Imagine you are a third generation tailor who watched your father and grandfather work together creating beautiful bespoke handmade suits for men. In your grandfather’s time, it was an era when wearing a suit was the standard, the norm, the look. Your family had a thriving business even though the profit margin on a handmade suit is not great. As your father took over the business, while you were mastering the trade under his tutelage, you noticed the first change of the times. The suit was losing its foothold. It was not just the style of the suit that was changing like how wide the lapel was or how many buttons were on the sleeve, it was men’s fashion overall where business was merging into business casual and business casual was merging into casual. In many corporate circles, like Silicon Valley, the hoodie has replaced the suit. But even before the hoodie replaced the suit, off the peg suits had replaced much of the handmade suit business. So for the grandson of the tailor, the threat was two-fold. Most people opted away from the suit and anyone who wanted a nice suit seemed perfectly content to buy one ready made with only slight alterations necessary. I am sure many bespoke tailors went out of business.
But as in any time period, there are connoisseurs, the people who want the best of the best and are willing to seek it out. Part of the problem for tailors is that most people just don’t know. We have become so far removed from bespoke suits that we don’t even know that they exist, where they exist or why they are better. It is about knowledge and understanding. Hugo Jacomet expresses it beautifully in his recent Sartorial Talks video:
There seems to be a wave of renaissance in the Sartorial world of bespoke suits. It is best witnessed by the fact that we now see so many great third generation tailors bringing the world of bespoke to us by traveling around the world to offer their mastery of bespoke suit making to more than just their neighbors. How these masters survived the hoodies and department stores is unknown to me. Some tailoring families branched out and offer off the peg suits along with their in house bespoke offerings. Is that sell out, survival or buyer is always right??? Not for me to say.
Bespoke masterpieces take time and we currently live in a period where instant gratification is about to be drone delivered overnight. These two can never co-exist as one. You will not get your bespoke suit overnight, but you can still get one and that is what is most important. Simon Crompton from Permanent Style has an informative article in this November 2018 Robb Report Magazine titled “Some of the world’s finest artisans on your doorstep-all you have to do is find them. Here’s what you need to know”, in which he includes a chart on “The Tailors and Where They Travel To” which I find extremely helpful. Simon also posts Trunk Show events on his site: