By Regina Connell.
Sometimes you define things by what they aren’t.
Saw this article in the brilliant PSFK: so-called “bespoke tailoring” done via 3D scanner in the back of a truck.
But isn’t the whole point of a bespoke suit to have not just the product but the experience of talking to a tailor who has a clue about how things should really hang, or how when and extra half inch is the difference between a pair of pants that feels great and one that feels awful and tugs a little too much there. (And while I’m at it, I suspect that this is actually a made-to-measure suit rather than a truly cut-to-your-spec bespoke model but we don’t need to go into the differences here.)
Read anything about people who buy real bespoke and they always talk about what they learn during the measuring and fitting process and the relationship with Fred or Philip or Henry or increasingly, Angela (remember, Stella McCartney got her tailoring skills on Savile Row). Something magical happens during that process: the result of talent, mad tailoring skills, and lots and lots of experience on what works and what doesn’t, all honed by having clients that return time and time again. One of the things about the bespoke process: it’s not the measuring that takes time per se. It’s the fitting, and re-fitting, and re-fitting to get things just right. One of the things I loved the most about getting married was the wedding dress fitting process (from muslin to the final product), what I learned during that process, and what the dress did for me. (And believe me, that memory has lasted a lot longer than that marriage did.)
Look, I’m all for innovation but I’ve also learned from it. Years ago, I purchased 3D scanned jeans from Levi’s. While it was very quick and groovy (and kind of sexy) to get scanned, the results were hi-de-ous. They were, perhaps, a little TOO much like my body, without the intervention of someone who actually did some design to make one look taller, thinner, curvier/less curvy. I returned the jeans and was convinced to go through the process again, this time somewhat aided by a store clerk who did some tweaking of the scanner. Second pair, not that much better. Another epic fail, in fact.
It’s design and judgment, not just numbers.
The back of the truck approach, now that’s a little more Alt Luxe … though the idea of stripping down and getting scanned in the back of one doesn’t feel so attractive to me. (The one great thing about the Levi’s experience was this kind of TRON-meets-rave feel it had). Bringing the bespoke process to you rather than you having to go to a London-based temple of polished walnut and leather club chairs: that’s the innovation here. If the truck delivered the suit to you, and gave you a chance to have a proper fitting after the suit is made, great. But in this case, you get the suit in 6 weeks, presumably by FedEx.
I actually feel that the 3D approach devalues the concept of a bespoke suit where the final product is a collaboration between the wearer and the tailor, and the product not just of measurement but of skill. (Even my friends who used to get their suits made on the cheap in Hong Kong had long-term relationships with their tailors who over time learned their body types and what made them comfortable.) Yes, technology will improve to better approximate what tailors know, but as with so many things it’s going to take a long, long time.
My advice: if you can afford bespoke, go real bespoke and embrace the experience. If you can’t, get yourself a high quality made to measure suit and a fabulous tailor you can communicate with and trust.
This de-coupling of product from process/experience in the name of speed, cheapness, etc. has perverted commerce and taken the real value out of luxury. We gotta fix that.