Ever since the resurgence of men’s style transcended the 1980’s and 90’s state of apathetic limbo, marketing departments ranging from the biggest luxury group to the smallest brand, have been surfing the “gentleman” wave by means of semantic abuses, specifically, misusing the word “made-to-measure” to a nauseating degree.
Such an opportunistic approach to marketing is hardly surprising, since financial investments are at an all time high in our sector. Should you need convincing, note that LVMH bought 80 percent of Loro Piana in late 2013, for a staggering two billion euros !
With Sonya, we’ve been traveling the world for our many Parisian Gentleman related projects, and meeting on a daily basis with the majority of main players in the sector — from high-profile names to obscure gems, from the rich artisan to the broke entrepreneur.
Thus, it’s out of respect for the men’s style world that we love and to which we dedicate our life’s work, that we feel obligated to revalidate a fundamental concept that needs to be fully understood—if you wish to make the best buying decision (whether you happen to be a novice or a seasoned gentleman).
This very simple concept is as follows : the term made-to-measure is not always synonymous with quality crafting . To put it differently, the notion of ‘made-to-measure’ and ‘quality crafting’ are completely separate.
For example, it’s quite possible to buy a touted ‘made-to-measure’ suit that is industrial crap and factory-made in less than one hour.
Conversely, it is also absolutely possible to buy a ‘ready-to-wear’ suit (without any measuring) that’s hand-crafted by some of the best artisans in the world.
This is a key point to keep in mind if your goal is to get the most bang for your buck when buying a suit (which should be the case if you are reading PG!).
Never forget that the term ‘made-to-measure’ can mean so many different things—ranging from traditional bespoke to fake tailoring.
There are only certain places in the world where the notion of ‘made-to-measure’ can instantly equate to quality of manufacturing, and that is in actual bespoke salons like Cifonelli and Camps de Luca in Paris, A. Caraceni and Mario Pecora in Milan, Mariano Rubinacci and Gennaro Solito in Naples, Joe Morgan and Dege & Skinner in London, to name but a few. In such places, suits are made entirely by hand to your specific measurements, with an average of 60 hours of handiwork per suit.
Virtually nowhere else will a “made-to-measure” label guarantee you a proper suit in terms of quality of manufacturing and quality of the cut. Too many people, when they read the words “made-to-measure”, they automatically visualize some type of hand work–but often that is just not the case.
Conversely, a ready-to-wear suit made by hand (partially or entirely) by a true Italian Sartoria such as Belvest, Santandrea, Kiton, or Attolini, will always mean quality.
Each a ready-to-wear suit at Cesare Attolini requires about 30 hours of work done by hand. The same holds true for Kiton, where all the key steps to a proper suit are carried out by skilled hands, not to mention their famously strict quality assurance standards.
What’s more, in the aforementioned Sartorias, all suits are conceived and cut by highly experienced tailors – and they come in such a wide variety of sizes (specified down to the 1/32 and 1/64 of an inch), that it is virtually impossible not to find something that suits you to-a-tee, even if the piece needs to undergo an adjustment or two, which is complimentary and almost always done by the Sartoria itself.
On the flip side, buying a ‘made-to-measure’ suit from a sales person or so-called “tailor” who takes your measurements (physically or worse, online!) but does not require any fitting sessions before delivering your suit, carries the significant risk of bitter disappointment. We’ve lost track of how many mails we’ve received from disgruntled customers who fell for the promise that made-to-measure meant something more than “giving a set of measurements to an industrialized factory”.
Yet the ‘made-to-measure’ label still attracts the eye, and that is well understood by many not-so-honest brands and salespersons. Put bluntly: ‘Made-to-measure’ DOES NOT mean ‘made by hand’, or ‘made by artisans’.
Keep your head cool, your eyes peeled, your ears deaf to lies and a sensible approach when in the market for a new suit – keep your sartorial poker face on and be armed with enough knowledge to make good decisions.
The men’s style market has become highly competitive and it is now easier than ever to find a proper suit at a reasonable price.
Bear in mind : a nice RTW suit made by a reputable house will ALWAYS be a much safer investment than a confusing made-to-measure offer with no details of where and how your suit will be made.
In France, we have a saying that goes : “Better to rely on your own donkey than on the neighbor’s stallion“. Somewhat appropriate, isn’t it ?
Further reading : The 2014 PG Ready-To-Wear Suits Selection