Since I wrote a post at the beginning of the month urging readers to comment and ask questions on Permanent Style, quite a few have asked about different ready-to-wear and made-to-measure brands. I’d like to explain how to compare RTW, and why I can say little about MTM.
With a RTW suit, you need to analyse the make, fit and style.
Make is fairly straightforward – see my article in How to Spend It on analysing floating canvas, stitching etc. Assessing the cloth is harder, but more important than the ‘quality’ of the cloth are basic things like a decent weight and a non-showy finish.
Fit is certainly hard to analyse comprehensively, but I have written about that in detail before – see post here. Most important is to make sure it fits on the shoulders and chest. Then get everything else altered.
Style is highly personal, but the key is to start in the middle of the road (single-breasted, mid-width lapels, two vents, flat-front trousers, no turn-ups) and only veer off once you feel comfortable doing so. More detailed things like colour and pattern are dealt with consistently, but in dedicated posts. Have a browse through the Suits category for advice.
I don’t browse RTW shops enough to be able to compare Reiss, Austin Reed and Marks & Spencer. But the important thing is to have sufficient information to do so yourselves.
MTM is like RTW, but with the added complication of an altered fit.
You can analyse the make in the same way as RTW – just have a look at one of their finished suits. Fit, however, is highly volatile.
It depends on the system that the company is using to transfer measurements to the factory in Morocco/Hungary/India and – perhaps more importantly – the experience of the salesperson in using that system. It is the same with bespoke – a salesperson with enough experience can largely substitute for a cutter in taking measurements (Simon Cundey at Henry Poole, Brian Lishak at Richard Anderson, both Glasgows at Cleverley).
Unfortunately, I have almost no experience with different MTM brands and systems. And as with bespoke, I try to refrain from giving opinions on producers that I haven’t personally tried.
When it comes to comparing bespoke tailors, of course, there is no shortage of advice or information, as I had tried 25 around the world at last count. The best place to begin for those comparisons is the ‘Tailors I have known’ posts – there are two, on English tailors and others from around the world.
Pictured: Gieves & Hawkes RTW suit