It has occurred to me recently that the term ‘Made to Order’ is not widely understood. In fact, various terms seem to be misunderstood these days, regarding the clothing industry/market. Unsurprising since the vast majority of customers are used to immediate turnaround or ‘fast fashion’. But, as we all know, this is completely unsustainable and ecologically so disastrous for the planet…..that conversation is for another day….
The terms ‘Made to Order’, ‘Made to Measure, ‘Bespoke’, ‘Haute Couture’ and ‘Couture’ are often bandied about and are easily confused.
‘Made to Order’: This is a term to describe a collection of clothes that has been designed, sampled, patterns drafted and photographed (mainly when selling online but can also apply to a store). It usually applies to a small production unit or just a studio/workshop, which is how we work. It simply eliminates potential waste, takes less space and is a sustainable way of production. It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out the numbers (or maybe it does, since they can be mind-boggling!). In this small business alone, 60+ styles x 11 potential sizes, with almost 50 different fabrics…..exactly!
We have always worked this way for all those reasons. Not to mention, we’d need a factory to produce all that ‘stock’ – and remember, it isn’t just one item per size/style/colour! That isn’t your problem as a customer. You just want your order! Understood! So, the downside is you have to wait 2-3 weeks. No system is perfect. On the other hand, you can choose from the website and rarely be faced with ‘that size/colour/style is sold out’! The given timescale isn’t that your order actually takes 2-3 weeks, but that we have customers who ordered before you and whose orders we are completing. Most of you know that, of course…..but some just don’t! And, some people even think that because it’s made-to-order then we can make anything just for them. Afraid not, that is a different category! Read on…..
‘Made to Measure’ the next category. It usually applies to tailors or dressmakers, often bridal makers. Strictly speaking, it is a term applied to a selection of designs, either sketches or samples, that is made for the customer to her/his actual measurements, for a perfect fit.
‘Bespoke’ is a term for a design, often discussed between the designer and the customer, which can be unique to him/her and made to that person’s exact measurements. It can require several fittings, sometimes a variation on the original design; length, unique trims etc. It is a relatively expensive luxury for the discerning customer…..but those who have experienced a garment made exclusively for them knows its worth and value! Most often applies in tailoring.
‘Haute Couture’ is a term/title exclusively used by the Paris Ateliers, of which very few remain, such as Chanel, Dior, Gaultier etc. and a small handful outside of Paris, Versace, Valentino etc. who are on the official list. But it is the ultimate in fashion and garment construction. Literally translated as ‘High Sewing’ or ‘High Dressmaking’. Hundreds of hours by teams of highly trained seamstresses, all by hand, can go into just one gown!
‘Couture’ finally – a term describing garments designed and fitted to the specifications of the individual client. As couture translates as dressmaking, it is usually used for women’s garments and can require a different production method from the earlier term ‘bespoke’. It originated in Paris, where the finest dressmakers were to be found, but now is loosely applied to many exclusive fashion establishments worldwide.
Clothing design and production is an art form that requires talent and dedication. For too long the making of a garment has been the ‘under-dog’ in the art world; being a ‘Designer’ carries a prestige title and one many students aspire to…..but how can they design a garment without knowing how to construct it?? At least the basic knowledge?! Yet, it is often left to the production team to figure out how! It gladdens my heart when I see this art form being learned and practiced by newcomers. Especially when I see or hear it has become an addiction!….always chasing that elusive perfection…..
Another time I will maybe explore the joys of dressmaking with fellow enthusiasts!
The main purpose of this blog was to explain how we work; to summarise we just make to order the items exactly as shown on this website!