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Different 'grades' of bespoke?


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#19 MANSIE WAUCH

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 05:34 AM

Yes, I suppose I've used the term 'bespoke' carelessly. What I really mean is handmade - not necessarily hand-sewn - in-house by the same chap you talk to in the shop, with fittings and advice and so on. No doubt a proper *bespoke* suit, as the term is used on this forum, will be very expensive. But personally, I'm happy with the fit of good RTW (I'm fairly proportionate and not very neat and tidy in general, so a perfectly fitted suit isn't a priority) - the things that attract me to custom-made (if that's a better term than 'bespoke' for what I'm talking about) are choice of materials and style and a personal relationship with a real tailor who'll work with me over the years to give the clothes I want. MTM works for the former, but not the latter.

So I suppose what I'm asking isn't 'can you get a bespoke suit for three hundred pounds?', because the answer is clearly no; I'm asking if I can get decent garments cut in-house by a real person rather than a factory, up to the quality and fit of decent RTW, for that sort of money.


The only way you can find out is to go and see him, (he has given you an invite to call in and see him on his site, who knows, this may be what you are looking for!)

#20 jim

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 05:42 AM

You'd be surprised how many hidden gems there are and who never make it into the fashionable world of big tailoring, simply because they don't care, don't know how to charge more, or don't know how to market themselves.

I still think that 300 is too low for anything serious, but if you're happy to do the hunting, you don't need to spend 3000 USD for a proper bespoke suit.


Yeah, I suppose it's the hunting part that's hard - without a personal recommendation, it'd be rather unwise to spend even a few hundred quid on what might be a hopeless suit.

About the quality of making, it depends of what you consider good quality for RTW. There is a great range in RTW, from cheap and badly made to very well made, and even hand made (meaning hand-stitched).


My idea of 'good' RTW is probably nowhere near as good as yours - I'm very happy with M&S (in the UK) jackets. I don't wear business suits, only tweed or similar odd jackets, so I suppose that's less demanding. My main problem is finding a waistcoat in that kind of fabric - on the high street they're all made in 'business suit' type fabrics, so if I want a tweedy waistcoat I'll have to spend at least MTM money.

Actually, unless you know the tailor to be really good, I'd rather go to MTM, as I'm sure factories can make a better job in that price range than craftmen with workshop equipment.


Indeed. I'd do exactly that, except that I really want an actual human tailor I can talk to. If services exist (I've never seen one) where a qualified tailor acts as a kind of MTM 'agent', taking measurements, making adjustments, giving advice and so on, I'd be happy with that.

As Sator says above, spending a decent amount of time on a suit would mean an hourly income before tax, rent etc., of a tenner or less. That's nothing for a SR tailor, but a lot of self-employed tradesmen make less than that. They work seven-day weeks, twelve hours a day to make ends meet. I suppose a guy like that isn't going to make you a work of art, but he it seems he should at least be able to match M&S quality/fit...

Edited by jim, 21 October 2010 - 05:45 AM.


#21 Martin Stall

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 06:06 AM

Hear hear. You're very right. I've just gone to Kevan's site, and if I'd need a tailor, I'd give him a call. The information is clear, there is no hype or outrageous claims. 300 for a starting price is low, but it's also a starting price.

I'd say let's get him on the forum. Anyone in the mood to invite him?
Sure, I believe your work rocks, but... have you considered, how are you going to sell that stuff?

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#22 Martin Stall

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 06:06 AM

Oh bother. I'll do it myself. :)
Sure, I believe your work rocks, but... have you considered, how are you going to sell that stuff?

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#23 Nishijin

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 06:23 AM

Mansie,

sorry if I sounded hard on this tailor, I did not mean to. I do not doubt he is a good professional. I know for sure there are some tailors who work for that price in England. And I certainly see no harm in using mill ends. Every trick is good to get good cloth for cheaper prices.

All I'm saying is that I don't believe that for this price it is hand-made the traditionnal way. I never said machine-made was bad (after all, I sell this myself, I'm certainly not saying I sell rubish).

For tweed garments, waistcoats and trousers, I'd go see him with confidence. And actually, if M&S is the reference, then I'd go to him for everything.
(and to prevent any misunderstanding, I actually like M&S, they are the best quality/price RTW garments I ever bought).




I'm still amazed by the prices one can get in England. This country is paradise to people who dress bespoke...
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#24 MANSIE WAUCH

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 06:31 AM

Oh bother. I'll do it myself. :)


Good for you Martin!

You might find a good source of supply also.

#25 MANSIE WAUCH

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 06:36 AM

Mansie,

sorry if I sounded hard on this tailor, I did not mean to. I do not doubt he is a good professional. I know for sure there are some tailors who work for that price in England. And I certainly see no harm in using mill ends. Every trick is good to get good cloth for cheaper prices.

All I'm saying is that I don't believe that for this price it is hand-made the traditionnal way. I never said machine-made was bad (after all, I sell this myself, I'm certainly not saying I sell rubish).

For tweed garments, waistcoats and trousers, I'd go see him with confidence. And actually, if M&S is the reference, then I'd go to him for everything.
(and to prevent any misunderstanding, I actually like M&S, they are the best quality/price RTW garments I ever bought).




I'm still amazed by the prices one can get in England. This country is paradise to people who dress bespoke...



I know you didn't mean it, but someone as got to stick up for the guy! I bet he is standing knee deep in the best trimmings you can find, and just think of the woollen mills around he has access to, (if there are any left?)

#26 MANSIE WAUCH

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 06:41 AM

I started in the tailoring trade in 1957. In those days every major city had a multitude of tailoring workrooms like rabbit warrens in the city centre buildings. You ran from one building to the trouser maker across the road or the waistcoat maker two streets away to deliver outwork. All cloths where good quality compared to some of the rubbish made today, manmade fibre was in its infancy, and continuity was the name of the game.

Cloth ‘Reps’ would call around once a fortnight with the latest pattern bunches, trimmings were first class. You could get a bespoke suit from a number of tailors that would equal anything made in SR.

Granted there was also the cheaper end of the trade, the CMT workshops that made suits for the dozens of small tailoring shops that did not have a workroom of their own. This was the area where difference could be seen in the finish of the suits.

For example, the workshop I started in, made three grades of garment.

Grade A (as it was called) would be what you now call a handmade bespoke suit. Top quality cloth and trimmings (a beautiful soft wool hair canvas, top quality satin linings, top quality striped sleeve lining.) an ‘open coat’ hand stitched, handmade buttonholes, everything made as per the customers’ requirements, first and second fitting (three if required.)

Grade B. Still a good customer selected cloth, no open coat, but still hand stitched around the fronts and hand buttonholes. Cheaper lining, plain cream sleeve lining, cotton 'Sydo' body canvas. One fitting (two if required.)

Grade C. Just a ‘bagged’ out coat with the cheaper trimmings as above. No handwork at all. One fitting or straight finish as required by shop supplier ( grade C would only be for the outside shop work.

I must say that all garments were given the same treatment when cut, the standard of work would be the same for all grades, only the absence of the handwork and the quality of the materials made the difference. The grade A may not have had the flannel of the SR tailors but the quality was as good.

What memories!

#27 jim

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 06:49 AM

Mansie,

You're making me nostalgic, and I wasn't even alive back then :-)

The town I live in was once full of mills and was famous for making workman's trousers from the local fustian. We have a giant metal fustian needle in our town square. But as far as I can tell, the nearest tailor is in Manchester :-/

#28 greger

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 07:39 AM

For a cheap bespoke coat there doesn't have to be hardly any handsewing in it. A good premade canvas cost a few bucks, cut in the approperate darts and machine sew. a little hand sewing on the collar and lapel. A couple of attachments of the canvas to pockets by hand. The hem. No vent on the sleeves. Machine the front edge, so no hand sewing there (and sometimes that is nice looking). Some even machine the bridle. Two or three buttonholes by hand would be treat for low price. Attaching the lining to the scye. Can everything else be machined?

I think what is above is better than mtm, especially with the two fittings. It does not have all the finer details of more hand stitching, but it can still be a very nice coat. And I'd rather see small timers doing this than all the junk in the stores. If the guy is a really good fitter then you really got a very good bargin if the finish is neat and it stays together. If you are not busy then this is a good way to bring in more customers. And, even high paying customers would like a good fitting cheap coat now and then. I call it fast bespoke. (Sometimes hand sewing is faster).

I do draw the line at fuse when it really replaces what should be hand sewn or machine sewn. Fuse on the side cheapens a coat, but can be ok. A fused front is not bespoke tailoring, it could just be bespoke (custom), but not bespoke tailoring, because the tailoring is gone.

#29 greger

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 07:47 AM

Yes, you can. But you're likely to go through ten times that much weeding out muck before you end up finding some obscure immigrant tailor in a basement workroom with an undiscovered storehouse of knowledge on how it should be done.

There is much talk about the high and mighty real bespoke tailoring etc, but in the end it comes down to one guy that you can relate to. Maybe he'll just cut and employ a tailor, and that might even be better. What matters is that he knows what you want, knows how to put that into a pattern, and knows either how to stitch it or how to manage his tailors. He needs to use the right materials and have some serious ethics regarding quality.

You'd be surprised how many hidden gems there are and who never make it into the fashionable world of big tailoring, simply because they don't care, don't know how to charge more, or don't know how to market themselves.

I still think that 300 is too low for anything serious, but if you're happy to do the hunting, you don't need to spend 3000 USD for a proper bespoke suit.

Now bring on the flame wars, all ye bespoke preachers Posted Image



Some of the big name tailors is like paying for a name because of all the hype. Clearly some are not that good. The manufactureing world uses hype alot, because it sells.

Do wonder what his bottom rung coats are, being the price is so low.

#30 jim

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 07:50 AM

Do wonder what his bottom rung coats are, being the price is so low.


Well, we'll soon know - I'm going to telephone him tomorrow and make an appointment. If you're interested I'll report back with details.

#31 Sator

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 01:54 PM

First of all, I thought SR tailors (coat makers, trouser makers, waistcoat hands, etc.., the people who sew and press) were paid by the task, not by the hour, as defined and priced in the "log". But is that true only of outworkers or does it apply to staff members of the various firms as well?



Basically this depends on the size of the shop and business relationship of the workers eg contractor or employee. In a small shop with two or three employees in it, there is no need to pay people by the task. You would just pay them a standard wage. Only in a larger store would you even need to have an arrangement were pay was dependent on the number of tasks performed in addition to a something like a basic wage. You might get better productivity this way, where there is difficulty in supervising everyone. Otherwise employees tend to spend a lot of time at tea breaks and chatting.

In small stores where people are just paid their wages according to their contract, you can easily work out their income per hour. This also has the advantage of allowing comparison of income with the national average and with other trades.

#32 Sator

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 02:10 PM

Yes, you can. But you're likely to go through ten times that much weeding out muck before you end up finding some obscure immigrant tailor in a basement workroom with an undiscovered storehouse of knowledge on how it should be done...You'd be surprised how many hidden gems there are and who never make it into the fashionable world of big tailoring, simply because they don't care, don't know how to charge more, or don't know how to market themselves.


There is a large migrant population in this country and it impossible to find such people. Where are they? There are tailoring shops around that are desperately searching for these hidden gems, and they are impossible to find.

There is much talk about the high and mighty real bespoke tailoring etc, but in the end it comes down to one guy that you can relate to. Maybe he'll just cut and employ a tailor, and that might even be better. What matters is that he knows what you want, knows how to put that into a pattern, and knows either how to stitch it or how to manage his tailors. He needs to use the right materials and have some serious ethics regarding quality.

I still think that 300 is too low for anything serious, but if you're happy to do the hunting, you don't need to spend 3000 USD for a proper bespoke suit.

Now bring on the flame wars, all ye bespoke preachers :Big Grin:


On the other hand I would say that tailors have been undervalued for centuries. It is because tailors tended to be foreign migrants, from poor backgrounds (and "worst" of all often Jewish), that the saying "nine tailors make a man" arose.

The last time I took on a plumber he charged me $120/hour (about £75/hour or 84 Euros/hr) and explained that his apprenticeship lasted six years. I just thought to myself why anybody would be mad enough to become a tailor.

In reality, it takes longer and more dedication to become a good tailor than just about any other trade, and yet the public thinks it reasonable to pay a tailor a fraction of what they would their mechanic, painter or brick layer. This is why the trade is dying. Part of saving the art of tailoring is education of the buying public about why really good tailoring is not cheap.

Still, it is possible that this £300 thing is just an entry level low end garment to lure clients through the door, behind which is hidden a wonderful bastion of high end tailoring for which he charges something more realistic.

#33 Martin Stall

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 05:36 PM

I've sent Kevan an email pointing him to this thread and inviting him to contact Sator for membership. Let's see.

As for hidden gems, I remember Amsterdam. Hell, even my teacher was one of those rare and unknown geniuses. You can turn a streetcorner in Amsterdam and run into some sleezy-looking Turkish alterations shop, and when you go in to talk to the owner, turns out he's making more money with alterations, but he's actually a crack in proper bespoke.

As for the 300 Pound coat, of course that's entry level. It does say 'starting at' on the website. My guess is you'll get basic quality cloth, basic automated make, and for anything fancy, there will be upcharge. Makes sense. I too have an entry level line, much cheaper than full bespoke, and with lots of machine work. It depends on the customer, his budget, and his needs. Some people just don't need the handwork.
Sure, I believe your work rocks, but... have you considered, how are you going to sell that stuff?

http: under construction...

#34 Nishijin

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 07:19 PM

As for hidden gems, I remember Amsterdam. Hell, even my teacher was one of those rare and unknown geniuses. You can turn a streetcorner in Amsterdam and run into some sleezy-looking Turkish alterations shop, and when you go in to talk to the owner, turns out he's making more money with alterations, but he's actually a crack in proper bespoke.


Many alteration tailors in Paris used to be full bespoke tailors. Some of them still do some bespoke work for a few customers. Many of them don't want to hear about it. They make more money with simple alterations (pants hems...) than with making a bespoke coat. Tailoring is too difficult and not rewarding enough, so they don't want to bother with it.
I know some of them who are really good, but "hide" what they know from their employers, as they don't want to do it anymore.

Unfortunately, it's something I've seen in many crafts, not only tailoring. Craftmen are not considered today, people want cheap and fast, they don't pay for quality. And craftmen got "lazy", they don't want to work anymore (but I can understand that, passion lasts only for a length of time, one also needs feedback to keep the flame alive).



That's sad, as many people today are ready to pay a little premium for a second grade bespoke (like Mansie's grade B or C), they can't afford full bespoke, but still want better fit than RTW, and agree to pay for human relationship (knowing the guy who actually makes their cloths...).
http://www.paulgrassart.com

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
Mark Twain

#35 Sator

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 08:06 PM

Many alteration tailors in Paris used to be full bespoke tailors. Some of them still do some bespoke work for a few customers. Many of them don't want to hear about it. They make more money with simple alterations (pants hems...) than with making a bespoke coat. Tailoring is too difficult and not rewarding enough, so they don't want to bother with it.
I know some of them who are really good, but "hide" what they know from their employers, as they don't want to do it anymore.


Yes, unless you can educate the clients to understand just how difficult it is, so that they are willing to patronise high-end workmanship, this is going to keep happening. That is because the number of individual process that go into a coat are innumerable, and if you were paid for each step individually at the same rate as for alteration tailoring, then it amounts to a fairly large sum of money. The enormous degree of complexity and skill in putting the whole together doesn't even enter into it.

Old tailors tell me stories of how in the old days, clients didn't care how much it cost as long as they got the best. Now they expect a bespoke suit to cost less than a factory made department store garment, and are horrified to learn it costs more.

#36 Nishijin

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 09:34 PM

I got this morning a nice book, "Histoire des tissus en France" (ISBN 978-2-7373-5038-2).
I learned some interesting facts about how things were a few centuries ago. In the XVIIIth century, a court dress was worth more than a castle.


There is worse than the uneducated customer. There is the marketing of some luxury brand who pretend to do the same as tailors, but for half the price. See the use of the "bespoke" denomination. How can we educate customers when mass media keep broadcasting contradictory information ? Even some tailors take part in this, because there is more money to make...
http://www.paulgrassart.com

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
Mark Twain




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