The rise of made-to-measure tailoring
Want style, panache and perfect personalised proportions in your next suit? Go for made-to-measure
If you listened closely during the men’s autumn/ winter 2019 fashion shows in January, it was possible to hear a collective sigh of relief. Classic tailoring — a once favourite son, ostracised for a few seasons’ worth of collections and replaced with technical fabrics, sporty silhouettes and trainers — had been beckoned back into the clubhouse. Blazers, matching slacks, shirts and even ties — yes, ties! — were back in vogue at Dior, Ami, Dries van Noten, Fendi and others. The revenant was rubber-stamped by Hedi Slimane at Celine, who used the brand’s first men’s show to demonstrate that blokes rarely look as good as they do in a suit. Rumours of its death have been greatly exaggerated.
Parallel to this coming-in-from-the-cold, there has been a rise in the number of brands offering a made-to-measure tailoring service. Bespoke suiting, where tailors draw and cut a completely new pattern from a cloth of your choosing represents the zenith of “couture” clothing — the Savile Row Bespoke Association has long campaigned for the word to be reserved for garments made by hand on the street itself, similar to the rules afforded to Champagne or Harris Tweed, but it is yet to be recognised officially — and “made-to-measure” covers the following bracket: a suit is still madeto-order, but adapted from an existing “block” (pre-designed pattern), so it is still very much created for you and your specific measurements, just not from scratch.
For the most part, brands will offer madeto-measure tailoring in one of various fits. Clients of Giorgio Armani’s service (from £3,500), which has its own dedicated suite in its London Sloane Street store, can choose between “Soho”, a more relaxed cut, or “Wall Street”, which is sharper, as the name suggests. At Hackett, there are four blocks to choose from in the new Personal Tailoring service (from £795) — Mayfair, Chelsea, Belgravia and Windsor — with each offering a different shape. The Windsor fit, for example, is inspired by founder Jeremy Hackett’s own preferred cut, which employs a “straighter” finish to the jacket and lower buttons that help to elongate the body (and cinch the waist in a bit).
“Our Made to Measure service has gone from strength to strength,” says Graham Simpkins, Hackett’s head of tailoring, “as we are finding more and more customers want to have more customised one-off pieces where they get to create their own unique look with our existing design block.”
Then come the fabrics. The swatch books at tailoring houses bulge with flannels and checks and worsteds and linens and spots and everything you can imagine, from the downright gaudy to the seriously soigné. Cloth is rarely restricted; the Made to Measure service at Thom Sweeney (from £1,475) offers the same as those from bespoke, but the garment is made by machine, like the brand’s ready-to-wear collection, rather than by hand. After that it’s about detail. Peak or notch lapel? One button or two? Patch or flap pockets? Single- or double-vented?
The house will steer you towards its own style, of course. A suit from Paul Smith’s new Made to Measure service (from £1,300) can be made in the brand’s natty crease-resistant wool or equipped with characteristically Smithian (bold) lining. And any passionate tailor worth his chalk and scissors would probably rather you opted for something with a touch of English eccentricity than a plain black single-breasted. But that’s why more men are opting for customisable clobber: it’s all up to you.
Beyond suiting, Charlie Casely-Hayford
is rethinking the scope of made-to-measure in his new store on Marylebone’s Chiltern Street. Where once his eponymous brand (founded by father Joe) offered seasonal collections, Casely-Hayford now works to a more frequent “drop” schedule, with a new piece arriving in store every two weeks or so. There are just 15 of each garment made ready-to-wear, but everything is also available made-to-measure.
“Our clients have historically come to us as we offer a new take on the traditional suit,” says Casely-Hayford. “As time has gone on and the demands of the modern creative have shifted away from solely suits, we wanted to provide and expand on the same service but realised there was a gap in the market for [made-to-measure] non-formal wear.
“For those who had no interest in suits or need something for the weekend but wanted that same level of personalisation, fit and choice, we opened our Chiltern Street store to expand into other casual areas, like made-tomeasure shirt jackets, suede jackets, bombers, jeans, drawstrings trousers... fashion-led garments where we could apply the same process, construction and offering of 3,000 fabrics as having a tailor-made suit.”
Elsewhere, even the most venerable institutions are now offering made-to-measure. Turnbull & Asser of Jermyn Street has been making fine shirts for well over a century, but the Royal Warrant-holder has just launched a service that nestles between ready-to-wear and the full bespoke (from £235). Clients choose from 100 fabrics, five collars, five cuffs and two fits, among other details. And like all T&A shirts, they’re made in England. It’s perfect timing, because like the suit, the business shirt is making a comeback, too.