Monday, November 07, 2005

Two sides of a coin: being and choosing a tailor

A rather heated topic on AskAndy and StyleForum has led me to post this entry, which I also posted on the Ask Andy thread. The issue at hand: a tailor and his dissatisfied customer. What are some of the lessons learned on both sides of the sartorial aisle?

If I were a customer, I would draw out a few lessons learned:

(1) Do not order bespoke garments until you are knowledgeable about the fit and features of said garments. When you are ready to order, put your wishlist into writing and review each item with your tailor. Keep a copy for yourself. Here the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. Do not "leave everything" in the hands of the tailor unless you have developed an extensive history with him.

(2) Measure and guard your expectations. Less is "more". Avoid the utopian misfortune of expecting perfection each and every step of this human, all too human process. To wit,

(3) Be alert and vigilant during the entire process of fitting. At a minimum, check the garment at different angles while standing in front a three-way mirror. This is what manton, an AskAndy member experienced in bespoke, does at his first fittings. First, he checks the balance from side-to-side and front-to-back, then rotates his shoulders several times and lets the coat settle where it may. He also walks around the room, sits down, stands up, and checks the coat again. Another prudent measure is to inspect the sewing/stitching from inside prior to the attachment of the lining and check whether the fabric patterns match at the seams.

(4) Order only one initial garment. As you wait for your initial order, accumulate knowledge about your tailor, his workshop and his way of doing things. Develop confidence in the strengths of your tailor and be knowledgeable about his weaknesses before placing multiple orders.

Conversely, if I were an independent tailor, I take away these lessons:

(1) Satisfy your existing customers and ensure they remain satisfied. It is much more costly to take on new customers than it is to satisfy existing ones. Furthermore, losing customers is terribly costly both directly and indirectly since dissatisfied customers are more likely to raise a hue and cry than satisfied ones. For them, the pen (or keyboard) is also mightier than the sword.

(2) Be alert and vigilant with the entire process of production. You must set into place a process to ensure consistent workmanship of garments in your supply chain. It is human nature to discern the imbalance and asymmetry of physical things, especially if one is wearing them.

(3) Resist the considerable temptation to take multiple orders with a new customer. You and the new customer will be making your first acquaintance and, more critically, an initial order. With this first order, you must satisfy the whims and desires of the customer so that he may be inclined to order again (see first lesson). How is this achieved? Suffice to say, it is easier to create one impressive garment than it is to create many such garments. Likewise, one is less likely to make mistakes with one garment than with many. Hence, focus your energies on making one good garment initially. Less is more.

No comments: