Its a curious thing, that three separate Savile Row heavy-weights I have chatted with on three separate occasions over the last couple of weeks, have all expressed a joint admiration for the leaps and bounds that luxury ready-to-wear tailoring has made over the past few years or so. For two of these tailor-extraordinaires, this admiration was tinged with concern, given that these two are both hugely talented and highly-regarded masters of bespoke.
It is perhaps understandable that some consider luxury ready-to-wear clothing a threat to the bespoke world, but I would disagree. Both bespoke and ready-to-wear (with made-to-measure services comfortably bridging the two) each have their place. These products are by their very nature, hugely different. Bespoke customers want something deeply personal, handcrafted and uncompromising and have the time and means to pay for this. Ready-to-wear customers want to engage with these luxurious values, but at a fundamentally different price-point. Such customers also want access to good clothing quickly, and will often seek design inspiration from ready-to-wear collections. A delicate balance has to be struck. Bespoke should perhaps be seen as the natural, eventual progression on from luxurious ready-to-wear lines, with individuals reaching a point when they feel either fussy, confident or inspired enough to become a bespoke customer. In this sense, engaging with luxury ready-to-wear tailoring marks the start of a journey that many passionate customers make towards the next level of luxury and a bespoke tailor. This of course means that off-the-peg clothing need not be considered a threat, and indeed sartorial ready-to-wear garments can continue to provide a stream of inspiring design ideas for the bespoke world. If you spot a blazer with pleated patch pockets off-the-peg, next time you order a sportscoat, the same patch-pockets may well make a reappearance in your bespoke commission. Ready-to-wear design feeds bespoke design, and to a certain extent, keeps the bespoke world on its toes; aspiring to a level of luxury and exclusivity above ready-to-wear collections - as it should.
There is a lot of inspiration to be found from simply having access to such a wide range of different colours, textures, cloths and cuts that in all honesty many men would probably never even think of wearing (or commissioning as a bespoke garment) otherwise. Ready-to-wear is a refreshing source of inspiration, and there are huge benefits to be found in Savile Row's wealth of beautifully constructed and styled ready-to-wear offerings. Chester Barrie for example, famously offers customers access to what is might be thought of as ready-to-wear Edward Sexton, thanks to his collaboration with the brand, but Chester Barrie offers much more than just that. Under Creative Director Christopher Modoo's leadership, the brand repeatedly offers a frankly inspired collection of beautifully sartorial garments which are quintessentially 'Savile Row' with a refreshing modern twist. Gieves & Hawkes' latest collection is the first designed from start to finish by visionary Creative Director Jason Basmajian. It's an unashamedly opulent collection and it's masculine shapes, innovative use of cloths and attention to garment construction all enable the customer to access garments made from the same cloths as used in the bespoke world, but with a designer's eye for colour and texture.
Down the other end of The Row, Richard James continues to produce stunningly contemporary and easily wearable menswear. Richard James is a brand which has done the Row huge good in my humble opinion, offering Savile Row up to be enjoyed and embraced by a huge range of customers who enjoy their clothes, from all walks of life. These are but a few fine providers of ready-to-wear collections on The Row, and importantly, what all these brands have in common are garments which (in one respect or another) hold-up against bespoke products, allowing for even the most privileged of bespoke customers to find inspiration, enjoyment and to build variety and depth to their wardrobe more quickly and affordably than might otherwise be possible.
That is the beauty of ready-to-wear tailoring, and luxury ready-to-wear should not play second fiddle to bespoke products, but should be embraced equally as one of the many joys of modern sartorial dressing. It is the role of the bespoke world, to continue to differentiate and elevate itself above the ready-to-wear market (and of course being a bespoke stalwart I would argue wholeheartedly that it does) but my point is that we should not belittle the enjoyment and quality of clothing that can be derived from engaging with those brands which take Savile Row tradition and identity, and masterfully implant it into considerably more accessible ready-to-wear clothing.