What is Bespoke?

To me Bespoke is more than just a word, it is a process, and I have outlined below the steps to thread heaven and explained how our British bespoke line differs from our made-to-measure offering.

British Bespoke

Once I’ve met a client and taken his measurements and any figuration details (does he have a drop shoulder? square shoulders? forward shoulders? stand erect? stooped?) the next stage is to sit down with one of my cutters.

Introducing Rodney, or to many in the trade, Rod “The Mod.” He has been in the tailoring trade since 15 years old, is the proud owner of a 1966 Lambretta, and whilst claiming he never battled on the beaches of Brighton, admits to being a regular at Kaiser Chief concerts and Elland Road…still sounds like a trouble-maker to me!

It is his job to cut from the cloth, all the component parts of a suit (jacket fronts, collar, sleeves, pocket flaps, belt loops) that will be handed down to my tailors to be sewn together.

His starting point is based on two key measurements of the client – to cut the coat, the size of his chest and for the trousers, his seat. For each of these measurements, we have developed a “pattern” or “block” which is basically a collection of shapes (made of card), which are an outline of all the component parts of a jacket / pair of trousers which when sewn together will fit the average man.

These shapes are then spread out on the cloth, and rather than chalking round them, cutting them out and then sewing them together there and then (like in the case of “off-the-peg”) they are crucially moved, manipulated and adjusted to create a bespoke pattern based on the specific measurements and figuration details of the individual.

The bespoke pattern is then chalked, cut out and loosely sewn, or, “basted” together, to produce the skeleton of the garment (called a “try-on”) which will then be placed on the client so I can perform the first fitting.

Here, the garment is pinned and marked to produce the desired silhouette. Perhaps a sleeve will be shortened a touch, the shoulders “chipped” (reduced), maybe taken in a little on the pocket seams to shape the coat closer into the chest, and the fronts marked with chalk to indicate the position of the buttonholes.

The “try-on” is then taken apart or “ripped down” and the relevant parts are re-cut (and put back together) in the workrooms to reflect the changes I have made during the fitting.

I am delighted to say that I am learning how to do the re-cuts myself and the picture above is of me during my first lesson, under intense supervision I might add!

It is at least a 7 year apprenticeship to be a ‘tailor’ (4 years tailoring / 3 years cutting) and those who have been doing it for decades say they are still learning.

Whilst I believe my strengths lie in running the business and an ability to advise clients on appropriate cloth and the style of garment that will suit their shape (and personality) best, this learning process is giving me a much better idea of how our garments are constructed, what in-lays are provided (so I know how much weight you can put on before we need to make you another suit!) and allow me to get into the nitty gritty when talking with my tailors and cutters.

Depending on the extent of adjustments required after the 1st fitting, the garment is then either made to a finished garment, or, a further “forward fitting” is provided. This is where everything is in place (both sleeves are in, all the internal construction, pads, linings are in situ) except the button holes and collar. Minor tweaks might then be made, and following this, the suit is ready to be given its first outing!

Made-to-measure

This differs from our British bespoke line in two key areas: style and the process undertaken.

I will always love the hallmarks of an English suit. To me, its imposing shoulder line, powerful chest, nipped in waist and slightly flared skirt speak of tradition, dignity and dependability.

That said, I have a real soft spot for more laid back, Italian styling. So, we have developed a ‘block’ that embraces the Italian spirit of ‘sprezzatura,’ creating an air of nonchalance and invoking a rakish, devil-may-care attitude.

It’s perfect for a more informal suit, or, blazer to be worn with jeans, or, cotton trousers.

The construction is much softer than its British counterpart, with either a super light canvas, or, nothing at all (‘unconstructed’) and we can offer a ‘roped,’ or, unstructured shoulder (no padding).

There is the option to have the coat unlined (perfect for hot climates) and have everything sewn by hand (hand-sewn buttonholes, hand-felled lining, hand-padded lapels, sleeves and collar sewn by hand)

As far as process goes, it’s identical to the British bespoke in as far as the customer selects a cloth, lining, buttons, the style of the garment, but the main difference is the fitting procedure.

With our made-to-measure line, the customer’s chest and seat are measured and then a corresponding Jacket, Trouser and Vest “master model” is placed on the client.

It’s a bit like having a try-on (but based on only two key measurements), and then in consultation with the customer, the master model is pinned to reflect how fitted the customer wants the jacket to be, lapel width, button position, desired sleeve length, depth of pocket flap, jacket length, how slim the trousers are going to be, width of bottoms etc.

It is at this stage, that we also critically look out for “warning signs” – a collar standing off the neck, unsightly creases and dints in the cloth, a bowing lapel, excess fabric in the wrong place, whether the garment is out of ‘balance’ – that is a result of the customer’s posture and body shape.

It is here, during this examination, that our experience and knowledge comes into its own.

A unique pattern is then created. As a starting point this is based on the block pattern of the chosen master-model, but is manipulated and adjusted to reflect the desires of the customer and what needs to be done to ensure best fit.

The cloth is then cut and the garment is made to a straight finish and is ready for a fitting in six weeks.

Here, small tweaks might be required and are dealt with expediently. The suit is then ready to take the world by storm!