It’s not just about getting a suit that fits, bespoke experiences allow you to express your signature style and enjoy the creative journey too. Words: Vicky Mayer
Luxury isn’t luxury if everyone has it,’ says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market research firm NPD Group.
He has a point. If the person next to you has the same shirt/watch/handbag, wouldn’t you rather be the proud owner of something bespoke that reflects your own signature style?
Buying bespoke is nothing new but what has changed in the past two years is why people buy bespoke; not just for the joy of owning or wearing something unique to them but increasingly for the buying experience too. The Future Laboratory (a UK consultancy that forecasts trends in retail) has discovered a revolution in retail, where the customer becomes the hero of the story and brands embrace treasured moments with their customers. Instead of just providing opportunities to buy, luxury’s most innovative retailers are creating experiences that consumers can enjoy and use as social currency.
‘The challenge is on for luxury brands to extend and broaden their appeal to customers,’ says Michelle Emmerson, CEO of Walpole, the alliance of 170 of Britain’s finest luxury brands.
‘Creating exclusive, bespoke products for customers is one way of doing this – from a tailoring service to a unique jewellery commission – the key is creating something that the customer won’t find anywhere else,’ Emmerson adds. ‘This intimate and personal service gives British luxury brands a competitive edge.’
It’s these unique and memorable experiences that are fuelling the demand for bespoke purchases. I discovered this for myself when I had a pair of glasses made by Tom Davies opticians in Chelsea. The whole process from start to finish took six weeks and it was a pleasure seeing what happened from the first meeting to having my glasses hand delivered. It began with a meeting with Tom where we discussed the look I’d like, how and where I’d be wearing them and what sort of material I’d like the frames to be. It’s a fun process, made even more enjoyable in the company of this ebullient man. At my second visit I received the most thorough eye test I’d ever experienced and over the next few weeks I was kept updated on the progress of my glasses by email. By the time they arrived, I couldn’t wait to see them and I wasn’t disappointed. Light, stylish and truly bespoke, they were just how I’d imagined them, unique to me and my way of life.
Another talented man giving his customers a memorable bespoke experience is tailor Mo Adass who runs the Signature Bespoke Company. After 15 years working between Dubai, Milan and London in luxury fashion he set up his own business with offices in London and Liverpool. However Mo travels to wherever his clients are, if need dictates, giving them a truly personal experience.
‘Time is extremely important to our clients and to us, so we save our clients the energy and effort by travelling to them directly,’ explains Mo. ‘Whether it’s their home or office, it is entirely at their convenience. We also continually source prestige fabrics from around the world to ensure our range is truly unique.’
Large scale fashion retailers are also offering their version of bespoke to customers. Pringle and Burberry already allow customers to choose personal monograms for their garments and British shirt maker Thomas Pink recently launched its ‘Personally Pink’ campaign. The service offers customers a choice of more than 160 fabrics, one of three sizes and 13 different collar options. Heading up the campaign is renowned fashion artist David Downton who says, ‘Commissioning a beautifully made to order shirt is like commissioning a piece of art, in that the client can express what they’d like to see.’
It’s not just gentlemen who get to experience the power of a bespoke experience. Women are increasingly turning to bespoke clothing and lingerie for fashion confidence.
One upcoming star in bespoke fashion is Diane Houston, founder and owner of Gilda & Pearl. The uber luxury brand is sold worldwide but she encourages customers to visit the label’s beautiful Mayfair atelier if they can where an afternoon trying on gorgeous lingerie in complete privacy whilst sipping champagne is not to be missed.
‘Buying bespoke is about fantasy and creativity,’ she explains. ‘The fantasy is being able to have input into the design of your garment, the fabrics used and any details you could possibly desire to create something entirely unique, specifically for you.’
Houston believes Britain leads the way when it comes to bespoke with a renaissance in craftsmanship and skills.
‘British design has always had a very distinct point of view,’ she says. ‘It’s the coming together of both of these aspects that sets us apart.’
This sentiment is echoed by Natalia Barbieri, co-founder of luxury British shoemaker brand Bionda Castana.
‘Tailoring, craft, creativity and uniqueness embody British brands’ values which in turn heighten the experience we give to each and every one of our clients.
‘We also allow our clients to sit with the head design team and create their own style in their own desirable colour palette. It allows them for one day, to feel creative and to have the confidence to do so. The client receives their custom made piece within 4 weeks with an illustration of the shoes they have customised for themselves. It’s a true gift.’
We’re used to decorating our homes to suit our tastes but now the leading interior companies are offering the power of bespoke solutions too. Cole & Son, one of Britain’s most prestigious wallpaper companies, is offering customers the chance to pick a current design in the colour of their choice or even delve into the Cole & Son archive to reproduce an historic design of their choice using the companies’ old printing blocks.
Chelsea-based The Rug Company offers a bespoke choice to customers too. ‘We have been lucky to do some amazing bespoke projects over the years,’ says Christopher Sharp, CEO of The Rug Company. ‘One of my personal favourites was a Hummingbird rug which was woven as a vast wall-to-wall carpet with birds carefully places around the furniture. I also liked a custom version of the Peacock Light used as a stair runner, so the feathers lead you all the way up from the ground floor to the top of the house.’
Online company Gigi Brooks specialise in interior design for families and are well known for designing exquisite children’s bedrooms. Though they are based online, they will travel to most parts of the UK to talk through any plans you have for a bespoke bedroom for your child and are more than happy to include any existing heirloom pieces you may have into their final designs. They are also able to source many hard-to-get fabrics worldwide.
Nothing it would seem is impossible in the world of bespoke; the only limitation is your own imagination.