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Made-To-Measure: The Changing Face of London’s Savile Row

No longer reserved for royalty and the social elite, the bespoke suit is experiencing a resurgence in popularity in Britain. As London’s Savile Row tweaks traditional methods—lowering suit prices and the time it takes to produce—more men are going made-to-measure.

2015 is the year of the bespoke. In a world where one can pick and glean from whatever he desires, man’s specialist expectations have infiltrated the modern suit arena—an industry, which is worth £1.2 billion ($1.8 billion), according to The Telegraph. The boom has prompted a re-wiring of the formalwear sector, where a new generation of bespoke is changing the face of Savile Row firms, Hardy Amies and Acquascutum.

Bespoke—in terms of London’s Savile Row—are financially and socially off-limits for most people. Despite custom-made imitations hitting the English high street in recent years, for a service to call itself veritably ‘bespoke’, there are five rules that it must follow. These include the papers that disclose the location of the tailor and that his business is on or within 100 yards of Savile Row; it involves a series of fittings for the customer; and the tailor must have participated in the Savile Row training scheme. The Savile Row Bespoke is also a registered trademark, enforcing the authenticity and compliance of being bespoke.

Getting back in on the custom-bandwagon is Aquascutum. The heritage British brand, which relaunched operations back in 2012 after filing for administration, confirmed it would once again offer its made-to-measure suit service at its Regent Street and Jermyn Street men’s shops in London for 2015. Under Aquascutum’s new head of menswear, Thomas Harvey, the move forms part of the firm’s plan to go back to its roots and tap into the burgeoning bespoke trend in men’s formal wear.

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“We are using a variety of cloths, and a selection of stripes and checks,” Harvey, told GQ last week. “The color palette will be classic and styles will come in navy, grey, brown, black.”

Recruiting the skills of tailors Javier Hidalgo and Alex Soares De Melo, Aquascutum suits are available on 36″-50″ jackets and 28″-46″ trousers. After measurements have been taken instore, clients receive their personalized costume within six weeks of first walking in the door. To remain competitive and offer lower price points (attracting a wider customer market), Acquascutum now outsources production beyond London and even England, to Portugal—a nation, which is slowly becoming the new Italy for garment and shoe manufacturing in Europe.

At Aquascutum, the made-to-measure service service starts at a very reasonable £750 or $1,160 (with three-piece suits starting from £900); much cheaper than regular bespoke on Savile Row, which can cost £3,000 ($4,650) an beyond.

Down the road still on Savile Row, Hardy Amies offers a tweaked version of bespoke for today’s men. Amies service involves taking the measurements of the client, sifting through the structural elements (double or single-breasted, lining fabric, lapel type and fabric of choice) before a pattern is crafted off-site in China.

The uncompleted work is then returned to the store for adjustments with the client. Each stage of the process employs handcraft along the way, until the time when the suit finally fits according and the dapper gent is on his merry way.

Both Hardy Amies and Aquascutum were former bespoke big-wigs in the 19th and 20th centuries, servicing the British royal family and the social elite of England. However, both firms suffered severe bankruptcy woes in 2011 until being acquired by Chinese firms the following year.

Their reworking of custom-made suiting (cheaper and quicker, without sacrificing the quality of fabric and fit)—reflects a contemporary way the modern man—who seeks luxurious suiting but doesn’t have the money or time for traditional bespoke—to access the tailored craftsmanship of London’s Savile Row.

“Made in China” may offend bespoke old-hats familiar with Savile Row, but these affordable divisions provide the speed and price that modern tailoring requires.

By Benjamin Fitzgerald

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