There are several companies out there now that are offering to streamline the process of getting a custom / bespoke suit. The ceo of custom menswear brand Alton Lane, for example, calls it "an experience company that's powered by data and technology."
On the experiential front, what he's referring to is the 'dedicated style expert' who will guide you through the process; along with the full bar, flat screen TVs, and 'secret rooms' you'll have access to during your one-on-one fitting and styling appointment.
In terms of being "powered by data and technology," he's pointing to the body scanning tech that purportedly takes something like "300 measurements in about 30 seconds." In other words, way more measurements than a flesh and blood tailor could ever take, and in a fraction of the time.
Can Tech replace the classic Tailor?
Another company, Acustom Apparel, even more impressively claims to take "2,000,000 data points" in their body-scanning procedure, thereby creating a more than comprehensive "3D body model."
Sounds pretty good. In and out in a few minutes after having your body thoroughly scanned and measured, and with a few drinks under your belt no less. Generally speaking, the product comes for a fraction of the price of what a classic bespoke suit company on savile row would charge as well.
Beyond body-scanning, custom suit companies are streamlining the process in other ways too.
Indochino asks you to complete the measuring process yourself by following their step-by-step online guide. It apparently only takes 10 minutes, and "you don't need a tailor, only a good friend (mom, girlfriend, sister, buddy)" to get the job done. After you complete the customization process - selecting fabrics, lapel styles, buttons, linings etc., all that's left for you to do is pay and hit submit, and 2-3 weeks later your suit will arrive in the mail.
Black Lapel similarly claims that the whole process can be done online and takes only 15 minutes. Hockerty's custom suits start at just $269, and they'll arrive a mere 15 days after you've completed the speedy online tailoring process.
What all of this seems to indicate is that the old tailoring methods are now redundant. There's no need for those 1-2 hour in-person appointments where someone fusses around you with a measuring tape, jotting down numbers on a scratch pad and talking you through the different weaves and densities of certain fabrics, the breathability of others, and so on.
There's certainly no need for a muslin garment to be made in order to test the fit before the actual suit goes into production.
But is it really time to let the old ways die? (As one swashbuckling Bradley Cooper so exquisitely puts it). Or are these companies that claim to streamline and digitize the business of custom / bespoke garment-making really just cutting corners, and in the process offering a product that doesn't live up to its 'custom' billing?
I'm sure there's nothing malicious going on here, and I definitely wouldn't suggest that any of the companies listed above are trying to scam people, or anything like that. They offer a product, you pay for it, and I'm sure you then receive the goods = no scam. I'm sure many of the clients are perfectly satisfied with these products, too. And maybe it’s even the case that the prices they generally charge are fair for the products they are providing.
But even still, I don't think it's possible to cut corners like this and deliver a really high quality custom / bespoke suit. That is, it's not possible to speed up and 'streamline' the process through the use of body-scan technology or do-it-yourself online templates; nor is it possible to cut out the experienced fit and fabric specialist and / or the tailor who stitches the garments together.
Of course I'd say that, I own a bespoke tailoring shop in the heart of one of the most expensive cities in the world! I'm definitely biased.. But nevertheless, I do really believe that the old ways are still essential when it comes to custom tailoring. In my next post I’ll explain why that’s the case.