Giclee print of a bespoke Saville Row fabric pattern by Hormazd Narielwalla
When we hear the word ‘bespoke,’ we might think of sharply dressed tailors finishing the hemline of an expensive suit or intricate lacework sewn into an extravagant wedding dress by a seamstress. It is a word intertwined with luxury, reserved for an elite who can afford the pleasure of having something made just for them. Many of us are simply not accustomed to the concept of made to measure anymore, it goes against our off-the-shelf, mass-consumerist norms. We wear the same clothes as each other, drive the same cars as each other, eat the same food as each other. We no longer know our hip size, the lengths of our legs, the thickness of our fingers, happy to fit into whatever society deems ‘regular.’ Standardisation is simpler, more efficient, more convenient, more profitable - ‘one-off’ is languid and labour intensive, packaged as undemocratic, unsustainable and unnecessary.
There was a time, however, when bespoke was all we had. My mother kept many of her old clothes, many of them handmade by a kindly auntie (when kindly aunties still did that kind of thing), perfectly illustrating that when we make just one of something, it is more likely to retain its quality and value, withstanding the test of time. Though off-the-shelf solutions are quicker, cheaper and easier, they are also more readily expendable and can quash a sense of individuality. Mass manufacturing has contributed to many of our global ailments - unsold stock suffocates landfill, factory waste pollutes water sources, factory workers are treated poorly.
Bespoke could be a tonic to some of these issues - more affordable digital technology means we have entered a new age of efficient and economical personalisation which has already benefitted many industries. In medicine, access to rapid forming has helped produce better-fitting prosthetics. The fashion industry has started to use 3D scanning to tailor-make garments for specific customers - this could potentially help to defeat the current negative body-image epidemic, exacerbated by ill-fitting high street clothes.
If tricky, time intensive work associated with custom-made continues to be paired with digital processes, it could also make life easier for faltering, heritage industries, pulling them up into the modern world - hat makers can use these technologies to digitally print complicated hat moulds. Forges can replace the laborious, not-always-accurate process of making ‘casting trees’ with 3d printing. Stream lined techniques mean more efficient work flows, higher margins, less workload for artisans. It also potentially means that more people can afford the work of highly skilled craftspeople - bespoke no longer means bankrupting the consumer.
Though it is associated with the exuberance of luxury, and providing that the manufacturing processes and materials are sound, bespoke is also a friend to the environment - if we made only what we needed when it was ordered, there would be no waste stock.
Tailor made, custom built, bespoke, personalised - these do not have to be a unfair words, reserved only for those who can afford it. We at Meta- see bespoke as something gentler, more thoughtful. We feel that it is a process that can be, quite literally, tailor-made to fit everyone perfectly, from the makers who work with us to the consumers who buy from us.
WORDS: Julia Georgallis // IMAGE: 'Lost Gardens No.4, 2016,' Hormazd Narielwalla