In a perfect world, you never have to wait in line, your food is always just as you prefer it, and your clothes fit like a tailor made them expressly for you. So what to do when you find yourself in a less-than-perfect world? Well, if you’ve figured out a way to solve the line problem, let us know, and if you have a personal chef, invite us over for dinner. But, for clothing that fits just right, just for you, every time, we can help. Or rather, we’ve turned to the experts to share with us, and you the elements of a bespoke shirt – the ultimate choice for tailored-to-fit shirting.
Butler Luxury: Let’s talk a little about the origin of the bespoke shirt – what does that mean and how does it differ from made-to-measure?
Expert: The primary difference is that made-to-measure is done off of a premade set of samples, so you’re altering existing patterns. With bespoke, a tailor is taking body measurements and creating custom patterns from scratch. The other differentiation is that in bespoke you only have one or two people working on a garment. With made-to-measure, the production line is similar to ready-to-wear. For example, with our bespoke process, our pattern maker, cutter, and sewer, is all the same person. It’s one person who knows who the customer is -- so that specific person is in mind as the garment is being made.
BL: What is the process, from when a new customer gets in touch, to the finished product?
Exp: We begin by getting to know our customer and what his specific fit and style needs are. From there, we take a series of body measurements that are used to cut a custom pattern for his individual shirts. We help him sort through dozens of fabric options and customize his shirt from top to bottom. A paper pattern is cut from the customer’s body measurements, after which the fabric is cut and sewed. After a final once-over, the customer comes in for a fitting and if any alterations are needed, we make changes to the pattern and the shirt and the process is complete.
A key part of the process is building strong relationships with our customers. We spend a lot of time getting to know what they do for a living, where they’re from, how their summer vacation was, what they’re wearing to their wedding. Another important part of the process is education. We like to use it as an interactive part of the appointment to involve the customer in every step.
BL: What part of the process is the most detailed and labor-intensive?
Exp: Honestly, the answer really depends on the pattern maker and tailor involved. It’s really a personal preference -- some prefer sewing, some makers dislike sewing. Every step of the bespoke process is equally as detailed.
BL: Are there elements to a bespoke shirt that are typically not found in a ready-to-wear shirt?
Exp: In the simplest form, it’s two things. #1: With bespoke you’re able to address fit challenges directly for the customer. #2: The customization element in fabric, collar shape, trim details, cuffs, monogramming, basically every single component of the shirt can be altered to the customer’s taste.
BL: What are some of the most common problems you can run into with ready-to-wear, which can be eliminated with a bespoke shirt?
Exp: Generally, the customer who is seeking out bespoke has challenges finding the right fit for their body, or they’re very particular about their style. No human being is perfectly symmetrical, and every ready-to-wear garment is designed to be perfectly symmetrical which can lead to fit issues and an uncomfortable fit. If one guy has a shoulder that is even slightly lower than the other, it can be more pronounced in a ready-to-wear shirt.
BL: Bespoke clothing is a centuries-old tradition – what modern innovations have been brought into the process, and what do you see as the future of the industry?
Exp: That is the beauty of bespoke -- it hasn’t changed for hundreds of years. There has been a lot of technological innovations made in the made-to-measure world, and I think it will be interesting to see if those have staying power. What has changed is approaching the very traditional art form of bespoke and integrating new modern fabrics, details, and cut aesthetics.
BL: What are the biggest mistakes you see when it comes to men’s shirts, the styles they choose, fabrics, etc.?
Exp: A lot of men aren’t sure what to look for in the fit of a shirt, and tend to go for comfort over something that is actually tailored to fit their frames properly. Educating our customers about the types of fabric we offer and the different qualities between them is an important part of the design process. It allows the customer to find the right type of fabric for his lifestyle and preferences. Customers looking for a more wrinkle-resistant fabric probably shouldn’t be looking at 140s poplins, just as customers looking for a lighter-weight option won’t want to go for a heavy weight oxford fabric.
BL: What advice or tips do you have for someone looking to order their first bespoke shirt?
Exp: Consider what you’re looking for in the fit of your shirts – what you’ve liked about a favorite shirt in the past, what you want to replicate or change about the shirts you currently own. For a first shirt, go with something timeless that you’ll get a lot of wear out of and enjoy for years to come.
It can be easy to get swept up in the excitement of the design process but remember: just because you can customize something doesn’t always mean that you should. Sure, a contrast collar can be an interesting detail on a bespoke shirt, but pairing that with contrasting buttons, stitching, and a bold monogram might not be the best look.
BL: When it comes to fabrics, details, cut or style, what is the go-to shirt for everyday vs. more formal occasions?
Exp: we specialize in a more tailored fit, and bespoke is the best way to hone in on the cut of a shirt to an individual’s body type.
A lot of our bespoke customers love pinpoint oxford fabrics for a day-to-day. It’s a classic fabric that never goes out of style. One of our most popular everyday collars is a shorter spread that is slightly more cutaway than our full spread. It’s a bit more modern and can be dressed up or down.
For more formal shirting, we see a lot of royal twills and 120s poplins. Our bespoke customers like to invest in a more luxurious fabric for a shirt that might not be worn every day, but that will really shine under a suit. Spread collars and more traditional mid-spreads are the most popular choices for shirts that are worn with ties.
BL: Tell me a little about your bespoke customer?
Exp: Our bespoke customer comes in all shapes and sizes. We have the classic crowd who has been buying custom shirts for decades, and we have a new generation of men looking for the custom experience of bespoke that they can’t find anywhere else. Some come in to fix fit issues, others to build a shirt with a specific fabric they have had in mind for years, but they all value the personal experience of knowing the people who make their clothing.
BL: What inspires new designs, or new design elements? Where do you look for new ideas or perspectives?
Exp: One of the luxuries of the bespoke process is that customers can bring in photos of a collar, cuff, or trim detail that they love and we can create it for them. Each season we source new fabrics in Europe, mainly at Premiere Vision Paris, a global fabric show held in France every September. Introducing new fabric options is the biggest design element we can refresh in our customizable offerings.
BL: I know one of your key characteristics is putting focus on exceptional quality for any setting and any generation, rather than on trends. That being said, what can we expect to see for fall 2016, and looking farther down the road at the future of your bespoke business?
Exp: With bespoke, because it’s 100% custom, it’s really driven by the wants and needs of our customer. Our focus is on growing our already robust bespoke business and identifying customers that would benefit from custom-made shirts.