Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What's a $4,000 suit worth?

I am occasionally contacted about my services as a bespoke tailor and I have to try to explain that, while it is something I very much enjoy doing, I only do it for the fun of it, and not as a business. Why? You just can't make decent money doing it.

The NY times ran a short piece about tailoring and economies of scale.

Which is a better explanation of why the RTW industry is my bread and butter, and why the only time I take on a new commission is because there's something I really want to make- purely for the pleasure of doing it, and not for the money.


s. said...

that's an interesting article mr d, thank you. the comments are worth reading through, if only for an insight into the thoughts towards bespoke clothing, amongst other things.

Unknown said...

Thanks for bringing this article to my attention. As a custom dressmaker I run into the same issues of course and appreciate someone attempting to educate others on the economics of the art form. Will share the article on my blog as well:)

Always enjoy seeing your work as well.

Philip Edwards said...

This article made me sad. I have recently gotten into pattern-making and let's call it Tailoring (sewing) - strictly for the personal satisfaction. I love it and the many rag-trade friends I have (or have known) who worshipped at the altar of beautifully made clothes.
I guess the art of the tailor will go the way of other needlecrafts which have been replaced by mechanized reproductions (I am thinking of embroiderers, lace-makers, drawn-threadwork makers etc.) - left to a few who have enormous passion - enough to keep them going even when there isn't a buck to be made.

poppykettle said...

There's a thread on this NYT article over at the Artisan's Square Forum - some very interesting commentary on it as well.

Anonymous said...

Jeffery, there is in NY Times a comment from "miaw". He writes:

".....I remember once in New Delhi, my local contact took me to a place, where not only did they have the kind of fabric I've never seen in the US, but where they measured me and made me a suit in a little more than an hour by hand. The store was run by a large extended family and about half a dozen made my suit, popping out every few minutes to check the fit. The whole thing cost about Rs. 2500 or about $80 at the time. And it's still the best suit I ever got......"

I am curious: Will it be possible for the mentioned number of skilled craftsmen to make a top class suit in this way? If they are 6-7 people the working time would be about 8-10 hours.

I am skeptical!


Anonymous said...

I think it's sad that we've come to this place in the industry but it is very true. I usually undertake 3 major projects a year, just for the fun of it, and not as a means of money because it's not something you can live off of.

Unknown said...

thanks for sharing this article, i translate it in short and simple words: forget bespoke, buy a ready made and find a good tailor to do the alternation.

Terri said...

Interesting article. I was standing at my cutting table last week and thinking about how much I was enjoying what I was working on- some ballet tailsuits, a custom shirt and a suit for a client who cannot buy off the rack. I decided that although I could bash things out or figure out faster and cheaper methods to accomplish the end result, I would be missing out on the process, and that is what I enjoy. I suppose one has to get to a point in life where you have the financial freedom to pick and choose doing this.
That being said, I too limit commissions, mostly because it is a lot of hassle, and I can't offer clients cut rates. But sometimes I too take things on because I sense a challenge, or it is interesting to me in some way.
The sad part is the loss of that collective knowledge.

Eugene Freedman said...

Don't the majority of tailors (cutters) outsource some of the work? A trouser maker who takes the cut fabric and sews it up and a jacket maker who constructs the chest piece and jacket. Maybe a third as a finisher who does the finishing touches like button holes, pockets, and linings? Those tailors rather than cutters get a piece rate, but it allows the cutter to take on more clients that would be possible doing all of the work personally. Granted many areas of the US especially don't have the skilled tradesmen to make jackets, trousers, and finish up to the standards required, but NYC probably does.

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