Bespoke v Made-to-Measure: Eduardo de Simone jackets

Wednesday, November 14th 2018
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When Eduardo de Simone and I met at his factory last year, we spent a long time talking about the advantages and disadvantages of bespoke and made-to-measure (MTM) tailoring.

As a result of them, Eduardo proposed an experiment. He offered to make me two jackets in the same cloth - one bespoke and one MTM - in order to physically compare the differences between them.

Those two jackets are shown here, side by side.

Before going on to discuss the differences, though, I feel I should repeat my standard warning about reading too much into photos.

Static imagery can be misleading. You only have to see a model in a freshly pressed RTW suit to realise that. It looks sharp and clean, but the fit is still poor: just wait til he turns or raises his arms.

This issue is more acute when comparing bespoke and MTM, given that so many of the advantages of bespoke (curved neck-hugging collar, small armhole with big sleeve) are not visible in photos.

Nevertheless, imagery is useful to illustrate some points. So here it is. 

The first thing to note - and discount - is that there are style differences between the two jackets.

The bespoke (on the left) has curved tops to its hip pockets and a curved 'barchetta' breast pocket. The MTM (on the right) does not.

There's no reason you can't have those style points on an MTM jacket, it's just that Eduardo doesn't do it as standard.

The bespoke also has hand-swelled edges, most visible around those hip pockets. This is something you can also get on MTM, though it's not common. It is more likely to get as standard on bespoke.

Also, I feel a quick definition would be helpful.

The major differences between these two jackets are that the bespoke was cut using a unique paper pattern, extensively refined during the fitting process, and had structural handwork such as a hand-padded chest, lapel and collar.

The MTM, on the other hand, was made to a standard pattern with only small subsequent changes. It has none of the handwork.

Those are the most important differences between bespoke and MTM, and they are what separate these two jackets.

As mentioned, the bespoke jacket's small armhole and large sleeve affords much greater freedom of movement. And although you can't see the size of the armholes in these images, you can see the sleeves.

The top of the sleeve is noticeably larger in the bespoke jacket (left) than in the MTM one (right). This is partly because a bespoke jacket can afford to have a larger sleeve here, as it makes less of a difference to the resulting armhole size. All that excess can just be worked in.

The bespoke jacket is also evenly proportioned in its fullness around the sleevehead (where it joins the shoulder), while the MTM one is tight on the back side.

However that point, and the fact the MTM sleeve is a little too tight for my arm along the whole length, is more down to lack of fittings and adjustments with MTM, rather than anything structural.

Because the bespoke jacket has a hand-padded chest and lapel, it also has more shape in the top half - a curvature caused by that hand sewing creating a slightly domed effect.

This can't really be seen in the photos, but you can see how long and smooth the roll of the lapel is on the bespoke jacket (above).

The MTM version lies a little flatter, and the edge of the lapel angles into the waist button rather than running smoothly down to it.

The collar on the jacket also hugs the neck a little better on the bespoke version, partly due to its shaping.

However, I must say that it is not perfect on the bespoke one, and it does sometimes stand away a little.

This perhaps illustrates another point about bespoke: it creates greater potential for a perfectly fitting jacket, but doesn't guarantee it.

The fit is very dependent on the cutter - more so than with MTM, where the system tends to be set up to ensure consistency, and be less reliant on the fitter or salesman.

This is a good bespoke jacket from Eduardo, but it's not the best I've had made. There is also a small (impossible to see) issue with the balance.

Which of course illustrates one more point about bespoke: that the second jacket will often be better than the first, and the greatest benefits of it come over time as a relationship and the pattern develops.

Looking at the back of the jacket, the bespoke (left) is certainly cleaner than the MTM version (right).

But even the MTM is pretty good. This is a very soft cloth (quite loosely woven cashmere) and it is always going to wrinkle, never hanging as smoothly as a tight worsted, for example.

Most of the wrinkles on the MTM should be ignored, save for that tightness under the arms mentioned earlier.

Equally, the pitch and position of the sleeves is identical, despite the appearance of more wrinkling on the bespoke version.

Overall, I'd say this a good MTM product, which perhaps reflects Eduardo's focus on RTW and MTM in his factory. And it's an OK bespoke piece, with potential to improve in subsequent commissions.

However, Eduardo is probably not the first person readers would think of for bespoke tailoring anyway. MTM is perhaps therefore the better call here - even though the bespoke is definitely a better product in terms of fit, make and finish.

Eduardo's factory largely makes its MTM and RTW for other brands (which he would rather are not named) but he does also offer a little of his own tailoring under the brand Edesim.

Bespoke tailoring is in a small section of the Naples factory, but is available to anyone that wants to travel there (it is also a little out of town in an industrial zone - not like other Neapolitan tailors).

You can read about the overall outfit I am wearing - and why I think this is such a great jacket with jeans - in our previous post here.

Photography James Holborow