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Article - Fashion Daily News

Tailor-made : a new big deal

Newspaper Fashion Daily News - Tailor-made : a new big deal

If there is any such thing as a living legend in the world of men’s fashion, made-to-measure clothing seems to be earning a new lease of life for itself as the ultimate second skin.
Once the preserve of a certain elite, made up from politicians, businesspeople, bankers and the great and the good, who saw it as the outward sign of unchallenged distinction, made-to-measure tailoring is now of interest to a wider public in search of a high-quality, personalised product. In its wake, a growing number of more affordable brands (both well-established labels and more recent arrivals) are now appearing, adding a “made-to-measure” and “semi-tailored” aspect to existing product offerings or as their primary business. A niche market, made-to-measure tailoring attracts entrants from a variety of backgrounds – from tailors with long histories that mainly operate in the high end, “fully bespoke” market, all boasting exceptional service to counteract rampant standardisation. Meanwhile, men’s suits now only occupy 6% of the menswear market, compared to 10% ten years ago (source: IFM 2009), even as the market polarises around more differentiated offerings.

On the ground, in Paris, at 31 and 33 rue Marbeuf, the Cifonelli brothers, the two great-grandsons of the founder of the label that bears their name, have seen in this renewal “that kicked off nearly five years ago” an excellent way to blow the cobwebs from an ageing market. “The market has become very active,” comments Lorenzo Cifonelli, bearing witness to a real demand from his customers who are demanding more and more exclusive products that are truly out-of-the-ordinary. Today, we increasingly have to deal with a shortage of suppliers and expertise, while demand is increasing and we attract new customers. Men have really started looking after themselves over the last few years, in relation to all aspects of their appearance, and made-to-measure clothing is part of that trend. Our customers now include young 30-year-olds who are really excited about our products.” Cifonelli, who is firmly established as part of the “fully bespoke” generation of tailors, remains as one of a handful of French tailors with expertise in hand-sewn tailoring, with suits starting at an indicative price of around €4,800. You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of top labels who have their own workshops, like Cifonelli, Smalto, Camps de Luca, Torcello or Stark and Sons – and most of them are based in Paris. In France as a whole, there are 150 tailors’ workshops according to the French National Federation of Master Tailors (source: Mé́tiers d’Art).

While the leading French tailors continue to build on many years of “bespoke” expertise, creating suits without the support of a generic pattern, they are increasingly confronted by a new wave of “neo-tailors” who are attracted by their continued success. From long-established labels to disruptive outsiders, each label has its own made-to-measure service proposition, or – according to the purists – semi-tailored service. Last February, Hermès opened its first store entirely dedicated to menswear, covering 230 square metres on New York’s Madison Avenue. Decorated in the English fashion to resemble a private apartment, a large part of the boutique store is given over to taking custom orders and made-to-measure clothing. Other designer offerings that have flourished include those of Giorgio Armani (Fatto a Mano su Misura), Ralph Lauren (Made to Order) and Jil Sander with her Sartorial line, complemented by a made-to-measure shirt-making service. The latest shirt manufacturer to appear on the market, the Figaret label has also entered the market by introducing a “made-to-measure” corner at its flagship store at Place de la Madeleine in Paris, providing another way to diversify its prêt-à-porter business, while (like Hackett), Hugo Boss has taken the same approach with the launch of its Tailored Line.

Mass-produced to custom measurements, then partly hand-finished

All these offers are developed around the same business model, and in fact have more in common with “semi-tailored” offerings. After providing his measurements, a shirt’s future owner can, for example, order it to his specification, with collars…

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