five years time and say "what was I thinking". That's not your job to avoid this, that's mine. The making of your suit usually involves specialist coat makers (we don't say jacket), trouser and waistcoat (no vests here) makers. There are also finishers that specialise in the beautiful hand sewing and buttonholes on your garments. There are also specialist dress wear makers, britches makers and uniform specialists.
As you can imagine when you've had your fittings (usually 3 including measuring) you'll be walking out with something that's had an awful lot of skilled hands involved. I believe it's the hand part that makes all the difference. The real knockout blow from bespoke to all the competition is ultimately how it feels and as yet, nothing compares. Not even the very best in honestly named "made to measure" services that are available. I would know, as I'm still trying to perfect it in our own made to measure.
Tom has been involved at the highest level in the tailoring industry for over 37 years. He has also been blogging and furthering knowledge of the craft for over 15 years. He is married to Claire and has three children.