Breaking Down the World of Custom
The world of custom tailored clothing.. Where to start and what to say? I had a customer in the other day asking about the bespoke process we've undertaken with the help of Pat Henning. He wanted to know "What’s the difference between Made-to-Measure and Custom-Bespoke"? Good question - we sometimes get a little wrapped up in our day to day to realize how confusing all of this terminology is. I’d like to touch on the differences between MTM and Bespoke, but first I’d like to break down the terms we use when we talk about “clothing” in menswear.
There are four main terms that pretty much encompass all aspects of men’s tailored clothing.
1. RTW (Ready-to-Wear). This is a term that’s pretty much self-explanatory – product that’s made up and sold right off the rack. This product comes in different size ranges to accommodate for standard builds.
2. Stock-Single. This is commonly sold under the illusion of MTM. This process allows the client to choose their own fabric, and then order the jacket and trouser sizes independent of suiting standards. It allows for waist, shoulder and length changes only.
3. MTM (Made-to-Measure). The MTM process generally works on a +/- system. Depending on the manufacturer, a limited number of plus or minus adjustments can be made to the garment. The pattern is usually computer generated and cloth is cut by machine. There’s a small amount of handwork on the garment, but for the most part, it’s constructed by machine. For many guys, a fantastic fit can be accomplished through this process, with the styling details needed to give it some great custom flair,(surgeon cuffs, ticket pocket etc).
4. Custom-Bespoke. This is the grand daddy of all custom processes. It can take up to 10 weeks from start to finish, with mid-production fittings done as required. The pattern and cloth is cut by hand for the specific client, and is tweaked with each fitting. Most of the work on the garment is done by one set of hands. There’s almost no limit to the customization possible with bespoke tailoring.
Now with that aside, the very first thing I’d like to point out is this. THE WORLD OF BESPOKE TAILORING IS NOT SOME MYSTERIOUS MYSTICAL PROCESS ACCOMPLISHED ONLY BY OLD-WORLD, FOURTH GENERATION TAILORS. This has been one of my pet peeves since I started working in the menswear world. A ton of people in the business sell themselves as old-world tailors that have magical skills to fit men perfectly, and that they stay up until 3am in the back room sewing the garments specifically for you. This is almost never the case, especially on this side of the country. No mystery or secret - the main jumping point from MTM to Bespoke comes when the pattern for the garment is cut exclusively FOR YOU and a number of fittings take place intermittently to ensure the fit is correct.
So why choose to go the route of Bespoke over MTM? Well the answer is not entirely simple. For some men, the MTM process is totally adequate for their needs. Tons of fabric choices and styling options are available and the fit can be adjusted enough to nail the shape and balance of the jacket on him. For other men, it’s not as easy. Everyone is built different, so the bespoke process is a better option for achieving the perfect fit for many guys. Aside from having the ability to achieve the perfect fit, the fabric and styling options are far more extensive - lapel width, trouser waistband, number of inside pockets on a jacket and hand sewn button holes are just a few styling benefits over MTM garments.
Ultimately the direction chosen is up to the needs and wants of the buyer. The initial consultation determines which direction to go.
Have a peek at Brad and myself going through the initial fitting with Pat Henning on our personal garments.
Pat putting the garments on us for the first time. Pinning and marking them.
Pat explaining to us the importance of "balance" in a garment. Notice the pen on his finger.
Pat and Brad chatting about he construction of the chest piece. My suit after it's been marked and tweaked.
The basted garments hanging. Every garment goes back to be finished with a thorough detail sheet of the changes needed.