Bespoke, as regular readers will recall, involves creating a suit from the ground up. It can take any form, any shape and material. It is usually handmade by the tailor you speak to. Made to measure involves taking your measurements, adjusting the standard block for an existing suit and having it made in a factory.
Aside from the added quality of having a suit sewn by hand, the biggest difference between bespoke and made-to-measure is that there are fewer options with the latter – the shape of your suit and, to an extent, the materials, will be limited.
Tom Ford doesn’t mind this because people want to buy a Tom Ford shape and Tom Ford materials. They don’t want bespoke. But they do want the suit to fit as well as humanly possible. So he adds an onsite tailor to the equation.
The customer’s measurements are taken in New York, and from those measurements staff pick one of four bases and adjust it. The amended base in sent away to the factory (in Italy) and made up. When it comes back, the New York staff have the capability to make some fairly dramatic adjustments if needed. It’s made-to-measure, with a tailor at the other end.
“When you go to a bespoke tailor you can have almost anything made. When you come to us, you come for a certain Tom Ford look and then it’s modified. This is a hybrid that did not exist,” Ford told Fantastic Man recently. “There’s much more customisation than you can get from any other designer company. At the same time it’s got a bit more of a personal [designer] stamp than Savile Row.”
This is not just new, it is important. It tells people from George Clooney and Brad Pitt to the man in the street that you don’t only have three options – ready to wear, made to measure and bespoke. You can find any point in between if you find and use a good tailor.
If you buy a suit off the peg, ask what adjustments can be made in-house. Many designer brands offer this, often at cost price. Don’t be afraid to take it to a separate tailor if the fit still isn’t right (pushing yourself along the range from RTW to almost MTM). And don’t be afraid to take a MTM suit to a tailor either. Again, many shops that offer MTM will also do adjustments – Suit Supply is a good example, as I mentioned in a previous post.
It’s great to see Tom Ford distance himself from many other designers, who make no attempt to ensure their RTW suits fit. It is even more impressive that he has created an almost unique niche. Here’s hoping some other designers follow his lead.