Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bespoke property rights: who owns the pattern / last?

Recently I posted identical AskAndy and LondonLounge threads concerning the rightful possession of the design or pattern of bespoke garments and apparel.

Below is an excerpt of my post:

Perusing the bespoke section on the Grenson website, I came across the notion that the last is the customer's "personal property". This raises some intriguing questions and possibilities in my mind.

So I ask both rhetorically and practically - who really owns the individual patterns associated with bespoke garments and footwear? If it is indeed the customer, is this common practice across most bespoke artisans? Further, how practicable (and common) is it to ask for a copy of your pattern/last? And I ask all these questions not simply out of sheer idleness.

Here's one practical reason. Say I would like to work with a bespoke tailor in making some suits and jackets for me. Suppose further that said tailor is (a) an independent craftsman not affiliated with a larger tailoring house and (b) approaching very close to retirement. Even if I find his house style eminently suitable for me, there seems to be a risk I take in going with such tailor. Namely, there is very little assurance in getting similar garments in the future once he retires and ceases operations.

How can I mitigate such risks? The one possibility I see is asking for a copy of your pattern/last shortly before the tailor retires. The question then becomes how feasible is it for another tailor to produce garments off of another tailor's pattern.


A number of thoughtful answers were provided including responses from Mr. Tony Gaziano, the principal lastmaker at Edward Green, and Mr. Alex Kabbaz, the New York bespoke shirtmaker. Essentially, there is no single encompassing answer to the question of ownership. As with many things in life, the answer is "it depends". Mr. Gaziano said he would have no problem providing a copy of the last or upper pattern to a client whereas others suggested that the pattern or last is either property of the designer or is understood to be held in a kind of perpetual escrow by the tailor or cordwainer until cessation of operations. At that point, the pattern or last may be sold or given back to the client.

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