Thursday, 9 September 2010

Dragons Den: Tailor Made London

Some of you may have seen a recent episode of the UK Dragons Den which featured John Buni, the managing director of Tailor Made London showing off his product and asking for funding (which he didn't get).

The basic premise is the same as any visiting/travelling tailor - he sets up for the day in a hotel or (more often, it seems) a large office, and people come to him to be measured and to design their suit, and then he takes the information away and has the suits made up. Information on the manufacturing process is very limited, but my guess would be that the suits go for a straight finish with no basted fitting but with the option for adjustments later, much like ASTF or the cheaper Cad and the Dandy options. There's also very little information about who makes the suits, or what techniques are used. There is a mention that they are made in Germany which is slightly unusual as most similar companies seem to use Hong Kong or China. To their credit, 'Tailor Made London' appear to use excellent cloth, including some from big names like Holland & Sherry. How much this adds to the basic price of £450 is not totally clear.

The 'gimmick' here, and the only thing that really interested me about what is otherwise a fairly unoriginal concept, was the laser scanner. This takes a full-body scan in a few seconds and saves off hundreds of highly accurate measurements. So far so good, and so far so very press-release-friendly. However, the obvious question that the Dragons didn't seem to ask is: so what? In my experience of tailoring, the accuracy and number of the measurements is not the biggest problem. Sure, the measurements need to be right, and the more that are taken the better (up to a point), but almost anyone can take a large number of measurements quickly and accurately with a minimum of training, and a really skilled tailor is looking for more than just objective measurements in any case. The bigger issue is what is then done with these measurements. Are they used to cut a brand new personal pattern, or to adapt an existing one? Is the suit cut by a cutter with years of experience who understands body shape and has thought about your stance, figure and personal requirements, or by an assembly line of relatively unskilled workers using a pattern generated by a computer? It is these issues that really define a good fit, and it is on these that Mr Buni is silent.

It is not at all clear to me what happens to the hundreds of measurements that the machine takes. In theory, I suppose, this machine could gather information on the customers stance and body shape (although without a human eye, I am not convinced this will be very meaningful) but a much harder job is then translating these measurements to a well-fitting suit. How this is done would fascinate me, but there is no information on it and I strongly suspect that it boils down to a printed list of measurements little different to those that any other tailor just writes down as he goes along.

Both the Dragons Den show and the website leave too many of the important questions unanswered for me to have any interest in ordering a suit from this company (even if I wasn't already loyal to my current tailor). For me, a personal service and an appreciation of the craftsmanship behind tailoring is far more important than gimmicks and technology. Still, I will pose some of my questions to Tailor Made London and, if the answers are of interest, I will post them on the blog so that you may make your own minds up.

6 comments:

  1. I like your post a lot - you raise the questions that define whether this type of technology can succeed or not.

    Having analyzed a similar business to Tailor Made London, I would argue that it might have a future when technology evolves.

    The cost of a true tailored suit is high due to fittings required (aside the craftsmanship and materials used). On average, the customer has to visit a tailor four times - first to order, twice for fittings, finally to accept the suit. Because of the fittings, tailoring has remained one of the few "industries" where a face-to-face meeting with a customer is required throughout the production process.

    Unlike the cheap production from China, tailoring requires extensive work provided on spot, at tailor's salary levels of London.

    If this technology can negate the need of face-to-face between the customer and a tailor (and I'm not saying it could right now), the labor can be used in same countries where companies such as Primark, or Hugo Boss manufacture - India and China; at prices to compare.

    You're right, getting correct measurements is only one part of the successful formula. But it's also true that it's an important part - most humans fail at taking measurements correctly, and a machine is an improvement at this step.

    However even when the measurements have been entered correctly, the customer will be left at the mercy of the tailor in a remote location to interpret the measurements the same as the current trends in London.

    I'm wishing John a great success in solving these issues!

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  2. Judging from my experience with them, traditional tailors are safe. The 3D scanner is very unstable (or its software is), and their (professed) German expert tailors can't deliver a basic suit in 6 months. But you are right: the machine is simply a fancy way of taking a lot of measurements at the same time. It builds a full 3D model, though, so theoretically any tailor can get perfectly accurate data for any measurement they need. The only thing they wouldn't know is the general style and deportment of the customer. Of course, what they do with that data is still completely dependent on their experience & skills.

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  3. I live in Germany and decided to get a suit made on a visit to London. The scan and selection of cloth experience was very good and I am please with the results although the sleeves could have been 1cm longer but that is a very minor point.

    I ordered a 2nd suit in a Holland and Sherry costing £720 and it was the best I have seen in terms of cloth and finish. I also requested the sleeves to be 1 cm longer and they were so very happy.

    Axel

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  4. For the person who wrote this article !, will your tailor hand cut your cloth and machine up your suit for £450 ?

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    Replies
    1. Hmm, no, not quite. You might just about be able to get a C&tD suit for that amount but only with the lower-end cloths. What's your point?

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  5. http://stjames-style.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/cad-and-dandy-three-piece-finished.html and make up your mind, cheap end like cad and dandy ? you use this service !

    ReplyDelete

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