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.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

More Viennese tailors: Malowan and Netousek

In my web journeys, I have come across two other Viennese tailors: Malowan and Netousek.

According to a 2003 Welt am Sonntag article, Malowan is described as being located on the Opernring and founded in 1823 by Maria Malowan, a shirtmaker whose detailed work was highly prized by 'higher society'. In 1968 the business was succeeded by Alfred Markowski, who understood himself to be a bulwark against "brand frenzy". Markowski thinks Malowan's classical men's style has been successful recently in finding younger and younger followers. Some even come to Malowan to get a glencheck suit to boost their careers. [Berühmt für seine perfekten Maßanzüge ist auch "Malowan" am Opernring. Gegründet wurde es 1823 von der Hemdennäherin Maria Malowan, deren detailverliebte Arbeit von der feinen Gesellschaft sehr geschätzt wurde. 1968 übernahm Alfred Markowski das Unternehmen, das sich als Bollwerk "wider den Markenwahnsinn" versteht. Mit Erfolg, wie Markowski meint, die klassische Herrenmode seines Hauses finde in letzter Zeit immer mehr jüngere Anhänger. Mancher Aufsteiger hole sich hier einen Glencheck-Anzug, um seine Karriere zu befördern.]

Founded in 1935 by Viktor Netousek and succeeded by his son Thomas in 1991. In the decades following its founding, Netousek employed up to 12 workers, many of them apprentices moving up to master tailors. The house style appears to be the comfortably fitting, natural shoulder style adopted by its more famous counterpart Knize (link to Netousek storefront, jackets and window display). They also carry ready-to-wear accessories such as John Smedley sweaters and Sebago shoes. An interesting selection of American traditional and British sensibilities.