Savile Row tailors lose fight to preserve the term ‘bespoke’ A group of Savile Row tailors have lost their fight to stop the term “bespoke” from being used by menswear retailers to sell suits which have not been made entirely by hand.
The Advertising Standards Authority has dismissed a complaint that labelling clothes which have been cut from a template as bespoke is misleading.
The word was coined by tailors on Savile Row, London, in the 17th century and referred to a suit which was hand-crafted from a single bolt of cloth without the use of a pre-existing pattern.
Clients would have numerous fittings for the outfit, which would be hand-stitched and finished to the highest standard. These creations have long been synonymous with the best of British craftsmanship and even the simplest of bespoke suits can fetch Â£5,000.
However, Savile Row institutions such as Hardy Amies and Gieves & Hawkes are concerned that the term “bespoke” is being used by some retailers for suits which are just made-to-measure.
These suits are considered a step-down from bespoke, and are created with a basic template which is then roughly adjusted to fit individual measurements.
Sartoriani, a menswear retailer, was referred to the ASA for offering bespoke suits that they admitted were not entirely handmade.
For the bargain price of Â£495 consumers were promised the choice of the finest Italian fabrics. But after an initial fitting session in London, the fabric was sent to Germany to be cut and sewn mostly by machine.
Although this is not strictly bespoke in the old-fashioned sense, the ASA has ruled that the historic term has moved on.
While customers would still expect a bespoke suit to be tailored to their measurements, the majority would not expect that garment to be entirely handcrafted, the regulator said.
Sartoriani called the decision a victory for “affordable luxury”.
By Lucy Cockcroft