Should I look at suits
On average, bespoke clothing is better. However, this also has its price. In an interview with the Gentleman Blog, fashion expert Bernhard Roetzel, author of the book “The Gentleman Made to Measure”, speaks about the fascination of bespoke clothing, false clichés about bespoke suits and cheap offers from the Internet.
Mr. Roetzel, how did you come to write a book about bespoke clothing?
I believe that a lot more men would discover bespoke tailoring for themselves if they knew a little more about it. Unfortunately, most magazines and the relevant forums on the Internet mostly spread myths and clichés about them and few facts. With my book I want to inspire and inform at the same time. The pictures that were shot exclusively by the Berlin photographer Erill Fritz play an important role in this.
What exactly is made-to-measure clothing?
Any kind of clothing that is made on the basis of individual body measurements. So, everything from the tailor's suit to made-to-measure jeans from the Internet. But my book is about handmade bespoke clothing like the tailors and shirt makers make.
In your book you write that there are good reasons for a tailor-made suit, but that these are not rational. What are the reasons?
Why should I have a cabinet made for me by a carpenter when I can get it much cheaper in the furniture store? Tailor-made clothing makes sense for no purpose. Objectively speaking in favor of made-to-measure clothing is that it is sustainable in the best sense of the word. This applies to the raw material, the substance. And for the type of production. The 5-euro T-shirt from the textile discounter can no more be bought with a clear conscience than the egg from factory farming. But if I have something done by the independent tailor, then a worthy item of clothing is created under worthy circumstances.
What can bespoke clothing do - and what cannot?
Even the best bespoke tailor is not a quick-change artist. He cannot conjure up any pounds, lengthen the body or straighten the figure. He can only help you make the best of yourself. That made-to-measure clothing fits, is comfortable and lasts for a long time is almost a minor matter. But of course the customer can expect that. Above all, bespoke clothing made by a tailor is extremely individual. All details can be designed as desired, because the tailor starts from scratch with each customer.
Made-to-measure clothing is not a product for the general public, if only because of the price. Who is actually the target group?
Made-to-measure clothing in the broader sense, i.e. made-to-measure clothing, has become affordable for many people today. But tailor-made clothing is much more expensive because of the time it takes. This is mostly done by people with a high income or wealth. But there are also customers who save every part from their mouths and then only order something every three to five years. Women used to have dresses, costumes, skirts and blouses worked by dressmakers. However, as early as the 19th century, women sought out men's tailors to order riding or hunting clothing, for example. Men's tailors, on the other hand, naturally rarely work for women. In bespoke clothing, the proportion of female customers who have business clothing made is also growing.
Good things come to those who wait is well known. How much time do you have to plan for the entire process of creating a tailor-made suit?
In theory, you could order in the morning and try it on for the first time in the evening. The next noon then the second rehearsal and the day after the next the suit could be ready. But there is usually one or more weeks between the order and the first fitting. It usually takes as long until the second try-on and also until completion. That depends on both the capacity of the bespoke tailor and the customer's schedule.
At the beginning you mentioned the clichés about bespoke tailoring. Which are they?
This includes the assumption that you have to wait half a year or a year for the suit. It is also often written about countless fittings. This is all nonsense. 90 percent of bespoke tailors get by with two try-ons, and the suit is usually ready after two to three months. Unless the bespoke tailor is a lone warrior who has a lot to do.
What are the essential stages from measurement to the finished tailor-made suit?
First, talk to the tailor about how the suit should be. The more precisely the wishes are formulated and illustrated, the better. Only then are measurements taken, because the tailor has to know what look they should have when measuring the trouser measurements, for example. Then comes the first fitting. In continental Europe, the jacket has no sleeves or only one sleeve. This irritates many newcomers. When you try it on for the second time, the sleeves are already there. After that, the suit can usually be completed. The fittings are just as important for the tailor as they are for the customer. The tailor sees a lot that the customer does not see and would not understand at all.
The choice of suit material can quickly become overwhelming in view of the many possibilities. How should one proceed?
Ideally, the customer knows exactly what he wants. Then it goes very quickly. For example, I often don't need ten minutes. In case I don't bring the material myself. Most customers don't even know what they want, however. Here, a good tailor will narrow down the selection more and more by asking questions until the customer only has to decide between two or three fabrics. As a customer, I have to precisely determine my needs. I don't have to look at dozens of colors or designs when looking for a suit for the boardroom of a bank. Only dark blue or dark gray and maybe ten to fifteen designs and weaves are possible. The weight of the fabric can usually be determined very precisely beforehand.
A tailor-made suit has its price. How much money should you take in hand?
Most tailors in Germany or Austria name a price that includes the work and the material. In Italy it is sometimes common to talk about production prices, as customers often bring their own fabrics. A bespoke tailor who sews the suits all by himself in his workshop and does not have high rental costs should not charge much more than around 2,500 to 3,000 euros for a two-piece suit made from an average Super 130-S fabric.
Renowned studios with several permanent tailors and high room costs usually charge 4,000 or 6,000 euros. Anyone who only wears suits from industrial production for 300 euros perceives it as very expensive. But there are around 60 hours of work in such a suit. The fabric costs around 300 to 500 euros, the ingredients such as inlays, buttons and lining also cost something. When it comes to fabric, however, it is always cheaper or much more expensive.
If you're lucky, you'll find a cheap lone warrior who works just as well as the tailors in the famous, expensive studio. Incidentally, such tailors are not that rare. However, many customers keep their names to themselves.
And what is the minimum price you should expect for a tailor-made shirt?
Most made-to-measure shirts in Germany come from industrial production. Tailor-made shirts from the clothes cutter are very rare here. They are even more common in Austria, but especially in Italy. There are also a few mini-factories in Italy that make bespoke shirts by hand. At the laundry cutter, shirts usually cost between 180 and 380 euros. Industrial production is cheaper and can also deliver good results. The most important thing is how much the seller has a clue.
What do you think of the offers to order supposedly made-to-measure clothing for comparatively little money over the Internet?
Made-to-measure clothing from the mail order business has been around for a very, very long time. As early as the 19th century, it was possible to order made-to-measure clothing using the order form. It doesn't make a big difference whether I fill out the order form with a fountain pen or a keyboard. If I guide the customer correctly in how to measure himself, then the result can be okay. However, cheap deals are never good when it comes to fabric and workmanship. Even if the part should fit. But that doesn't bother many because they don't know the right made-to-measure clothing.
How do I recognize a good (bespoke) tailor?
Anyone can hang a tape measure around their neck and say they are the greatest. Many tailors or would-be tailors do that too. There are real charlatans who measure the customer and then order the suit from a factory. Often the customers do not even notice that something is being fooled them.
Real bespoke tailors have a workshop that you can also take a look at. In the best case, a tailor is recommended to you or you read about him. When you visit him, the chemistry should be right. You have to feel like you're being listened to. And the tailor should ask questions. Above all, you have to say exactly what you want yourself. Even the best tailor cannot read minds.
In your opinion, what are the five most renowned European bespoke tailors?
A number of companies are renowned in England, Italy, France, Austria and Germany. Whether rightly, that is an open question. Often the prices are much too high there, which in the end you have to pay for the name of the company. In my opinion, five companies that can rightly be considered renowned despite their awards would be Anderson & Sheppard in London, Cifonelli in Paris, A. Caraceni in Milan, Rubinacci in Naples and Knize in Vienna. However, I have always preferred the “little” tailor, that is, the mini-atelier. This is where the service is most personal.
What are the options if a made-to-measure suit shows signs of wear over the years or if the wearer increases in weight and waist circumference as the service life progresses?
Most bespoke tailors will gladly mend or mend a suit from their workshop years or decades later. Not always for free, however. For example, it is very time-consuming when the lining has to be replaced. Changes that become necessary due to changes in the figure also cost the tailor a lot of time. Most of the time he won't charge a regular customer for it. Bespoke tailors build so much fabric reserves into the suits that there is room for a grown belly. Serious damage, such as cracks or burn holes, can also be repaired. Most tailors have anecdotes on the subject in store. It seems that many rich men are so attached to their tailor-made clothing that they sometimes have the lining changed several times over a period of thirty years.
What hardly anyone knows: In addition to made-to-measure suits and shirts, there are also made-to-measure ties. Aren't the binders already available in all imaginable variants?
Indeed, the range of ties is huge. The made-to-measure tie is often ordered by very tall, very small or very stout men. Or by men who simply enjoy having the tie made individually, possibly even to match a particular shirt or suit.
On the one hand, society is becoming more casual nowadays. On the other hand, the series hero Barney Stinson from “How I met your Mother” or the satirist Jan Böhmermann almost exclusively wear suits with ties and thus become trendsetters. How do you rate the development?
Many young men like to wear classic clothes on certain occasions. That might even be a trend at the moment. However, those who believe in suits are a minority and will continue to be so in the future. But that doesn't matter and it can't be any other way. The majority of people follow the fashion taste advocated by television. The minority of the knowledgeable does not, however, contest this. On the contrary. The more the formlessness takes hold, the more it will pay attention to form.
How many bespoke suits can you call your own now?
Much less than most readers think. For example, if you study pictures of me on the internet, you will count maybe half a dozen different suits. I have a few more, but not very much more. Between 2006 and 2011 I didn't have a single suit made because my needs were met and I didn't want to go to London either. I moved to Berlin in 2007 and placed an order with Kathrin Emmer for the first time in 2011. Now she's making the third suit for me.
A tailor-made suit is created - Pictures: Erill Fritz
Most recently, we were able to witness the creation of your latest suit on your Facebook page. So I suppose even after all these years, a new suit is still an event, isn't it?
Naturally! Especially since I'm not someone who orders six or ten suits every year. The tailors need such customers, of course, and I rarely visit the studio myself. The more I enjoy the process.
>> To the book "Gentleman made to measure"
Made-to-measure clothing: better in cut
Which suit for which occasion?
Tailoring vs. made-to-measure clothing: differences and similarities
Typology of the suits: Typically German, Italian, English & French
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